BY NOOR AL NOAIMI
MODA Mall, located on the ground floor of the landmark Bahrain World Trade Center (BWTC), right on entrée at the Diplomatic Area, with tenants comprising a veritable who’s-who of the fashion world. The vast mall is home to 80 fashion labels, brand name boutiques, and the country’s largest jewelry portfolio of over 50 jewelry stores, numbers of which were previously unattainable in the Kingdom of Bahrain, including lots of famous international ones.
The above tells of a fashion monument, a name that is well known throughout the region and a luxurious addition to The Kingdom of Bahrain’s shopping experience. Globalization, and the amassed purchasing power of the GCC, not to mention the lifestyle trend of traveling overseas and the refined education it gave the residents, changed the local landscape of fashion. In response to the new demands of the refined consumers shopping malls began to house luxury fashion brands such as Christian Dior, Roberto Cavalli, Hermes, Fendi, Bottega Veneta, Gucci, MaxMara, Kenzo and many more; not to mention sought after Jewelers like Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Tiffany & Co, Bvlgari, Chopard, De Beers – as well as a myriad of other gem giants. The Kingdom’s close proximity to Saudi Arabia and its relaxed regulations brought brands and shoppers from all over the world together, contributed towards Bahrain’s budding retail economy, and set it as a lucrative market for luxury brands. Keeping in line with MODA Mall’s aesthetic of catering to their consumers needs, and lavishing them with world-class services, fine restaurants were also added to their tenant lists.
Approximately Thirty years ago the mall was called ‘The Sheraton Complex’, named so due to its adjacency to the luxurious Sheraton Hotel; the building was a hub for the upper class, boutique owners and artisans. The source for anything brag-worthy: from fine home accessories to high-end souvenirs, and famed luxury children’s boutiques.
These grounds witnessed society ladies in pursuit of the latest trends, mothers looking for couture for their little ones Eid outfits, and men looking to lavish their brides with the most unique jewelry. In essence, it was an introduction to luxury shopping for the small Kingdom, an opportunity for boutique owners to bloom and gain access to the new breed of consumers who demanded luxury goods but could not travel abroad for their material needs, and also for those who simply liked shopping closer to home.
Standing tall within the bustling old streets of old Manama, the Sheraton was a happy place; it was the ‘Sunset Strip’ for the 80’s colorful outlook, the scenic go to for any festive occasion, the endpoint of a good old fashioned splurge. It echoed with salutations, and salams of the local boutique proprietors, it resonated with female glee at finding selections from names like Missoni, Versace and Dolce & Gabbana. Proud shop owners boasted their wares and hung élite designer gowns, like golden pears upon their silver racks. The mall also familiarized its customers with fine linens, exclusive silverware, and gush worthy gifts for anyone shopping for presents. Jewelers like Asia Jewelry, Al Mannai Pearls and many more opened shop within the celebratory compound. Here, beauty, art and shopping were first encouraged, and no one was beyond its appreciation. The classic interiors of pale marble flooring, coated in glassy aquatic waves under one’s feet, made it feel like one was guided towards the lavish windows, to look upon the stylish mannequins and to sigh at the beautiful fashion statements they encapsulated. Even then, Bahrain always had grand esteem for the ‘luxe’, the hard to attain and the exclusive, perhaps it was to this that the building owes its longevity.
Fast-forward to today, ‘The Sheraton Complex’ is no longer the name that the shopping mall carries, it is now known as ‘MODA Mall’; the first is of course, the Latin word for fashion. Renamed quite fittingly for being what it had always stood for: An ode to fashion. The flagship stores that the mall had opened and continues to open attract a large audience. To many locals, “MODA Mall” is the grown up in the ‘Sheraton’ history, the ever growing child that was, and the goliath that every shopping community in Bahrain aspires to be.
Nowadays, if one were ever in a fashion dilemma, many Bahrainis would advise to check out the ‘Sheraton’- The undying slang term for the mall that will always be Bahrain’s first fashion destination.
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