SemSem is a factory and was named after the owner’s daughter. Everything produced is somewhat based off of the owner Abeer’s Egyptian heritage. Abeer had an engineering degree, and that is what made all of this production come to life.
Susan Lam: Was the presenter. Susan studied marketing and management, and when it came time to get a job in these fields the recession hit. She was not inspired, nor was she passionate enough to keep going in this direction. She then quit her job and went back to school at Parsons. Originally not from the New York area, it was possible for her to move here spontaneously and pay for school at the same time since she was going to be living with her boyfriend and friend in New York. Otherwise, she said for most people it is not possible or financially feasible to move here on your own and still be able to make ends meet. She’s been working for SemSem for about four years now. Some brands that they work with include Code Hippie, Neli Lotan, and The Row. Part of Susan’s job is to make sure that everything is going smoothly from the beginning of the production process. There is about a three to four month incubating process while getting the clothes ready. Directly following the shows, they then put the merchandise on the market if it was bought. Buyers will come to the showrooms, pass on their numbers from the orders, and from there production will then produce what it was asked to so that there is not a huge excess amount of inventory. But, they do usually order a little extra of the merchandise for trunk shows.
It was really interesting to find out how expensive everything was after it is made when it is sold on the retail floor. SemSem focuses on mother and daughter pieces. For example, there was a particular fabric that was light pink and white used for both mother and daughter pieces in differing styles. My favorite was the blue children’s blazer that matched a tan replica for the mother. These pieces did not come cheap as some of the children’s clothing starts at $10.00 and goes up to $495.00. Most of the adult pieces were at least $1,000.00, but start at $495.00. But, by just looking around at the workers in the factory, the price points made sense due to the high level of detail being put into each garment. She also explained that a lot of the fabrics are from Italy and France, and run $30-$60 a yard. 20% of the garments are made in Madagascar, and the other 80% are made in the United States.
Experience needed: When working on the production side, Susan spoke highly of working your way up. Although she no longer personally works in the exact factory that we visited, she had to at one point. It may not be the glamorous side to retail and apparel design, but factories are the reality of it. It is also very beneficial just as it was said in the embroidery studio, to know exactly how to construct a garment. The knowledge of how a garment starts can go very far even when on the corporate end of things.
How this relates to the fashion world: The SemSem factory shows how the fashion industry can constantly multitask. Susan was telling us how she usually is working with about 40 styles at once. Also production relates to so many different sectors of retail. There is private selling, pop-up partnerships, internal and external resources, and having holidays come to a selling advantage. There are also more private selling events each month because of the owner of the SemSem Factory has inner connections in the fashion world. It was really eye opening to see how much work really goes into not just embroidery, but instead the production of a whole entire garment that can be categorized in a high end sector of apparel.