Combat chic fails to attract united shoppers of Sarajevo

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The Independent Online
Window-shopping is almost out, though Maja Desancic aged eight, did her best, peering through a gap in a heavily sand-bagged facade. But hundreds of Sarajevans, mostly young, female and well-dressed, flocked to the fashion event (the only fashion event) of the war this summer: the grand opening on Marshal Tito Street of Benetton.

Only the sprinkling of camouflage (functional, rather than fashionable) among the clientele distinguished the Sarajevo branch from any other in the global chain.

The mayor, Tarik Kupusovic, was there to bestow his blessing. "It is a sign of better times," he said. He urged entrepreneurs to rise to the challenge set by Benetton, or rather by the Slovene businessmen who has bought the Sarajevo franchise.

But it is clear that most of the customers will come from the new, war- time elite: the black-marketeers and the English-speakers who work for the UN, aid agencies, and the foreign journalists.

"We were excited, until we saw the prices," Svjetlana Malic, 15, said drily. But she still approved of the venture: "It means the city still survives. We have more will to live when we see something like this."

Aida Hadzic, who works for the United Nations, spent 198 German marks on a pair of beige jeans and a matching cardigan. "I don't think many people will be able to shop here, but at least it's a pleasure to visit, and keep in touch with the world and changing fashions," she said. Ms Hadzic paid cash: "No credit cards - this is war," an assistant said.