Flappers and philosophers: Markarian brings 1920s glamor to Colorado country

A literature-inspired occasion wear brand puts on its cowboy boots.


Ryan Walker

(Staff Photo by Ryan Walker)

Con Xie, Contributing Writer

Founded in 2017 as a women’s occasion wear brand, Markarian is known for the modern grace and feisty playfulness of its designs. Despite its relative youth, the atelier has already attracted a cult following and dressed notable celebrities such as Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Beanie Feldstein, and U.S. first lady Jill Biden and her granddaughters for the 59th U.S. Presidential Inauguration.

The founder and designer, Alexandra O’Neill, has an affinity and love for  mythology, and as such incorporates elements of the cosmos and of literature into each of her designs. In fact, the brand’s name was derived from that of a radiant group of galaxies.

This season, at Markarian’s second New York Fashion Week show appearance, guests gathered at the Prince George Ballroom, an ornate establishment designed in the Beaux-Arts style with classical and Neo-Renaissance details. Delicate golden chairs perched in rows lent the area a dainty air, while large floral arrangements at the room’s center added a hint of nature, thus incorporating both O’Neill’s characteristic appreciation of Greek and Roman art and the vintage yet fresh theme of this year’s show. 

According to Markarian’s collection notes, this season’s show took inspiration from O’Neill’s childhood as well as from vintage fashion and literature.

“Markarian’s Fall 2022 collection is an ode to my favorite memories of growing up in Colorado: mountain sunsets, starry night skies, and fields of wildflowers,” the show notes read. “I fused those elements with the glamour of New York City’s Jazz Age, which I fell in love with while reading novels and stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dorothy Parker.”

(Staff Photo by Ryan Walker) (Ryan Walker)

Indeed, gowns reminiscent of vintage Dior swept down the runway, decked in sequins and floral patterns inspired by the wildflowers of Colorado. Some, paired with sequined cowboy boots harkening back to the Wild West, featured long trains that marked the ballroom floor as the wearer’s territory. Others sported high-low or slitted designs with shorts visibly underneath. A knee-length yukata quilted with a snowy mountain design was paired with strappy pink heels and polka-dotted hosiery of the same color. High-collared lace blouses, Western-style belts and a leather duster jacket brought elements of ruggedness to this season’s looks.

Despite Markarian’s black-tie origins and esoteric influences, this season’s show elevated elements of modern casual wear. Balanced out by billowing sequined trousers and a satin choker, a trendy black bandana top struck an unexpected move, but reminded viewers of a night sky and the glitz of Parker’s hotel-porch ladies. In keeping with 2021’s matching set trend, a floral dress appeared split into two components: a crop top and a long skirt. Its muted colors and long sleeves, however, maintained Markarian’s ethereal feel. 

The color palette, like last season’s, stayed within the fresh pastel range, with an occasional burst of bright red. Silhouettes remained fitted, keeping with Markarian’s feminine profile.

In a compromise between the grandeur of the Roaring ’20s and the quiet grace of O’Neill’s childhood home, hair and makeup were kept minimal. High ponytails curled at the ends added movement to each of the models’ steps, while large peacock feathers affixed across headpieces whisked the viewer straight into one of Gatsby’s parties. 

Overall, this season was a clear demonstration of Markarian’s growth as a brand. As two points determine a line, the design house’s two NYFW collections thus far have earned it a distinctive image. Still, its simultaneous expansion into cocktail glitz and Western styles was a risky stunt executed with all of the brand’s characteristic artistry. The show left the beholder stunned but eager for more.

Contact Con Xie at [email protected].