Curving a new era: Plus Size Fashion

Updated 23 May 2012
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Curving a new era: Plus Size Fashion

An untapped subject can sometimes receive negative feedback, due to the lack of knowledge about the matter. Controversy is the foundation of change: if there were only one opinion in the world, the notion of change and progress would not exist. When a demand is created, the economy armors itself to pursue this need and to provide it. Only, in the matter I am about to introduce, it took quite some time for it to be present in our daily lives of mass media and consumerism.
In a young woman’s life, adolescence is a very critical and fragile period. Some go through it quite smoothly, without any complaints, social headaches, self-esteem problems or existential issues. The biological aspect of changes she goes through triggers many issues of physical self-doubting, nervousness and introversion. Her figure is her principal interface toward society; therefore confidence is key for a young woman to assume herself and accept her body. Yet, this self-assurance is not provided by the media, as it continuously sets women on the pursuit of ridiculously utopian sizes and measurements. Figures vary, just as eye color does, from one individual to another. In this society that is whirling in diet pills, plastic surgery and materialism, being curvy, large or busty is synonymous to being an outcast. Social rejection is cruel: It is a skinny pretentious culture that rewards anorexia instead of good health. On one hand, Media & Advertising are one of the antagonists in this progression of thought. Yet on the other hand, the market started out as an enemy, but soon became somewhat of a supporter. I haven’t clarified the nature of my case yet, so here it is: full-figured women and fashion.
Speaking from experience, I struggled during my adolescence, as I was a big and tall girl, compared to my peers. The biggest challenge was trying to stay trendy, stylish and up-to-date while the market was purely model-figure-oriented. Going shopping was an agony! Since big sizes weren’t really available, I had to shop in the women’s section, which in the nineties was an utter catastrophe in terms of style. I looked older than I really was! I am sure many women out there went through the same situation when they were young. Being different has always brought forth debate, whether in religion, race or nationality. Some people find it difficult to accept difference and be tolerant thereof. Not to mention, a lot of issues, such as bullying, occur throughout school years, which can gradually shatter one’s self-esteem. These layers of negative feedback are more proof of a discriminating society. However, when I speak of full-figured women, I do not encourage obesity; on the contrary, good health is essential. Many women lead a healthy lifestyle but have — for example — curvy assets. This doesn’t mean that she is obese or overweight. Preaching the wrong kind of messages will shatter my credibility and my aim in introducing this movement. In any case, times have changed and a new movement has emerged from the fashion industry: “Plus Size Fashion”. Basically, it is a term given to fashion that is proportioned to sizes going from UK size 14 and above. Initially, many fashion designers were appalled by this terminology and the existence of such fashion frenzy. They thought it was just a phase and it would lose its agitation eventually. They underestimated a majority that has been long in the shadows, trying to fit in a world that has skinny models and actresses as icons. Well, no more. This movement is rising strong; it is not only hitting the shops but also magazine covers and catwalks.
I have been aware of this movement but only recently has it made its big BANG! The Internet is a wondrous power: I have been following Plus Size Fashion Women Bloggers online for quite some time now and it is mind-blowing. It is a community that is growing rapidly. Thanks to social networks, bloggers and their fans and followers can discuss common issues, stories, fashion tips, and plus size fashion brands, while posting outfits of the day as inspiration to others. However, my concern is that there hasn’t been such positive activity in the Arab World. Are we too preoccupied with becoming plastic dolls with puffed-up lips, in high heels and tight clothes? Are we embarrassed to stay natural, no matter what size or shape we are? Is being a curvy woman a humiliation or reason for exclusion? It is sad that many women aren’t comfortable in their own skin and have no sense of personal identity. Beauty has taken a fatal detour and the “curvi-licious” women have come to set their part of beauty back on the right track. It is not wrong to demand a decent fashion line that accommodates certain larger sizes. It is not wrong for a big or curvy woman to feel beautiful. It is not wrong for her to dress in trendy clothes. It is wrong to undermine this topic and to take it as some obnoxious feministic talk. It is absolutely wrong to give mocking looks or statements to people, in general, no matter how different they are. Tolerance and respect are values that need to be applied more strictly and I think our Arab region lacks this — at all levels.
Plus-size fashion has found its way through the market mostly in the West, but it is serving the cause of those who accept their curves and cherish their beauty, all over the world — thanks to online shopping. It is not picture-perfect just yet, but efforts are being made for a smooth incorporation of this fashion line. The acknowledgment of this topic in the Arab world is one of my big goals. Spreading the word, having a vessel that reaches as many women as possible who feel involved, and supporting the plus-size fashion movement compose my strong beliefs in this matter. Finally, I think a first step would be to start a community: Fashion and Beauty Bloggers, Facebook Groups, etc… So what do you, our readers, think?


SemSem’s Ramadan line has a charitable twist

US-Somali model Halima Aden has worked with SemSem in the past.
Updated 22 May 2018
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SemSem’s Ramadan line has a charitable twist

Famed French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent once said that the city of Marrakesh taught him color. It seems that the Moroccan city has struck again, serving as the inspiration for SemSem’s bold Ramadan line this season.

With its mélange of cultural currents and cosmopolitan charge, the bustle of Marrakesh is manifest in SemSem’s red-based collection. A brassy fire-engine trench and gilded-blush maxi are among the highlights of the edit, available exclusively at luxury e-tailers The Modist and Ounass.

For those seeking bold, iftar-appropriate looks this season, SemSem’s berry-red jumpsuit or high-low hemmed jacquard top are both beautiful, souk-inspired statement pieces.  Floral prints appearing throughout the collection recall the Majorelle garden, Saint Laurent’s lush Marrakesh property. 

Separates, including tailored pants befitting the refined city-stroller, can be paired with the collection’s pleated tops or layered for dramatic effect. 

Self-consciously eschewing derivatives of slouched kaftans, the pieces all feature refined, structured cuts. True to the brand’s aesthetic, SemSem’s Ramadan collection is an unabashed ode to modern, metropolitan femininity.

 Founder Abeer Al-Otaiba, who originally hails from Egypt, says this year’s Ramadan edit was “deeply personal.

“I wanted it to be beautiful, impactful and reflective of my heritage,” Al-Otaiba said.  “I enjoy the sense of purpose Ramadan represents and I try to embrace all that it has to offer. Creating this collection is an extension of this time of introspection and celebration.”

A dedicated philanthropist with a degree in civil engineering and stints spent living across the Middle East, Europe and America, Al-Otaiba created SemSem in 2015 as a way to celebrate women and children across the globe. Bestowing the label with her daughter’s nickname, Al-Otaiba’s vision has allowed SemSem to mature in a few short years, emerging at the forefront of the luxury, ready-to-wear market.

With lines for both women and girls, the brand has become a favorite of multi-tasking mothers seeking balance and an elegant wardrobe with a charitable sense of purpose. Every season, Al-Otaiba teams up with a non-profit promoting the well-being of women and children. 

This year, 10 percent of the sales from the brand’s Ramadan collection sold at Ounass will go to causes supported by the Dubai Cares charity.

Previously, Al-Otaiba sought to raise awareness about maternal mortality rates and youth illiteracy, supporting organizations working across Africa to empower women and children. 

Insisting on the confluence of doing good and dressing well, SemSem has become a celebrity favorite, worn by conscientious Hollywood moms like Blake Lively and Kourtney Kardashian. 

Showing at Paris Fashion Week and regularly written up in Vogue, SemSem has brought a jet-set chic to mother-daughter wear. 

But the line’s ethos isn’t about red-carpet glitter. Encouraging mothers to instill a sense of global awareness and dedication to philanthropy in their daughters lies at the heart of SemSem’s mission. It’s a perfect conversation — and the perfect conversation-provoking ensembles— to have this Ramadan season.