KHAMSA sits down with SemSem’s founder.

SemSem is a New York-based luxury womenswear brand sold in various luxury retail stores including Net-a-porter, Moda Operandi, Five Story, Farfetch, Ounass, and its own e-commerce site SemSem has been worn by both celebrity mothers and young women like Blake Lively, Taylor Swift, Kourtney Kardashian, Olivia Palermo, Drew Barrymore, Jamie King, and Saoirse Ronan.

Abeer Al Otaiba is the founder and Creative Director of SemSem, a luxury fashion line that launched in October 2015. In addition to serving as the Creative Director of SemSem, Abeer is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of investment firm Al Otaiba Investments. She holds a degree in civil engineering and has emerged as a philanthropist, women’s rights activist and role model for women and girls around the world.

Source: SemSem

KHAMSA has the chance to speak to Abeer on a variety of topics, including SemSem and its commitment to Middle Eastern fashion.

١. What inspired you to start SemSem and lead it in the direction it follows today?

I started SemSem because I noticed a gap in the market. I wanted to offer sophisticated, confident clothing that would uplift women. Being an Arab woman, I aimed to challenge stereotypes about our dressing choices. I also wanted to establish a brand known for its contributions to the global community. We’ve stayed committed to empowering women and supporting global progress. Our focus remains on crafting meaningful, durable pieces using top-quality materials.

٢. SemSem prides itself on standing out from other fashion houses. What practices and philosophies do you employ to keep it that way?

I don’t spend a lot of time focusing on the noise that tends to bog down other fashion houses. I firmly believe that trends are fleeting. Our customers value our ability to be innovative while staying true to our design style. Elements like colour, shape, form, and function are vital in our approach. My background in civil engineering has instilled in me the strength to stand up for myself — an uncommon trait in the fashion industry. This background influences my perspective on function and shape.

I intentionally surround myself with individuals who push me to think beyond the ordinary and don’t just agree with every idea I propose. Collaboration is key, and I don’t let my ego get in the way. The success of SemSem is a priority, and that means working with others and, most importantly, listening to our customers’ feedback.

٣. What do you believe the Middle East’s fashion world asks for today? How is SemSem working to answer that demand?

Fashion in the Middle East is undergoing a remarkable transformation. Though modest attire remains
significant, I admire how women are exploring new colours, shapes, and fashion expressions. For an Arab
woman, projecting confidence when she enters a room, is crucial. Unfortunately, she’s often judged based on her attire. Additionally, Arab women aren’t alike, each Arab woman is breaking barriers in her unique way. As designers, it’s our responsibility to champion and empower these diverse expressions.

٤. What advice would you give to an aspiring designer?

Create an exceptional team. Surround yourself with individuals who not only back your dreams and ideals, but also push you to grow. Seek a mentor, someone you deeply respect and who understands you, even if they’re not from the fashion scene. Lastly, develop thick skin and learn from your mistakes, regardless of their scale, and strive forward!

SemSem is a fashion statement on its own, where iconic style meets dramatic storytelling. For more information, visit here.

Pranav is a writer and editor who always strives to weave stories and narratives with his words. He has written for multiple publications across a wide variety of beats. A keen opinion enthusiast, Pranav pursues the art of writing balanced pieces that explore every available POV before making his conclusion. In his free time, Pranav rages at his favourite sports teams and practices impressions.