Markarian designer Alexandra O'Neill didn't hop on the sweats trend as soon as the pandemic began. But after almost 12 months living in this alternate reality, the designer — best known for her fanciful dresses and yes, creating Dr. Jill Biden's inauguration look — decided it was time.
"I finally gave in to loungewear this season," she told Fashionista on the phone. "After a year of having stayed at home and being very careful, we've learned to dress a certain way and crave a certain level of comfort. So I wanted to offer something that any woman could kind of fit into her own lifestyle, and wear it however she sees fit, basically."
For O'Neill, that meant peppering her Fall 2021 collection with pajamas and laid-back sets — albeit in a very posh way. Silk pajama sets are made with floral jacquard fabrics and embellished with Swarovski crystals at the collar or at the buttons; they're the kind of pajamas that one could get away with wearing on the red carpet. The label also expanded its knitwear offerings this season, with pieces made out of recycled cashmere and what O'Neill dubs "sustainable mohair."
Of course, there are still plenty of what O'Neill calls her "fantasy" pieces — asymmetrical gowns in rich fabrics with long trains, rendered in plush velvet and covered in bling. O'Neill might not know where her customer would have occasion to wear such things anytime soon, she says, but "it's nice to have something to look forward to and something pretty to look at."
And for those who want to make the everyday feel fancy without necessarily wearing silk pajamas, there's Markarian's expanded jewelry collection.
"I felt like it was important to expand into [more] jewelry because people are more dressed down," she says. "If you're wearing cute sweats and a t-shirt and you put on a pair of earrings or a necklace, you can feel more put-together."
Providing the option to buy smaller pieces is also a smart move in light of the rush of attention the brand has gotten since Dr. Biden wore a custom Markarian design at the inauguration. O'Neill says the brand doubled its social media following overnight and has received an influx of support since the appearance.
"People were buying into the brand in any way that they could to show that they were excited and supportive," she says, noting that its mask sales increased 115% while sweatshirts — some of which got embroidered with Dr. Biden's initials — skyrocketed. "It was refreshing to see how excited everybody was about this."
O'Neill doesn't know what all the future holds, but for now she's grateful for the inauguration-fueled momentum that's kept her in "go, go, go" mode.
"I still can't believe it and I don't think it's sunk in yet," she says. "It was humbling and I felt very honored."
See every look in Markarian's Fall 2021 collection in the gallery below.
And see the brand's new jewelry collection here.