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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.
With over 1000 shops worldwide - two of which are faithful members of the Cairo shopping scene, Lacoste’s little flagship store shines like a beacon with bright lights and immaculate window displays.
The Lacoste uniform reigns throughout the store, with an abundance of plain polo shirts stocked in a plethora of different colours. Of course, their iconic crocodile logo sits proudly on the chest of most - if not all - the garments. As many of the styles overlap in each orderly section, it took a moment to distinguish between the men’s and women’s collections. At the time of our visit, many of the items were on sale; however, this was only discreetly advertised inside the shop.
Women’s polo shirts were priced at a rather steep 995LE, whilst one’s with attractive, beaded versions of the crocodile insignia were retailing at 1160LE. The Lacoste Live line - 100% cotton polos - were 790LE and noticeably softer to the touch, as were the small collection of plain and yellow striped, boyfriend-fit t-shirts (440LE+), tank tops (428LE) and sleeveless polos (665LE). Long sleeved polo shirts were on sale at 590LE, and one woollen jumper would set you back 1720LE. Nautical, blue and white striped day dresses were reduced from 1895LE to 1370LE and pinstriped shirts were 1116LE, whilst casual jeans cost upwards of 1000LE.
Mirroring the women’s section, men’s polo shirts crept closer to the 1000LE mark, as did the range of smarter dress shirts. An eye-catching bright orange and black polo shirt was priced at 1250LE and a slick, black tailored-fit button-down was 1292LE. A summery collection of short-sleeved casual shirts were 770LE, pale blue trousers were marked down from 1220LE to 976LE and navy shorts from 1390LE to 875LE. In preparation for the winter season, we spotted a navy windbreaker for 1895LE. There was also a small section dedicated to the bigger man, with a selection of larger polo shirts and several pairs of jeans, which were reduced from 1495LE to 965LE.
The children’s section is much smaller, but offers a range of fun t-shirts (400LE+), mini-me chequered shirts (600LE+), girls' sun dresses (810LE) and tank tops (435LE). Again, the standard polo shirts were priced high at 845LE, whilst special edition t-shirts with Swarovski crystal emblems were presented in a gift box and were priced at 990LE.
Shoes came in numerous different styles; flats (760LE), canvas shoes (515LE) and plimsolls (515LE) for women, whilst unisex rubber flip-flops start at 230LE. The men’s range included smart and casual loafers (1140LE+), sneakers (900LE+) and espadrilles (590LE). The kid’s shoes were undeniably cute, with preppy sneakers (390LE) and baby shoes with Velcro fastening (530LE) on offer. The shop also stocks a range of leather accessories including wallets, belts, laptop (3395LE) and messenger bags (1180LE).
Lacoste largely stays true to its reputation by stocking a large number of uniform items. But although few in number, we were glad to see some other styles, too. Prices are almost excruciatingly high, so one can only hope that this is reflected in the quality of the garments.