While Markarian’s Alexandra O’Neill has been well known in the fashion industry since she launched her brand in 2017, the designer is now generating lots of interest for the custom look she designed for incoming First Lady Jill Biden on Inauguration Day.
Biden surprised the industry with her choice for President Joe Biden’s inauguration, as Markarian was not on the shortlist of designers that were speculated about to dress the new first lady.
O’Neill created a custom blue Markarian coat, dress and matching face mask for the historic moment. Jill Biden’s coat was designed with dark blue velvet collars and cuffs and worn on top of a tapered dress with a chiffon bodice and scalloped skirt. Both pieces are embellished with Swarovski pearls and crystals placed in a floral pattern on the dress. The color blue was chosen to “signify trust, confidence and stability,” according to a press release from Markarian.
The custom pieces were crafted by O’Neill’s team in New York City’s Garment District and hand-finished herself in her West Village studio.
Biden’s Markarian-designed look shows her growing inclination to support emerging American designers. The incoming first lady wore a purple Jonathan Cohen “Unity” coat on Jan. 19 when she arrived in Washington, D.C., with her husband prior to the inauguration.
The inauguration look is a pivotal moment in O’Neill’s career, but it is not the first time she’s dressed a high-profile figure. In the past, O’Neill’s designs have been seen on the likes of Kerry Washington, Laura Dern, Kate Hudson, Andie MacDowell, Lizzo and many others.
O’Neill began her design career at the age of 10 when her grandmother taught her how to sew when she was growing up in rural Colorado.
“At night, when we turned out all the lights in the house and looked outside, all we could see was complete darkness and the light from the stars in the sky,” O’Neill wrote on Markarian’s website. “If I looked long enough, I would always see at least one shooting star. The sky that I saw when I was young was infinite, and that is what I loved most about it. The magic of those childhood moments still inspires me.”
Her upbringing influenced Markarian, which she named after a “radiant grouping of galaxies.” The brand is a celebration of O’Neill’s love of celestial romanticism and has a timeless, feminine aesthetic.
O’Neill’s brand has quickly grown in the last nearly four years. She launched Markarian through an exclusive two-year deal with Moda Operandi, and the label is now sold at Bergdorf Goodman, Fivestory, The Webster and Kirna Zabete, among others. The brand offers ready-to-wear and bridal pieces and debuted jewelry last summer.
The designer has also worked on several collaborations in the past. O’Neill teamed with interior designer CeCe Barfield Thompson in August 2019 on a capsule collection of dresses and homeware inspired by a Christie’s Interiors auction. The duo, who studied art history together at New York University, drew inspiration from furniture, decorative and fine art pieces from the Christie’s auction. O’Neill also partnered with Swarovski for Markarian’s fall 2020 collection.
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