For DC-based designer and philanthropist Abeer Al Otaiba, goodwill is sewn into the fabric of her being.
DC-based Abeer Al Otaiba is the stylish founder of fashion line SemSem.
SemSem is distinctly Abeer Al Otaiba. She conceptualized the polished clothing line around her daughter Samia—whose nickname lends itself to the label—crafting styles for mothers and daughters with complementary design elements. “Samia motivated me to create something that spoke to the bond between mother and daughter, and would also meet the needs of women around the world who are challenged to fulfill numerous roles on any given day,” Abeer says.
Looks from SemSem’s spring 2019 collection. The line features well-made clothing for stylish mothers and their daughters.
The lush women’s pieces drip with the glamour of a ’70s Halston, and have been donned by the likes of Olivia Palermo, Chrissy Teigen, Emily Blunt and Vanessa Hudgens. Abeer pulls elements from her hometown of Alexandria, Egypt, and the Middle East and Mediterranean as a whole. From a family of civil engineers, she worked in that field in the United Arab Emirates before she and her husband, UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, moved to McLean, Va., in 2010. “I was raised to challenge boundaries,” she says of entering the male-dominated industry.
SemSem also supports a different charitable organization each season, focusing on charities that empower women and children.
She and Yousef continued to challenge barriers and stereotypes once they moved to the States through their shared passion of philanthropy, facilitating cultural exchanges, healthcare partnerships and disaster relief activities. And SemSem is no exception. The fashion brand supports businesses dedicated to helping women and children across the globe, like Angele.H International, which provides a steady salary to its Madagascar artisans, and Nation of Dolls, a doll-making company in the Philippines offering jobs as well as workshops and classes. “By launching my own brand dedicated to promoting and supporting gender equality and education for women and girls, I was able to create something that is both visually and intellectually beautiful.” The result? A fashion line as appealing as the woman and ethos behind it.