This Egyptian designer has a major UAE connection…
Abeer Al Otaiba is a mum of one, a former civil engineer, and the creative director of her own fashion brand. We don’t say this lightly, but: goals. Stars like Gigi Hadid and Blake Lively have worn her clothes, and Al Otaiba is just getting started.
The woman behind SemSem is also married to Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the United States. Al Otaiba’s line is gorgeous – think leather jackets, crisp white shirts, and the coolest flares we’ve ever seen – but it could just as easily not have come into being at all.
“I’d wanted to study fashion, but I come from a family of engineers, and I didn’t want to disappoint them,” she told Elle earlier this year.
“I studied civil engineering, and at the end of the day, the attention to detail, the high design quality, and the functionality are things I realised I could use in fashion.”
Al Otaiba met her husband while working in the UAE. They moved together to Virginia together in 2010 so he could take up his post as an ambassador, and it was there they they welcomed their daughter, Samia, in 2014.
Since then, she’s built a fashion brand that caters to mums and daughters, and is also a force of good in the world.
That mother and child bond informs SemSem’s aesthetic and business practise, Al Otaiba told Forbes last year.
“SemSem is more than a clothing line,” Al Otaiba said. “It’s about educating your daughter about giving back at a very young age, teaching her that we should be grateful that we can afford to shop for these clothes while other women and children, somewhere in the world, cannot.”
Each season, Al Otaiba picks a charity to partner with, and she also works with an organisation in Madagascar that offers fair employment to single mothers and widows. She says SemSem isn’t just about looking great.
“The whole thing was more about, ‘How can I use this to do something?'” she told Elle. “Gender equality, education for girls, working with women in Afghanistan and Madagascar…everything we do focuses on women and girls.”
That attitude has won her a fan in jewellery designer Lorraine Schwartz.
“This idea of mothers and daughters is very special,” she told Forbes. “Abeer has such a passion for it, it comes from a place of love. It makes the kid feel special – she’s like mommy, she’s sophisticated, she’s cool.”
When philanthropy, fashion, and family line up like this, it’s hard not to be charmed. Go on, check out the site. We’re not telling.