Sophie Grove, Konfekt
There have long been rumours of a woman’s magazine being added to the Monocle stable, and this week the stories are confirmed with the arrival of Konfekt, a quarterly title promising fashion, travel, design, drinking, dining and culture in both English and German.
Editor Sophie Grove has been a part of the Monocle team for 11 years, first as a reporter and latterly Istanbul bureau chief and then Paris correspondent. She explains how the magazine came about as she looks ahead at launch week.
Tell us about your typical Monday journey to work.
I live in the East End by London Fields. I stroll across the park with my three children, drop them off at school and nursery and then head to E5 bakery for a strong black coffee (and sometimes an unrivalled pain au raisin) before jumping on the overland into town. I love this route into the city in the sunshine with the rooftops whizzing by. I moved back to London from Paris earlier this year and I am seeing the gasholders and redbrick with fresh eyes.
Describe the state of your desk and what you can see from where you sit.
My desk in Marylebone looks over a park so there’s a canopy of London planes outside and often a cacophony of school children. In Zürich, we have our office on Dufourstrasse just next to the lake where you can go for lunchtime dips at Seebad Utoquai. In summer you can start the day with a coffee and a swim and wind things down with a drink and an evening dip. The aquatic meeting is underrated.
Sum up your 2020 – highs and lows.
I can picture eating buttery samphire my children had picked while we saw out the summer heatwave camping on a beach in Suffolk. And sitting on the terrace of my friend’s 1960s villa in Italy drinking Cynar negronis.
We’d scrambled over Niki de Saint Phalle’s Tarot sculpture garden in the Tuscan hills with a gang of children and then bought fish off the boats at Castellammare del Golfo. After a very bleak start to the year these moments felt so important - and they’re propelling me through this winter (with the help of a few roaring fires.)
Which magazine do you first remember?
My mother used to write for the now-defunct monthly Woman’s Journal in the 1980s and I remember flicking through the pages. I also pored over her old copies of the British magazine, Nova. And I remember Sundays spent reading the broadsheet supplements and making apple crumbles.
I spent most of my teens making montage from various magazines - and fancied myself as Cambridge’s answer to Hannah Höch.
Which magazine do you value more than any other right now?
Regain, Daphné Hézard’s French magazine which caters to my agrarian fantasy. It’s inspiring to read about progressive farmers and humane fisherman. I also love the London Review of Books for its rigor and authors who wrestle a subject down so you don’t have to.
Describe Konfekt in three words.
Sumptuous, smart, elegant.
It’s an impressively brave time for a new launch; tell us about the planning and research behind it.
We’ve been talking about a sister title to Monocle for several years. We’ve had so many conversations with women who urged us to do something for them and who said there wasn’t a title on that newsstand that reflected their world - or sense of style.
And then the decision to launch this year came from a place of ‘Why not?’. We want to lift spirits and offer up something positive that celebrates craft, beauty and resilience.
What’s your favourite part of this first issue?
In our drinking and dining section we report on a Christmas lunch with a Coptic family in Alexandria (above). The piece uses a meal to tell the story of the city, its cosmopolitan heyday and a group of strong, inspiring women. I’ve spent a lot of time in Africa and the Middle East and feel this story represents something very distinct about the region; the rituals of family life, the emotional value of food and recipes passed down through the generations. I love the perfect chaos of a big family get-together.
We have some beautiful recipes in the issue but often they are more than that; for instance, the fashion designer Stella Jean rustles up a baked oyster dish in the Roman kitchen of a friend and talks about activism and the value of diversity in fashion while she does it. I think some of our best conversions are had when chopping onions in the kitchen, glass of wine in hand.
Konfekt is a distinctly European project, arriving just ahead of Brexit. Is the London-Zurich production axis and bilingual text a sign of the future for Monocle’s publications?
You're right that Konfekt is a decidedly pan-European project – but I wouldn’t say it was tied to the negotiations in Brussels.
That said, we think Germany (and its environs) are having an important moment. Konfekt draws on the central European traditions of craftsmanship, quality, and egalitarian luxuries like walking in the hills. But also on the understated elegance found in this part of the world; we love the approach taken by designers such as Jil Sander or the old-world values of a family-run milliners like Mühlbauer in Vienna.
What’s going to be the highlight of the coming week for you?
I’m going to Zürich for some meetings and an exciting story for Konfekt two. It coincides with a small launch for Konfekt at the office. I might even dip into the lake - and straight into a sauna. That’s a pretty life affirming Germanic tradition!
And possibly a cosy lunch at Kindli hotel which has been in business since 1474 (and is the site of the first ‘Konfekt Conversations’ a regular feature which pays homage to the long lunch and the art of good-humoured debate.) It’s been challenging putting together a launch as borders closed and quarantines in place and I can’t wait to travel a bit more.
That glass of Swiss glühwein in the crisp winter air beckons more than ever.
Creative director: Richard Spencer-Powell