The New York Designer Dressing Dr. Jill Biden

Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFA.com

Alexandra O’Neill named her label Markarian after a “particularly radiant grouping of galaxies.” Considering what a bright year she’s had already, it’s a good fit for the brand, which combines O’Neill’s love of whimsy, timelessness, and grace.

On Inauguration Day, O’Neill dressed Dr. Jill Biden in a custom Markarian ocean-blue coat and dress set in wool and tweed, embellished with Swarovski pearls and crystals, with a matching silk face mask. Seen by millions of people across the country, the look was crafted by a small team in New York City and hand-finished by O’Neill in her West Village studio in just about a month. “The excitement from my team surrounding the entire process was tangible,” O’Neill told the Cut. “We were so honored that we were even being considered for such a moment in history. Dr. Biden’s team was wonderful to work with and gave me direction but also creative liberty while designing.”

This week during New York Fashion Week, she debuted her fall 2021 collection, inspired by Roman art, architecture, and literature. What particularly inspired O’Neill was The Metamorphoses by Ovid. “Ovid paints vivid pictures of transformation triggered by challenges, strife, and turmoil, often suggesting that art and creation allows one to transcend suffering,” the brand explained in the show notes.

We spoke with O’Neill about one of her favorite gowns, sweatpants, and vintage jewelry.

What’s one piece from a recent collection that’s especially meaningful to you?
My favorite piece from spring 2021 is our Evora strapless mirror-embellished column gown.

How do you thank someone for a gift?
A handwritten thank-you note!

What would you never wear?
Anything that I didn’t feel 100 percent comfortable and confident in.

What’s your dream vacation?
Anywhere on a beach! I am a total beach bum.

What’s a good book on your coffee table right now?
I have a collection of Cabana magazines on my coffee table right now, which I find to be just as, if not more, beautiful as any other coffee-table books.

Last show you binge-watched?
Rome on HBO.

What’s your guilty pleasure?
A really good bourbon old-fashioned with extra cherries.

Secret to hosting a good party?
Good lighting, good music, and good friends.

What is a trend that you like right now?
I hate to say it, but sweatpants. I just want to be cozy and warm right now, and sweatpants feel like a body hug.

One you don’t understand?
Bucket hats.

Favorite restaurant in New York?
Il Cantinori feels like home. It’s my neighborhood spot that I have been going to for 16 years and still love. My other favorite is the Smile. They have the world’s best cookies there!

What’s the one thing you could eat every day for the rest of your life?
Hu Kitchen chocolate. I have a big sweet tooth.

Shoes you wear most often?
Chanel kitten heels. I love their fabrics, details, and heel height. I am a total shrimp and love an extra boost while still feeling comfortable.

What are five inanimate objects that bring you joy?

These beeswax rope candlesticks that you can find at Nickey Kehoe in any color. I love the rope texture. And who doesn’t like to have a little candlelit dinner?

My favorite silver cups from CeCe Barfield that you can use for drinking or pretty floral arrangements.

These super-cozy, beautifully printed quilts that I have been living under for the past few months from Les Indiennes.

“My Higher Dose infrared sauna blanket. It is so relaxing and feels like its own spa treatment in the comfort of your home. I also work out on top of it now that I don’t go to the gym.”

“Vintage jewelry. I love the craftsmanship and how fun and exaggerated the pieces were. Pre-COVID, I used to dig through the Paris flea market while I was there for work. Now during COVID, I peruse 1stDibs.”

The New York Designer Dressing Jill Biden