Born in Alexandria, Egypt, Abeer Al Otaiba pursued a more traditional career path, becoming a civil engineer in Dubai after graduating with a Masters degree. Little did she know where that journey would take her. It was in Dubai that she met Yousef Al Otaiba – the ambassador of the UAE to the United States – and the two eventually fell in love, got married, and relocated to Washington DC for his job.
Over time, they had children, and it was motherhood that led Abeer to launching her mother-daughter line SemSem, the nickname for her daughter Samia. Noticing that it was easy to dress up her son to match her husband, she wasn’t finding the same results with mother-daughter options as they were either too matchy-matchy or not very stylish. “I noticed a void in the marketplace, and I’m an engineer by trade, so I was problem solving – let me start my own line,” she told WWD.
While Abeer’s pursuit of a clothing line that flattered both mothers and daughters alike was a great, niche idea in and of itself, the civil-engineer-turned-designer had even loftier ambitions. When Samia was born, she needed urgent lung surgery, and the experience left Abeer feeling an incredible bond with her daughter. This prompted her to advocate strongly for women and children, which is why philanthropy is at the heart of everything she does. Today, every SemSem collection supports a different charitable organization, especially those focused on women helping women and the education of young girls.
In the past two years, this unique brand has caught the eye of many celebrities, “It” girls, and influencers. SemSem’s matching separates – as well as its jumpsuits and high-waisted trousers – have been a big hit with the fashion crowd, proving that the clothes are desirable even without the mother-daughter angle. Click through the gallery below to see how everyone from Karen Wazen to Blake Lively styles their SemSem pieces.
Blake Lively rocked this adorable heart-print dress by SemSem for Valentine’s Day last year.
Danielle Bernstein of WeWoreWhat rocked a bomber from SemSem’s Ramadan collection to New York Fashion Week.
Jaime King wore the ‘Camille’ laced dress from SemSem’s Fall/Winter 2017 collection to an exclusive Women March’s cocktail party at New York Fashion Week.
Jenna Dewan Tatum showed off her dancer’s figure in SemSem’s striped monochrome trousers.
Drawn to its vibrant palette, Karen Wazen also went the SemSem route for a recent trip to Paris.
Kourtney Kardashian loved the loose but flattering fit of SemSem’s ‘Luxor’ cardigan from the Resort 2018 collection.
Disney star Olivia Holt wore pieces from SemSem’s Spring/Summer 2018 collection to the 2018 Freeform Summit in Los Angeles.
Saoirse Ronan, indie darling and star of the Oscar-nominated hit Lady Bird, wore this adorable SemSem look for her appearance on Ellen.