All Images: Alessandro Scotti
It used to be that the Pirelli Calendar was little more than, as The New York Times puts it, “a soft-core ode to [stereotypically] beautiful women.” (To paint you a picture, the 2015 version showed Gigi Hadid, Adriana Lima and other A-list models in latex/various states of nudity.) However, in recent years, the calendar’s photographers have focused on a more truthful — and compelling — interpretation of beauty. The 2016 edition, shot by Annie Leibowitz, foregrounded “female achievement” and included Patti Smith, Serena Williams and Amy Schumer. For 2017, photographer Peter Lindbergh showed revered Hollywood actresses sans makeup and retouching.
In keeping with newly established tradition, the 2018 Pirelli Calendar eschews dated stereotypes and denigrating pin-up shots. Styled by Edward Enninful, lensed by Tim Walker and populated by — for the first time in Pirelli history — an all-black cast, the “Alice in Wonderland” themed photos herald a new, more inclusive era in fashion history.
“Inclusivity is more part of the conversation than it has ever been before, but it goes far beyond black and white,” Enninful told the Times. “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.”
The calendar’s A-list cast includes Adwoa Aboah, Slick Woods, Pirelli vet Lupita Nyong’o, albino lawyer and model Thando Hopa, famed drag queen RuPaul, Naomi Campbell, Whoopi Goldberg, Lil Yachty, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Sasha Lane, Duckie Thot and more.
Pirelli gave Walker complete creative control over the project, and it was he who decided to cast only black models. “The story of Alice has been told so many times and in so many ways, but always with a white cast,” Walker told the Times. “There has never been a black Alice, so I wanted to push how fictional fantasy figures can be represented and explore evolving ideas of beauty.”
Walker emphasized that this is no gimmick. “This is not about trends, this is about the zeitgeist today,” he continued. “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.” Of course, Walker’s story is made even more captivating by his hyper-imaginative eye and glorious sets and costumes.
“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,” Aboah contributed. “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.” Or being white. Or identifying with one gender.
Take a behind-the-scenes look at the set in the gallery above and the video below.