Fashionable Life: SemSem’s Pop-up Boutique Brings Glamour to Georgetown

by Catherine Trifiletti

Georgetown gets a jolt of style from Abeer Al Otaiba’s fashion label at Cafe Milano. 

Kellyanne Conway, Abeer Al Otaiba and Mayor Muriel Bowser (Photo by Tony Powell)

Abeer Al Otaiba calls Washington her “home away from home,” and that warmth and comfortability couldn’t have been more apparent at her clothing boutique’s first pop-up event at Cafe Milano on October 26. Despite unrelenting rain, friends and supporters of her luxury fashion brand SemSem came out in droves to celebrate the founder and creative director’s pop-up boutique, which will be open to the public through November 5. Under a tent covering Milano’s front porch and a section of the restaurant’s entrance, stylish guests, many decked out in SemSem ensembles, sipped champagne and perused colorful racks from the brand’s collection.

Jordanian Amb. Dina Kawar, Jennifer Isham, U.A.E. Amb. Yousef Al Otaiba and Samia Farouki (Photo by Tony Powell)

Popular Australian DJ AMRIT curated tunes to match the chill vibe, herself sporting a striped SemSem, one shoulder number. Notable guests included BET Founder and Cafe Milano regular Bob Johnson with his wife Samira Baraki. Raul Fernandez, a stakeholder in Monumental Sports & Entertainment which owns the Capitals, passed around his Stanley Cup ring for guests to pose with. Also spotted: Amy and Bret Baier, Elena and Robert Allbritton and Mayor Muriel Bowser. The evening benefited the nonprofit College Track, which provides academic, financial, and social-emotional support to underserved students from ninth grade through college graduation.

Luis Alberto Moreno and Franco Nuschese(Photo by Tony Powell)

Al Otaiba created the luxury fashion brand SemSem as an ode to her relationship with her daughter Samia, whose nickname is “SemSem.” In honoring the mother-daughter bond, the creative director has spring, fall and resort collections for both women and girls that are “inspired by love.” SemSem’s style represents Al Otaiba’s experiences and international lifestyle, which extends from her Egyptian roots to years spent in the United Arab Emirates with her husband Yousef, who has been the U.A.E.’s ambassador to the United States for the last decade. Ruffles, sequins, embroidery, drapery and a sprinkling of playful patterns reflect SemSem’s feminine and globally-influenced aesthetic.

Hollywood stars and influencers like Chrissy Teigen, Blake Lively, Joan Smalls and Vanessa Hudgens have all been spotted donning SemSem looks in recent months, but despite the label’s growing attention and popularity, it was important to Al Otaiba to host her first pop-up in Washington because “it’s where my husband went to school, where my children were born, and where my vision for SemSem became a reality,” she explains. “Franco [Nuschese] is a dear friend and I was so thrilled to celebrate this moment in SemSem history with him at Café Milano.”

SemSem’s pop-up runs through November 5, 10am – 8pm at Cafe Milano 3251 Prospect St., NW. 

(Photo by Tony Powell)

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