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Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
Zara: Trendy Essentials with Steep Price Points
The good news is that Zara in City Stars stays current. For all those aching for the leopard-print, knee-length coats that seemed to be in every major shopping city except Cairo last winter, Zara was the only place that tapped into the trend. And who could have missed the Balmain-inspired military jacket explosion in the Spring 2009 collection? Again, Zara was the only store in Cairo that pulled off wearable and fashion-forward options for Cairenes.
Another plus for Zara is that it seems generally well-stocked, unlike many stores at City Stars that run out of sizes within the first few days of a shipment. If possible, avoid weekend afternoons unless you enjoy fighting to find your size. Zara also has a large Men’s section, which means not feeling guilty when casually suggesting a quick peruse to boyfriends while strolling by.
The bad news is that the price point is well beyond anything expected and does not reflect the actual quality of the garments. At Zara, a shopper can expect to pay up to three or four times the price of a comparable garment at H&M. Although Zara’s garments are usually more fitted and body-conscious, this does not mean that the garments are actually well-constructed; so get ready for missing buttons and torn linings after a month’s wear. Often the huge price jump isn’t really worth the difference between the quality of Zara garments and that of cheaper alternatives that tend to be less hip like H&M and United Colors of Benetton.
When visiting Zara, expect a slightly more upscale H&M that’s far less affordable. Jeans prices generally start at 500 LE, knit dresses start around 300 LE and a tank or basic tee starts around 150 LE. Although Zara might not be the best deal in town, if you’re looking for that special piece or this season’s hottest trend, Zara is definitely worth checking out.
There are a total of three Zara stores in Egypt. Two are in Cairo, City Stars in Heliopolis and Maadi City Center in Maadi. There is also a location in Alexandria, where the branch set a new record for the highest profit margin of Zara stores in the Middle East the weekend after the branch opened last fall.
Zara Home is soon to open up on the ground floor of City Stars. The first Zara Home in the Middle East, fans will need to wait and see what the Cairo branch will come up with. Zara Homes in Europe carry affordable bedroom, bathroom and living room basics as well as accessories. Surely the Cairo store will put its own spin on the label, but will it be the same idea as the clothes store upstairs (outrageous prices for decent quality) or a breath of fresh air? Zara lovers will have to wait and see.
Shopping in Cairo is becoming increasingly eclectic with international brands popping up in every corner. The latest brand to grace our city with its return is Topshop, which had previously closed down its only shop in Maadi due to the political and social instability of the past few years.
Located in Cairo Festival City, Topshop, at first glance, retains its urban high-fashion meets high street vibe. From the lights focused on the mannequins to the neon signs leading to every section of the store, you cannot help but get absorbed into the hip, dare we say, post-modern theme. The clothes also generally carry a more high-end than high-street appearance.
The staff was generally friendly, but not overly eager. They’d stop by, say hi and tell us to call for them if we need any help, but would not insist on accompanying us all throughout our visit, which was refreshingly liberating.
We immediately began scanning the women’s section to see what they had to offer and all we can say is we found a handful of items that will totally transform us into street style fashion icons. A formal powder pink jumpsuit (949LE) definitely caught our eye, as did a striped skater dress (519LE) and a cosy fluffy jumper (579 LE). The store also carries a special “petite” line, for all the smaller-sized ladies out there.
We moved on to the shoes and accessories section, where there were plenty more goodies for Cairo’s fashion-conscious to drool over. Our favourites included a small leather backpack (549LE), heeled suede boots (1349LE), a sturdy handbag (719LE) and some chic flat loafers (449LE).
The men’s line, Topman, was no disappointment either. Some of our finds there included casual sweatshirts (449LE), summery tank-tops (249LE), all kinds of fitted jeans (480LE-600LE) and an array of t-shirts (319LE). Men can accessorise too, with some knitted icecaps (129LE), as well as normal caps (280LE).
We all need some fashion advice, especially when we cannot get our significant other, friends, or mother to accompany us on our shopping trips, and so the store’s unique personal shopper service can be a life saver. For no extra charge, the store’s resident stylist can help you pick out an outfit or put one together for you from scratch.
All in all, Topshop offers a shopping experience that is one-of-a-kind. The sales personnel were helpful but not too overly-attached, and the new service they’re offering is definitely a game changer. The only downside is that many of the items carry hefty price tags – price tags that are, through experience, more than the quality and longevity in the garments offered.