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Mohandiseen, Cairo, Egypt.
Lacoste: The Same Prep, Now in Cairo
Pale pink polo shirts, white trousers and canvas tennis shoes– this was the Lacoste ‘uniform’ that defined the 80s prepster generation. Now, 30 years later, after a few hiccups in the 90s and a new designer, Lacoste has re-established itself as one of the top retailers of high-end sportswear, and one of the top three retailers of preppy casual wear with Polo Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger.
Before the polo shirt became the polo shirt, it was a tennis shirt, and the first of its kind was designed by none other than seven-time Grand Slam champion René Lacoste. He debuted his shirt on the court in 1926, added the alligator logo after his nickname in 1927, and in 1933 when he retired from the sport, began manufacturing the shirt for wide distribution with his friend Andre Gillier, who was also president and owner of the largest French knitwear manufacturing firm of the time. The company ‘La Chemise Lacoste’ was born.
What began with a simple white shirt has now grown to a fashion franchise that includes footwear, perfume, leather goods, watches, eyewear and tennis shirts in every colour, in nearly 1000 stores around the world.
Lacoste’s Mohandiseen branch is typical of the same products and layout as you would find worldwide. Housed on two levels with men’s wear on the first floor and women’s and children’s on the second– therefore strangely stocking more men’s than women’s clothes– the store is sparsely stocked with polo shirts, jeans, canvas bags and shoes, with a few variations in style and colour.
Classic women’s jeans retail for 600LE, a striped canvas tote bag around 430LE, canvas shoes are for around 350LE. Jelly shoe slip-ons that look alien in transparent-moulded red rubber are for 230LE, and the classic Lacoste tennis shirt that started it all, sells for a whopping 730LE. Seven hundred and thirty pounds for a t-shirt with an alligator on it– wow!
It shouldn’t take you long to browse through the store; either you like their sparse and basic stock (and can afford it), or you don’t. The salespeople are nice and seem to know that they cater to a very specific market; so they won’t hold it against you if you leave empty-handed. And if their new designer Christophe Lemaire has created a more modern, upscale look; there was no evidence of that to be seen. In any case, prepsters; have no fear, there indeed is a Lacoste here and it will satisfy your polo dependency to the tune of nearly 800LE– rejoice!
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.