Abeer Al Otaiba, creative director of SemSem, exclusively shares her look book and details of the Spring 2018 shoot with Vogue.me. The collection is a fusion of versatile new-season wardrobe staples and stand-out looks that can be worn with modesty or flair. It’s a collection for every woman.
Halima Aden, the first hijab wearing model to grace the international runway, and Zoe Barnard are leading the Spring 2018 campaign. “I want to encourage women to be who they want to be” said Al Otaiba.
The brand, with its strong philanthropic undercurrent, furthers its exploration of Marrakech in rich colors and unapologetic mixes of hues, sequins, and lush fabrics (satins and silks offset against lattice fabrics, anyone?). Here Vogue Arabia speaks to Al Otaiba about working with June issue cover star Aden, contributing to the fresh dialogue about Arab identity, and what’s in the pipeline for the maison.
How do Halima and Zoe represent different aspects of the brand?
“I consider SemSem to be a global collection, born from my experiences living in different parts of the world and a strong love of my Arab heritage. Halima represents SemSem’s support of the modesty movement, while they both resonate with the Eastern and Western influences of the brand as well as my personal memories. Alexandria, Egypt, will always hold a special place in my heart and I closely associate it with my family having been born there, while the United States represents my future and newfound home.”
“SemSem is about female empowerment… No judgment! The look book ends with Halima in a shirt with the Arabic word “hob” which means love; the collection is about love and tolerance.”
Describe Halima in three words.
“Bubbly, authentic, and tenacious.”
What was it like to work with Halima?
“Where do I start? She is fun-loving and so full of energy! You can sense her drive and determination to succeed and continue to blaze the trail of breaking barriers in the industry.”
Which piece from the collection are you most proud of?
“I love every single piece in the collection. If there is a piece I wouldn’t wear myself, it doesn’t get produced.”
How have you evolved the brand’s DNA into the new collection?
“I think we have finally got a foothold of our signature silhouettes. I love the juxtaposition of muted colors with more vibrant ones; long, clean lines combined with more voluminous shapes; an exposed neckline while the rest of the look is covered. I strive for designs that reflect a woman’s strength and resilience and our DNA encapsulates her fashion forward-ness, intelligence, and affinity for everyday wearability with an edge.”
What is the biggest challenge you face as a designer?
“The hardest part has been finding the right people; trying to juggle everything and find people to depend on that I can trust 100% to understand my vision and what I’m trying to achieve. I’m based in Washington DC and I’m managing everything remotely: my staff is in New York, and my head of design is based in Paris.”
What is in the pipeline for SemSem in 2018?
“Day in and day out, I strive to help women through SemSem; to show the rest of the world that Arab women are empowered and contributing more than ever in all areas of society. I also hope to continue to encourage Arab women, and all women, by sharing my story of empowerment and ability to balance my traditional role, our culture, and my burgeoning brand – that it’s possible to feed the creative and business side of your mind in tandem with fostering a home life.”