By Zonaira Chaudry

“I find beauty in the grotesque, like most artists,” were Alexander McQueen’s famous words. Keeping in line with the designer’s artistic beliefs, the design house unveils its latest creations inspired by William Blake’s illustrations of Dante’s The Divine Comedy.

Poetic words, vivid images and now high fashion, Dante’s journey to hell, purgatory and paradise have experienced it all. An important piece of medieval literature, the Divine Comedy has captivated the imagination of visual creatives for generations and shaped it to produce exceptional artworks, showcasing their own interpretation of the Italian master’s words to the world. William Blake, a prominent name of the romantic era also explored this imaginary journey. With his desire to escape and using the imagination as a tool he demonstrated that beauty can indeed emerge from darkness giving a message of eternal love, faith, and hope.

Born in the 17th century, William Blake was a self-taught painter, poet and printmaker. Hailed as a leading creative of his time, his nonconformist ideals made him a radical thinker among his peers. His work conveys raging emotions and is synonymous with romanticism and gothic art. He was commissioned by John Linnell in 1824 to transfigure Dante’s literary vision into allegorical representations. He produced more than 100 illustrations which included basic sketches to finished water coloured artworks near the time of his death.

His transcendent work is not only a vivid manifestation of Dante’s vision, but his strokes are also an expression of his own ingenuity and candour. The symbolic representations have now illuminated the fashion runways thanks to creatives at Alexander McQueen who have taken a fresh approach to reiterate the sustained timelessness of Dante and William Blake’s work by making it a permanent part of couture.

Captured by the lens of Chloe Le Drezen and filmed by Roberto Colombo, the pieces from the ethereal collection are not merely apparel but stand out as wearable art ensuring that Blake’s talent continues to live on through these statements ensembles.

Alexander McQueen’s t-shirt dress with dreamy swirls of red and blue strokes falling to a skirt packed with blue gradient ruffles.

Exquisite tailoring has always been a mark of Alexander McQueen’s craftmanship. Taking inspiration from Blake’s water coloured painting, the bold blue smartly tailored suit is the epitome of elegance.

The collection also introduces a gender-fluid concept in clothing with distinctive designing and attention to detail infusing inspiration taken from elements of air, water and other celestial beings coloured with the Blakean brush.  

A glimpse of Blake’s sketch is visible in the black and ivory coloured knee-length coat showing the dramatic effect an exquisitely tailored piece can have.

In a dreamy world of postmodern fashion, an embroidered fitted bodice with a melange of red and white hues in a ruffled dress holds a strong resemblance with Blake’s own imagination.

William Blake has produced the most magnificent and eternal creations of the romantic age. Alexander McQueen’s ode to Blake’s work is consistent with their efforts of delving into British art and reminding the world once again that beauty can be created from bleakness by threading together Blake’s avant-garde work.

It’s not only couture where The Divine Comedy is making a comeback but to celebrate the great Italian poet’s work this festive season, the Royal Opera House proudly presents “ The Dante Project” – a revolutionary collaboration between Wayne McGregor, the resident choreographer at Royal Opera House, Thomas Adès, composer and conductor, design work by artist Tacita Dean, lighting designed by Lucy Carter and Simon Bennison with dramaturgy by Uzma Hameed.

The three-act ballet was premiered in October in the Royal Opera House to wide acclaim and is McGregor’s first full-length ballet since 2015 after Woolf Works. This also happens to be the Royal Ballet’s second production available on-demand this month after Peter Wright’s Giselle. The Dante Project is being streamed from December 20 on the digital platform of the Royal Opera House and BBC channels.

Find out more at AlexanderMcQueen.com

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Live performance is a shared experience, and our audiences are at the heart of what we do on our stages, backstage, online, in cinemas and in our communities. The global pandemic has affected all arts organisations across the world. We have lost £3 in every £5 of our income, and our loan from the Government takes us only part of the way. We need your help with our Recovery Campaign to bring our artists back to our stages. roh.org.uk/donate 

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