Markarian designer Alexandra O’Neill and interior designer CeCe Barfield Thompson have created a capsule collection of dresses and homeware that was inspired by Christie’s upcoming Interiors auction.
The two creatives, who became friends as New York University art history students, have drawn inspiration from the furniture, decorative and fine art that will go under the gavel Aug. 21 and Aug. 22 at Christie’s in New York. Their capsule collection will be sold exclusively at Bergdorf Goodman. O’Neill and Thompson also created vignettes that were photographed for Christie’s auction catalogue and will be featured in the auction preview, Aug. 16 to Aug. 20.
Bliss Summers, co-head of the Interiors Sale, said, “It was so kismet because they are so close and we were looking at both of them as potentials. They said, ‘Oh, we will do it together.’ We can’t really force somebody to create a product but they just individually and collectively fell in love with the property. They have this really modern spin on property, that we obviously enjoy and appreciate. They also said, ‘We want to do something new and different with these things.’”
Executives at Christie’s believe that this venture will lead to other opportunities, as has been the case with recent sales, she added. “Every relationship with every tastemaker and influencer situation that we come to seems to spark another idea with another group of people who notice us, want to work with us and see the potential,” Summers said.
For the past several years, the auction house has been aligning with tastemakers in different capacities to develop its sales, offer fresh perspectives on the objects being sold and to cross-market clients. Architecture at Large’s Rafael de Cárdena, editor Sarah Bray and interior designer Eddie Ross are among those who have participated in the past.
Next month’s sale will include a late 18th/19th-century Dutch Delft, blue-and-white, five-piece garniture; a pair of Italian marble inlaid jardinieres, and a 19th-century japanned and parcel-gilt tray-top table, among other items. While the sale-inspired products that will be sold at Bergdorf Goodman is a first for Christies, the in-house team is not seeking it out directly, Summers said. “We are trying to work with people who find inspiration from our objects and things that we are offering. We are not trying to go into a direct-to-consumer supply line. Our bread and butter is working with consigners whose properties were created elsewhere.”
Christie’s will not receive any percentage of the sales from the custom collection that will be sold at Bergdorf’s, nor a residual commission. The two parties are partnering for an after-hours event called “Christie’s Lates” in the Rockefeller Center galleries. Targeted at women creatives in entrepreneurial fields, the event will feature different speakers including O’Neill and Thompson, who will be chatting about their inspiration and their lines. A week before, on Aug. 12, the two designers will cohost a private dinner at Bergdorf’s.
A printed Recamier prompted O’Neill to design two prints — one floral and the other botanical — that were embroidered and beaded in India, and Thompson created her own floral motif for a plate. In addition to taking some of the same classes in college, studying together and living in the same building, their friendship blossomed into such responsibilities as O’Neill serving as the maid of honor for Thompson and also as the godmother for one of her children.
Two years after starting Markarian, O’Neill has an online exclusive deal with Moda Operandi, which will wind down this spring. The label also is sold in specialty stores and the designer plans to build that base next year. The Christie’s-inspired dresses will retail from just under $2,000 to $3,300, prices similarly to her own label. To play up the interiors element of this partnership, the textiles are heavily embroidered with French details and other accents for the five dresses. Aside from the bonus of being able to work with her best friend and to get a bird’s-eye view of her talent and how she works, O’Neill said, “It’s also been incredible working with Christie’s. They clearly have their own base as well. It’s been fun working together and keeping each of our different clients in mind.”