When Kate Middleton sported a bright yellow Roksanda Ilincic dress during her tour of Australia, many were quick to point out its ability to make anyone, even the Duchess of Cambridge, look like a banana. Little did she know, she’d one day turn a full shade darker as Italian artist Alexsandro (he spells it “aleXsandro”) Palombo has “Simpsonized” her and 55 of her most iconic looks.
The series, titled Born to be an Icon, takes viewers on an exclusive tour of Buckingham Palace, but via Springfield and the distinctive aesthetic of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. With Kate Middleton and Queen Elizabeth II as your guide, the Duchess is sporting frocks ranging from Alice Temperly and Diane von Furstenburg to her custom Alexander McQueen wedding dress—and all looking like a Simpsons character.
This isn’t Palombo’s first nod to fashion—the artist actually started his career in the industry. The self-proclaimed founder of Italian avant-garde showed his first women’s collection in Milan at the age of 23. “I belonged to the generation of the designers countercurrent, the talented young rebels, the innovators, the avant-gardists,” he told The Daily Beast over e-mail. “In those years the young fashion talents were true dreamers and experimenters. Nowadays they are afraid to risk…they have lost sight of the meaning of the imagination.”
For 10 years his designs “were entirely copied from the old Milanese designers who had found in [his] work a pot full of ideas to draw from.” They also caused a bit of controversy. For one of his final collections, Palombo sent a T-shirt dress featuring a photo of Anne Frank “with a certain expletive” down the runway.
Whether of not this contributed to the “unimaginable boycotts, slanders, and terrible criticism—artfully done just to destroy and obliterate [him],” as he told Vice in 2010, is unclear. But, he thinks his “talent and achievement annoyed a lot of people.”
So, in 2005, Palombo stepped off the catwalk and turned his creative eye to illustrations, mixing iconic cartoon characters with comedy for a satirical project titled Humor Chic. “I try to entertain and have people…reflect [at] the same time,” he told The Daily Beast. “My artworks are like a mirror, the cultural expression of society in which we live in.”
Using his fashion influence and inspiration, he has re-imagined everyone from Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld to Kate Middleton and Disney Princesses, raising awareness on topics such as anorexia, domestic abuse, animal rights and the political strife in Gaza.
While some may find his works to be insensitive, Palombo has received praise from advocate groups and their respective communities. “We want everyone to know it is possible to live well with limb loss,” the Amputee Coalition’s CEO Susan Stout told the Daily News in response to his depictions of Disney princesses with disabilities. The series, which features the slogan “Do you still like us?” renders Pocahontas missing a leg, Snow White in a wheelchair and Princess Jasmine with no arms.
The issue hits close to home for Palombo. In 2012, the artist was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, which he had to have removed. The surgery rendered his upper and lower left limbs paralyzed.
“One out of every five Americans has a disability of some kind,” Carol Glazer, president of the National Disabilities Organization, told the Daily News. “So when you portray popular figures, like Disney princess, without any of them having disabilities, you’re cutting out 20% of the population.”
On a lighter note, the many depictions of the Duchess of Cambridge, as vapid as they may seem, are just one more reflection on the high-low society in which we live, merging the longest-running scripted television series with a fresh-faced royal figure at the center of modern society’s obsessions. After all, we have watched and critiqued her every move and fashion choice. Now she gets to look like Homer and Marge—true TV royalty.