When I first heard that Zara's cheaper and cooler sister store, Bershka, was opening a pop-up shop in New York City, I had a lot of questions: How could it be cooler than Zara? How cheap are we talking? Am I going to have to fight to the death with other Bershka fanatics?
Although US customers can shop everything online, this pop-up is the sole physical Bershka location in the states. So I made my way over to the Soho storefront, and somehow lived to tell the tale.
When I stepped into the store I was surprised at how longggggg the pop-up really was. There was even a second floor!
The store wasn't divided into specific sections. Instead, faux fur coats were mixed in with party dresses which were mixed in with blazers. It definitely forced me to be more adventurous when it came to styling looks.
Although I didn't see much difference between the actual merch at Bershka versus Zara, the vibe at Bershka was VERY different.
First of all, THERE WAS ROOM TO SHOP. Rather than having to fight my way to get to the merchandise, I could see how they would be styled in an ideal world. It had displays and mannequins, which I rarely see at most Zaras.
When I got to the lower floor, I was VERY impressed. There were not one, but TWO lounge areas, a beauty section, an accessories section, and activewear!
The best way to describe it is if an Urban Outfitters and a Forever 21 had a chill baby with a limited budget. I honestly felt like I had died and gone to heaven, but one with shopping racks.
There was a super huge screen that played Bershka videos on repeat, and a giant sitting area that I didn't want to get up from. Alas, I had no time for sitting — I had shopping to do.
This was THE BIGGEST DRESSING ROOM AREA I'VE EVER SEEN.
MY GOODNESS, this was a ton of space. There were EVEN MORE sitting areas in the dressing room! I mean, it helped that not a lot of people were in the store at the time, but I still think there would've been a lot of room to give a few outfits a test run (which I promptly did).
The only downside to the dressing room was that it was dimly lit, which wasn't as Instagram-friendly as I would've liked.
The first outfit I picked was from the denim section, and it was quite underwhelming.
Cigarette jeans ($49.90, Bershka). Available up to a size 8.
From the head-to-toe denim to the pink faux fur trim, this was DEFINITELY not my usual personal style. I had hoped I would feel fierce, but instead I felt like a bubblegum pink Big Bird.
Also, the fit was a bit of an issue. I usually wear a size 8/10 in pants, a medium in tops, and a medium/large in jackets and coats. These jeans, which were a size 8, were PAINFUL. They had no stretch in them whatsoever, and my waist was screaming for me to take them off. I definitely would've sized up, BUT THEY STOPPED AT A SIZE 8. Thankfully, the T-shirt and the jacket, which I tried both in a size M, fit way better.
I was more of a fan of the faux fur jacket, although its hefty price tag reminded me more of Zara.
Denim jacket ($119, Bershka). Available up to a size M.
Everyone needs a good denim jacket, but I'm not sure I could justify almost $120 for this one. I was surprised at the price, considering that it was supposed to be a cheaper alternative to Zara. The T-shirt, which was $19.90, was the only item that seemed reasonable to me in that outfit.
After seeing an inanimate object slay in a similarly styled outfit, I was very excited to try this on.
Faux leather skirt ($25.90, Bershka). Available up to a size L.
I'm a fan of any outfit that involves dark glitter and pleather. The bodysuit ($29.90, Bershka), which was a size M, fit wonderfully and so did the skirt, which was a size L.
However, the quality of the bodysuit wasn't as good as I'd hoped, since it was rather thin. I was afraid it would tear as I was putting it on. The skirt, on the other hand, fit like a glove and didn't cost an exorbitant amount. I definitely had to add the skirt to my cart.
As someone who has an aversion to color, I LOVED how the dress looked on me, but taking it off was pure hell.
OH MY GOD. I thought I'd have to ask someone to help get this over my head. I tried the dress ($49.90, Bershka) in a size M, but it felt like a size S when I was taking it off! I felt fabulous in the dress and the fit was great, but make sure you have a buddy on hand — just in case they need to cut you out of it.
Once again, I didn't think the $49.90 price tag was much different than a similar style at Zara. Fit aside, I did think the quality was good and worth a sensible splurge.
I also gave the activewear a go, and I was happy until I turned around.
Sporty leggings ($29.90, Bershka). Available up to a size L.
I realized, like most inexpensive athleisure, that these leggings weren't opaque enough. It was disappointing because I really liked the fit of the leggings (I tried a size L), but sheer isn't really my vibe at the gym.
I also liked the design of the bra. I tried it in a size M, but it wasn't that supportive. But well, for $22.90, it got the job done.
Shopping in Bershka was the calmest shopping experience I've ever had in NYC, but I still had sticker shock at some of the items, and sizing was definitely an issue.
Living in a city where there are millions of bargain-hunting residents and tourists, it's challenging to find an oasis where you can get a deal without having to shed blood for it, so I appreciated that. And although the quality of some items was questionable, I appreciated the variety of pieces from faux fur yellow jackets to denim to pleather dresses. The store truly offered options for everyone's style. Plus, as someone who appreciates a good handbag, I definitely would've grabbed three or four of Bershka's $30 bags instead of at Zara, since the styles are so similar!
However, the one huge improvement I'd like to see at the store is size offerings. It was challenging for me to find a size L in some pieces. I know it goes up to an XL online for some looks, but finding one in stores felt futile. It seems unrealistic to have most of the items stop at an M or size 8, excluding a large percentage of shoppers. If the brand does officially launch stores stateside, hopefully it'll expand these size offerings, so everyone can have an enjoyable shopping experience.
And hey, you can stop by the store in New York City through January 2018 to see it for yourself!