Regional brand SemSem is winning over stars in Abu Dhabi

Hollywood star and comedian Tiffany Haddish took to Instagram over the weekend to show love for regional brand SemSem. (File photo: FP)
Updated 25 November 2018

Regional brand SemSem is winning over stars in Abu Dhabi

DUBAI: Hollywood star and comedian Tiffany Haddish took to Instagram over the weekend to show love for regional brand SemSem after she was saved from a fashion mishap in Abu Dhabi — and she isn’t the only star hyping up the label, with US blogger Brittany Xavier showing off its clothes in a series of social media snaps from the capital.
After a grueling day at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix racetrack, “Girls Trip” actress Haddish took to Instagram to narrate a story that sounds familiar to anyone with a busy schedule and no personal stylist on hand (yes, that’s most of us).
“Having a great time in Abu Dhabi at a fancy dinner with @chappelledave @christucker and @luxurylaw,” she posted, referring to comedian Dave Chappelle, actor Chris Tucker and stylist Law Roach. “But let me tell you. I went to the race track today and didn’t have time to go back to my hotel and change. I was feeling so bad because everyone was dressed so nice and I wasn’t.

“Then I started talking to my new best friend @albynyc (Alby Riganello) and he was like I got a dress in my bag and he pulls out this beautiful @semsem dress and saves the day!”
Founder Abeer Al-Otaiba, who originally hails from Egypt, launched the brand in 2015 and it quickly became a celebrity favorite, worn by Hollywood stars like Blake Lively and Kourtney Kardashian.
Showing at Paris Fashion Week and written about in Vogue magazine, SemSem has brought jet-set chic to the ready-to-wear market — and judging by Haddish’s post, the label has a new fan.
Xavier, the fashion blogger behind Thrifts and Threads, was also on hand to show off the label’s colorful creations in Abu Dhabi. She took to Instagram over the weekend to show off a varied selection of outfits by the edgy brand, including a 1970’s-inspired, sparkling pantsuit.

Haddish and Xavier were in the city to celebrate the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend — four days of races and concerts by the likes of Guns N’ Roses, Post Malone, Sam Smith and The Weeknd.

The MENA fashion designers dressing up social causes

Updated 24 August 2019

The MENA fashion designers dressing up social causes

  • How designers in the MENA region are making a different kind of fashion statement
  • The ethical fashion movement is spreading to the Middle East and North Africa

CAIRO: Fashion is about far more than just trendy outfits. The growing demand for ethical clothing is one example of how designers are seeking to leave a legacy beyond the runway.

The ethical fashion movement is spreading to the Middle East and North Africa. Recent initiatives include Talahum by UAE-based designer Aiisha Ramadan, who created coats that transform into sleeping bags for disadvantaged and refugee communities living without proper shelter.

In 2016, Cairo hosted ICanSurvive, an event to commemorate World Cancer Day. As part of the project, 32 cancer survivors were paired with fashion designers to help them create the outfit of
a lifetime.

“I consider this to be one of my biggest achievements,” said Egyptian couturier Ahmed Nabil, 28, one of the volunteers at ICanSurvive. “I still can’t let go of the moment I saw her crying from happiness when she got to wear her outfit at the event.”

Though a transformational experience for Nabil, this was not his first attempt at thought-provoking designs. He was only 23 when he launched his company, Nob Designs, in 2014 to begin a journey of exploration by designing clothes for unconventional causes and experimental concepts.

The company sells a diverse set of fashion pieces with designs that aim to inspire conversation. Nabil’s creations are much like art pieces at a gallery, but instead of being displayed on canvas, they are exhibited on t-shirts, tops, dresses and abayas.

His latest collection combines street fashion inspired by underground culture with Arabic calligraphy. The Halal Project endeavors to blur the lines between conservative and edgy to demonstrate that fashion designs can be accessible to anyone.

“It’s all about the idea of accepting one another regardless of differences,” Nabil said. “My main aim for this project is a call for all people to peacefully coexist.”

Nabil added that the shift towards tolerance is not something that just the general public needs to work on. Fashion designers themselves are sometimes biased in their perceptions.

Many millennial designers, particularly in Egypt, remain wary of exploring modest fashion, despite the trend’s rising popularity. Sometimes it is because they want to avoid defining themselves as conservative instead of being considered modern and trendy.

Fellow Egyptian designer Sara Elemary, who has been running her Sara Elemary Designs label for nearly a decade, agrees.

“Modesty is a big thing in Egypt. I can’t understand why they are neglecting it,” she said. “A woman doesn’t have to be in a headscarf to wear modest clothing. There are so many famous designers for whom modesty plays a big role in
their work.”

Meanwhile, events such as Dubai Modest Fashion Week have been promoting the concept and encouraging budding designers in the region to consider this trending domain.

“I believe that there’s a problem with modest fashion, but over the past two years, that issue has started to diminish as designers have incorporated more modest designs in their collections,” Nabil said.

The next step for him is getting into the couture domain with his long-awaited project, Nob Couture. The look of the new collection is still a mystery, but he seems determined to continue sending messages and starting discussions through his designs, which he said are inspired by his life experiences.

As for designers in the region, the time is ripe for them to start supporting the causes they believe in through their work. Whatever topic or fashion style they decide to pursue, they need to be fearless in triggering conversation in the Arab world with their creations.