The notion of mommy-daughter dressing generally conjures up visuals of head-to-toe matching, pastel dependency, or even worse, a child in a downsized version of Mom’s overly sophisticated outfit. The designer Abeer Al Otaiba is looking to change that with SemSem, her women’s and girls’ ready-to-wear line that debuted at Bergdorf Goodman on Tuesday, February 9, with a lunch hosted by longtime friends Lorraine Schwartz and Blake Lively.
Al Otaiba first dreamed up the idea when her now three year-old daughter was born (SemSem, her daughter’s nickname, means “sesame seed” in Arabic). At the time, she had trouble finding high quality pieces that spoke to both of them, so she started designing them herself. With SemSem, she focuses on pieces linked by a harmonious thread rather than a mirroring look, like a chic white jumpsuit for Mommy and a flouncy white dress for her wee one. Of course, Al Otaiba’s little girl has some input.
“We have to have pink in every collection because she loves pink,” said Al Otaiba, whose line also supports women-oriented charities (sales of her spring 2016 offerings will help benefit Women for Women International, an organization for female survivors of war). “She’s a little fashionista. She’s going to take over SemSem one day.”
Naturally, the luncheon, which included a fashion presentation with actor Michael Cunio singing a live soundtrack (including Pink’s “Try” and James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World”), brought up talk of the sartorial relationship between parent and offspring.
For example, what style advice would Blake Lively, she who famously eschews the input of a stylist, bestow upon her one year-old daughter James?
“Oh, I’m thinking of so many other bits of advice to give her other than fashion advice,” said the actress. “I think that kid’s gonna do just fine. My mom always had us express ourselves however we wanted to, and I loved that. I think that feeds into all aspects of what I feel in fashion.”
“Collect jewelry!” interjected — and implored — Schwartz.
“That’s advice to give to my husband, not to my daughter,” retorted Lively.
Kris Jenner, who seemed to have heeded Schwartz’s advice — she sported a multi-carat diamond ring and diamond stud earrings, both by the designer — naturally had a lot to say on the topic.
“I used to dress [all my daughters] alike, with big bows in their hair, because it was easy. And when they got old enough to see the pictures, I was banned from any fashion advice in the future,” recalled Jenner. “They usually give me fashion advice: Kim is all about less is more; she’ll tell me to take off ‘that, that, that, and that — and you’re fine.’ Kourtney is very edgy and chic; she’ll put together an outfit for me that I never would have thought of from things I already have in my closet. Kylie will tell me to step it up and go for it. With Kendall, she’s all about being very classic — very simple pieces, a lot of coats with leggings. And Khloe just loves some bling. I can’t do that anymore, but I love to see how Khloe dresses. Her body looks great.”