Five Minutes With Markarian’s Alexandra O’Neill—Who’s Still On Cloud Nine After Dressing FLOTUS!
It’s every young designer’s dream to dress an A-lister, but for Alexandra O’Neill of NYC-based luxury eveningwear line Markarian, the opportunity to create Dr. Jill Biden’s outfit for the most highly-anticipated Inauguration Day in recent memory felt like a different kind of magic. While she’s the epitome of a modern day couturier (one who has found fans in Hilary Rhoda, Emily Ratajkowski, Ashley Graham, and Thandie Newton!), O’Neill is actually self-taught, ever since learning the basics from her grandma when she was just a kid. Still on a high, The Daily caught up with the humble talent to hear how she’s feeling in the wake of the media frenzy around the sparkling and symbolic blue outfit. (Spoiler: she hasn’t stopped pinching herself yet!)
How are you feeling?!?
It’s been a whirlwind! Such a rollercoaster of emotions, but all good ones. I couldn’t be more thrilled!
Can you tell us about how this came about?
Dr. Biden’s team and stylist reached out in December so we sent over some initial sketches and thoughts.
Any idea how you got on their radar?
I think they reached out to a number of designers. I had worked a little bit with her stylist before, as he styles some other celebrities too.
I can’t believe they only reached out last month. How did you manage such a quick turnaround?
I know! We make everything in New York, and we’re used to doing a lot of custom work for clients, so that definitely helped.
What kind of brand values do you think attracted Dr. Biden and her team to your work?
I think Dr. Biden recognizes the power that her choice of clothing has, and she understands what it can say. Her team wanted to choose an American designer, and not only are we an American brand but we make everything in America; right here in New York. I think they took that into consideration. And that we make everything to order.
How long was the process? Did Dr. Biden want to be involved all the way through?
They gave us a lot of creative control. They were open to ideas and would provide their initial thoughts. It was a really nice back and forth dialogue with them.
With such a huge task, how did you go about narrowing down an idea? Did you look at old images for inspiration?
Yes, like with any collection, I always put together a moodboard. I definitely looked at past First Lady looks and at other world leaders. Really, I just wanted something classic that Dr. Biden could stand out and look glamorous in. It was such a big day for her.
Why did you choose the color?
I like the idea of blue: it signifies trust, loyalty, confidence, and stability. It was a nice message to get across.
And what about the fabric?
It was such a tight turnaround that we had to find a fabric that was available locally!
Were you allowed to tell anyone?
It was definitely confidential, I told my parents though!
I’d say they thought you were joking!
It’s so crazy, they couldn’t believe it.
What about your grandma, Gigi, who taught you how to sew? What was her response?
She was very excited! She’s so cute. She just turned 94.
Apart from her teaching you, do you have any other formal fashion training?
Nope! It’s just been me making clothes my whole life.
So what was the lead-up to Wednesday like for you? Were you sleeping at all this week?!
I was so nervous and excited, I definitely didn’t sleep. We didn’t even know if she was definitely going to be wearing it.
Oh my God! How did it feel to lay eyes on the outfit on the screen for the first time?
It was definitely so surreal watching it at home.
How is this momentous achievement putting Markarian on the map on a whole new level?
It’s been incredible; the outpouring of congratulations…everyone has been so nice. Everyone from every facet of my life has reached out, it’s been so heartwarming.
What’s next for you?
We’re just taking it day by day. We’ve a shoot coming up, then fashion week and market week.
I take it you’ll show digitally for fashion week?
Yeah it’s going to be all digital. But it’s nice to be able to do less, at the moment.
For sure. Not that you’ve been doing less!! Will you be catching up on sleep this weekend?
I have a few more interviews, but yes! I feel like a robot at this stage.
I hope you get to drink all of the Champagne too…