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6th of October City, Cairo, Egypt.
Bershka: European Fashion in Cairo's Mall of Arabia
The influx of international fashion brands to the Cairo shopping scene has produced mixed results on the streets of the city. With its sleek, clean-lined shop front, Bershka looks the part inside the modern walls of Mall of Arabia in 6th of October City. You can find it located in its thematic homeland between Stradivarius and Pull & Bear. Incidentally, all are shops owned by Spanish retailer Inditex – so what makes Bershka stand out from the crowd?
Bershka’s interior shies away from the I-am-not-a-shop-I-am-a-surf-shack look, which other shops attempt, and opts instead for minimalist, block-colour walls without shots of models in bikinis. If anything, Bershka thinks it’s a nightclub, and sports a futuristic look with anti-aircraft speakers filling a central panel wall, blaring out techno/trance music as if it were Amsterdam circa 1997. The overall look is fresh and modern, with mannequins wearing the latest trends dotted about the open-plan layout, and accessories displayed to their full glory on spacious shelves.
The women’s clothing selection is
diverse, ranging from the slouchy t-shirt at 99LE, to a hot pair of heels for
559LE. Although the tops were often flimsy and see-through, we’re willing to
put this down as a style choice rather than lazy tailoring, as the heavier
items seem well made and durable. Surprisingly for an international brand,
there was the odd unfortunate print top with incorrect English across it –
another style choice? We think not.
The designers at Bershka have been inventive with this season’s trends – dying a pair of suede boots mint green and glitzing up baggy jumpers with interesting motifs. However, unlike its neighbouring sister shops, it seems Bershka missed the memo about Aztec prints and denim jackets.
The shop also came short in the men’s section, which was banished to a dark corner, and where items were outnumbered by women’s wear at least three to one. Disappointingly, Bershka too has condemned men to the confines of the blue colour spectrum, although one florescent lemon shirt did catch our eye. Logo-print tees and suede shoes ruled the day, but if they’re on season in the fashion world, the abundance of heavy coats and jackets means that Bershka are one season behind Cairene temperatures.
We were delighted to find that sale season was upon us and prices had been generously cut by up to a third, meaning some t-shirts were just 19LE. Despite its low prices, Bershka’s sale was not the sprawling mess which pits girl-against-girl for the best bargain, and means you leave the shop with a black eye and missing a shoe. In any case, trendy and laid back shop assistants were on hand to help lest a brawl should break out.
Unlike Zara or Massimo Dutti, Bershka doesn’t branch out into office-wear, maternity or sports sections, but does what it does best and sticks to everyday wear, perfect for just hanging out in. Bershka makes an effort to remove the stress from clothes shopping, and while you won’t find anything especially daring in its fashion ranges, it’s a refreshing find after the showboating of other young-person clothes shops.
Shopping in Cairo isn’t always easy. In fact, it can, occasionally, be a nightmare. While many international brands and chain stores are readily available and more arrive by the month, finding quality, reasonably-priced basics can be somewhat of a challenge. Like so many things in Egypt, the difference between the best and the worst is immense.
Cottonball in Zamalek, however, has gone some way to fulfilling that need, stocking an extensive range of simple, plain Egyptian cotton-made t-shirts.
Having recently opened, the shop’s stock is reflected in its decor; simple and unfussy. The light grey and white walls allow the vast amount of colours to standout.
At the heart of the shop’s concept is supporting local industry and each of Cottonball’s lines is named after a different Egyptian governorate; for example, a line of v-neck t-shirts is named Aswan – a very cute touch by the owners.
Though there is a healthy amount of men’s t-shirts, the ratio definitely swings towards women’s, in models, fits and colours – as is the case usually in Cairo. Speaking of which, the colours covered by Cottonball’s products are seemingly infinite – you’ll find everything from loud neon lemon yellow, to demure rose pink.
Though not available for purchase as of yet, Cottonball is currently displaying samples of handmade accessories, too, though no definite date of when the full range will be in store has been locked down as of yet.
When it comes to prices, everything about Cottonball suggests that it will be expensive; the focus on the fact that it’s all made with Egyptian cotton as a gimmick and its location on the ‘high-end’, ‘upmarket’ island of Zamalek being two potential indicators that this place isn’t going to be exactly cheap. However, quite refreshingly, prices are rather reasonable.
Across both the men’s and women’s lines, long-sleeved t-shirts are 135LE, regular short-sleeved t-shirts are 125LE and tank-tops are 99LE. In addition, you can by any three t-shirts for 300LE.
Despite the simplicity of its product – plain t-shirts – the quality of the merchandise makes it sturdy and comfortable. It’s a t-shirt – what could go wrong?