Asphalt & Rubber is in New York right now, attending the unveiling of the 2018 Pirelli Calendar. It might seem strange that a tire manufacturer from Italy would become so famous for producing something as benign as a calendar, but the Pirelli Calendar is an institution in its own right.
A product of the fashion elite – mixing the world’s top models and celebrities with some of the most renowned photographers, at some of the most beautiful locations – the Pirelli Calendar is available only to a select few of Pirelli’s best customers, as well as the most famous of people.
For a long time, the Pirelli Calendar grew from the intersection of garage pin-up photography and high-fashion aesthetic and production, but in 2016 “The Cal” switched its tone to something more reflective of the time, and with a larger social message. Gone were the naked supermodels.
For the 2018 edition, the Pirelli Calendar continues this trend, and for the second time ever, it features an all-black cast of models, actors, celebrities, and social figures.
Relying on the talents of British photographer Tim Walker, the 2018 Pirelli Calendar retells the story of Alice in Wonderland by ?Lewis Carroll.
It features the following models: Adwoa Aboah, Sasha Lane, , Thando Hopa, Slick Woods, Zoe Bedeaux, Alpha Dia, King Owusu, Wilson Oryema, Adut Akech, and Duckie Thot as Alice – with celebrity appearances by Jaha Dukureh, Whoopi Goldberg, RuPaul, Djimon Hounsou, Puff Daddy, Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong, and Lil Yachty
That Pirelli would choose an all-black cast of models, during the zeitgeist of the “All Black Lives Matter” movement is of note, and certainly not by accident. The Cal speaks to a larger trend outside of just American politics though, and it reaches to a continent that is largely forgotten in Western conversation.
Such at least was the sentiment during the calendar’s press launch, which was very much seen as a social and political statement by those involved in its creation.
Interestingly enough, for how similar the motorcycle and fashion industries are to each other (one can argue that motorcycles are fashion pieces, at least in the western world) the critique might be a bit lost on the two-world realm.
The Pirelli Calendar up until recently has always been a pin-up calendar at its core – just a very well executed, high-art interpretation of the classic naked girl pin-up calendar trope. But, it has been interesting to see the Pirelli Calendar change for the modern times.
In many ways, the motorcycle industry is struggling with its own metamorphosis – not only on how we speak to female riders, but also riders of different generations, different backgrounds, and different interests and tastes.
As one colleague pointed out to me, Pirelli will never be able to go back to making its famed nude portraits of supermodels. The times, and its clientele have grown beyond that with their sophistication.
Now, we wait and see if the rest of the motorcycle industry can follow suit. Through the looking glass, indeed.
Photos: © 2017 Tim Walker / Pirelli – All Rights Reserved