The famous Pirelli Calendar has gone through many iterations since it debuted in 1964. The calendar originally began as a means of setting the tire company apart from their competition with a project that enlisted the best artists, photographers, and models of the era. Pirelli really began to make waves, however, as their annual publication became synonymous with pinup girls and nude photo shoots, but in recent years it has made an abrupt shift towards a more feminist, inclusive 21-century vision of fashion. The brand has enlisted Annie Leibowitz to shoot the women that inspire her and Peter Lindbergh to photograph older actresses with minimal makeup and retouching. Now in its 45th edition, Pirelli is pushing boundaries yet again, hiring British icon Tim Walker to shoot an all-black cast with an Alice in Wonderland theme.
This year’s calendar features a star-studded list of black models and celebrities, including Adut Akech, Adwoa Aboah, Alpha Dia, Djimon Hounsou, Duckie Thot, King Owusu, Lil Yachty, Lupita Nyong’o, Naomi Campbell, RuPaul, Sasha Lane, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Slick Woods, Thando Hopa, Wilson Oryema, Whoopi Goldberg, and Zoe Bedeaux. The images were shot by legendary fashion photographer Tim Walker at Big Sky Studios in London where he created a number of fantastical, over-the-top Alice in Wonderland themed sets featuring huge cascading cards, a mushroom cap seat worthy of a hookah smoking caterpillar and of course a tea party fit for a mad hatter.
Each calendar star has been assigned a specific character by Walker with model Duckie Thot cast in the role of Alice, Diddy playing The Royal Beheader, Whoopi as The Royal Duchess, Ru perfectly embodying The Queen of Hearts, and Rihanna and Marc Jacobs‘ favorite model Slick Woods as The Mad Hatter.
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British Vogue’s new Editor-in-Chief Edward Enninful styled the looks for the shoot, telling the New York Times, “Inclusivity is more part of the conversation than it has ever been before, but it goes far beyond black and white. It is about all creeds, all colors, all sizes and people just living their truths. A lot of this is about digital giving people voices, and a new generation who refuse to compromise and want answers to the questions that matter to them. Given the state of the world we live in, sometimes I think we all feel like we’ve fallen down the rabbit hole. For me, a retelling of ‘Alice’ for the modern world was a perfect project, particularly once the cast fell into place.”
Walker also told the newspaper that, “As a photographer, you don’t ever want to do what has been done before, so it was important for me to feel I was doing something completely different here,” adding that the idea to tackle identity and race with this shoot was “entirely my own,” and that, “This is not about trends, this is about the zeitgeist today. I think we are living in a fantastically exciting time, particularly when a story like that of Alice, that has held such resonance with so many people and been told in a certain way for so long, can now be told compellingly in another.”
Hugely popular Ghanaian-British model, Adwoa Aboah, seconded Walker’s statement, saying, “To me, the Pirelli change in direction suggests they are observing what 2017 needs, where the youth are going and what kind of imagery should be out there. We don’t need any more pinup imagery, and this cast really does depict new ideas of what beauty is. And it certainly doesn’t mean not wearing any clothes.”
What do you think of the latest Pirelli calendar? Are you excited to see the final images? Sound off below!