Last August, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez uploaded to Instagram carrying an “It” bag from Teflar. The brand a medium-sized Oxblood shopping bag isn’t just a fashion statement for the Ocasio-Cortez – it’s also politics. “Interesting fact. Telfar is now recognized as a globally renowned designer, but did you know that the designer and founder of Black, LGBTQ + started his career in Lefrak City, Queens?” AOC wrote.
Dr. Biden hasn’t worn the Telfar in the White House – we’ll have to wait and see – but he’s certainly not neglecting home fashions. It is an industry that employs about 1.8 million people in the United States alone, 232,000 of whom work in textile manufacturing. At the 46th Presidential Inauguration last Wednesday, she took on the role of FLOTUS while championing the American-made independent brand by Alexandra O’Neill.
Originally from a rural town in Colorado, O’Neill, 34, founded her label, Markarian, in New York City in 2017. The 94-year-old designer grandmother Gigi taught her how to sew using a Singer sewing machine in the 1950s. . Today, O’Neill operates his business with an intimate team of four full-time employees, headquartered in his Greenwich Village apartment. His delicate and special works on special occasions are produced locally, using existing resources within a 3 mile radius of his home office.
Its waste-reduced, tailor-made model employs artisans in Manhattan’s long-respected Garment District – the result of many brands opting for cheaper production overseas. “I firmly believed in supporting New York City’s garment center. It was always very important to me from the start,” he said.
Back in December, O’Neill – who had equipped stars like Kerry Washington and Laura Dern for the red carpet – was selected with a small group of designers to sketch ideas for Dr. Biden. She submitted 10 sketches, including a winning blue wool coat she finished with a velvet collar, cuffs, and whimsical Swarovski crystal details. Next to the coat, O’Neill dreams of a tapered dress with a chiffon bodice and scalloped skirt. He chose blue to signify confidence, confidence and stability.
When he became a finalist, O’Neill and his team had one month to develop their performance from start to finish. They find themselves faced with logistical hurdles amid the pandemic – such as a lack of personal equipment, a tailor-made signature with tailoring. In the days leading up to the event, O’Neill spent twelve hours tidying up Swarovski flower crystals in his home studio, while ateliers in the Garment District tagged the coat’s hand beaded exterior.
On the Monday before Inauguration Day, O’Neill sent the final look to Dr. Biden in DC – but his career moments aren’t over. The First Lady’s final dress choices were kept secret, even from the assigned designer, until she arrived at The Capitol. “I actually went to the vet with my dog that morning, but then thought better,” the designer laughed.
In the blink of an eye, O’Neill and his four-year-old brand were thrown into the spotlight, inundated with an outpour of congratulations and press. As an added bonus, Finnegan and Natalie Biden wore Markarians in yellow and orange sequins dress for the evening party. “It was a crazy day, like a whirlwind. Still crazy. I made myself Old-fashioned, got through the half, and then fell,” he recalls. “We’re actually working on our Fall / Winter ’21 collection, due out in two weeks!”
A week after the inauguration, President Biden has signed Made In America Executive orders to support producers, businesses, and workers, fulfilling its promise to ensure that “the future is made across America by all American workers.” For O’Neill, these values are at the core of his brand’s ethos. “I feel very proud of Markarian and our team, but I am very proud to highlight clothing made in New York City and all the people we work with in the fashion district,” she said. “That is the biggest thing for me. “
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