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Mohandiseen, Cairo, Egypt.
Accessorize: Always Cute, Often Pricey
Whenever there’s an Accessorize in sight in Cairo, our eyes can’t help but wander over to ogle what colourful, tropical and floral designs they’re offering lately. Always carrying the most adorable bags and jewellery of the season, Accessorize is also unfortunately overpriced, given that their adorable bags are mostly cotton cloth and pleather, and sell for around £65 in the UK, around 420LE here.
The British accessories brand was born out of the Monsoon ‘ethnic’ clothing store in the early 80s, when they began to sell accessories that were so popular; they decided to dedicate a separate store to them in London’s Covent Garden piazza in 1984.
Now Accessorize has over 240 stores in the UK and 600 stores worldwide. The label’s Mohandiseen branch is absolutely tiny, taking up a chip of a corner on Lebanon Street. Nonetheless, the store manages to pack a decent selection of jewellery, bags, and scarves as well as flip flops into the little space.
Arranged by colour, the jewellery is definitely funky, original and too cute at fairly reasonable prices. Delicate leaf pendants were 90LE, chunky oversized colourful bead necklaces were about 140LE, and chandelier earrings were 100LE– which were on the pricier side since we’ve bought silver for less and they looked like they wouldn’t hold up for more than a week. Scarves too were about 90LE, and standard flip flops about 140LE
We also noticed that their stock was less than fresh: despite carrying items from their newest collection, we also spotted frameless sunglasses that are at least three years old, and turquoise stud earrings from last summer’s collection. The pricing is actually quite impressive though, considering that most international brands carry a hefty import charge swallowed by the consumer, when doing the conversion their stock here is actually sometimes cheaper than it is in the UK.
Accessorize’s current collection is inspired by the vibrant colours, prints and embroidery of Mexico, and vibrant, printed, and embroidered they all are, though not looking too different from their usual fare, and in fact quite similar to the beautiful 2009 summer collection– which is certainly not a bad thing.
There was once a time when owning a real leather jacket or bag was, in itself, a status symbol of sorts – one that didn’t need a designer label attached to it. But with the emergence of artificial leather goods, that doesn’t necessarily ring as true – the quality and longevity of real leather have fallen down the pecking order of requirements when shopping.
There are a few retailers in Egypt, however, that still hold leather in high regard, none more so than TUYA in Zamalek. While many leather goods retailers often rely on the hook of ‘real leather’ alone, this is one shop that balances quality with good design; at TUYA – a small but cosy shop – designs vary between classic, formal and modern, casual.
Aside from the many leather options across bags and wallets, there are also some that also use canvas material in its designs. One of the first pieces that caught our eye was a bag akin to a rectangular tote bag, but with a more formal look and simple design for 720LE. Its arms are short, but it can still be stylishly worn on one shoulder, while inside the bag itself there are dedicated compartments for a mobile phone, one for glasses and a third pocket with a zip.
Though there are both more formal and casual designs as mentioned, it’s the latter that generally had us ready to spend our money. With both shoulder bags and backpacks available, including ones suitable for laptops; the most striking of which was completely made of a light brown leather (980LE). What’s great about some of these particular bags is that they are essentially unisex and hold a slight hipster aesthetic that one can’t help but like – regardless of your general view of hipsters.
With summer coming up – and with it plenty of weekend’s away at the beach – TUYA also offers small pseudo-travel bags that employ both leather and canvas (640LE).
We mentioned that some of the laptop-friendly backpacks are suitable for both men and women, but there’s also a dedicated collection to men at TUYA; these were the least notable of everything we browsed, however, and they were generally much plainer in design – design that seemed a little dated.
Wallets are also readily offered at TUYA too, meanwhile, with one of the most basic pieces – a wide purse-come-wallet with very few pockets – selling for 200LE. One with several more pockets we spotted, however, goes for 380LE, while the most basic men’s wallet goes for 180LE and is available in different shades of black or brown.
Yes, some of the prices are high – especially with the bags – but it reflects the price of leather in the market right now. But if you’re looking to treat yourself, buy a gift or invest in a bag that you might have for some time to come, TUYA is as good as any place to do exactly that.