Inspirational Women in Fashion: Abeer Al Otaiba

Sometimes as we travel through life, we end up in places very different than where we imagined we would. Abeer Al Otaiba’s story is a good case in point.

Abeer Al Otaiba, the founder of the luxury fashion line SemSem and wife of United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba once thought that her road would end with a career in engineering. Both of her parents were civil engineers. As a student, Al Otaiba left her native Egypt for France to study it herself. She had always been interested in fashion and fashion design, but because of her family’s engineering tradition, didn’t want to “rock the boat”.

However, after becoming a mother, a crisis caused her to rethink this career path. Her infant daughter Samia required emergency surgery shortly after birth. Following its successful outcome, Al Otaiba wanted to produce work that would celebrate the mother/daughter bond while combining engineering skills such as attention to detail and usefulness of the finished product. Al Otaiba decided to take the idea further still and create a fashion line that would not only honor women and their children, but that would draw attention to and raise money for their causes. Al Otaiba decided to give her line the same name as her daughter’s nickname, SemSem.

SemSem produces high-end ready-to-wear clothing for children and women, and it uses its creations to both contribute to and promote philanthropic giving in several ways.

sing on helping mothers and children worldwide. Secondly, the line encourages adult purchasers to teach their daughters about philanthropy and do their own charitable giving. And finally, the firm is  following in the footsteps of Brooks Brothers by partnering with a Madagascar woman-owned company called Angele H. International.

The company is comprised almost entirely of single and widowed mothers. Working for Angele H. guarantees these women steady work, retirement funds, and healthcare that covers their children as well. The company even provides transportation to and from work. In turn, these women create for SemSem dresses, jackets, tops, and trousers for both girls and women, as well as plush children’s dolls.

In addition to using her line to promote women’s empowerment and international causes, Al Otaiba encourages both young Samia and her baby brother to be ambitious, strong, and kind, inspiring not just philanthropy and fashion but future generations of Al Otaibas to do their own good works.