The annual Pirelli calendar has become legendary for its risqué, high-fashion take on pin-up calendars, but in recent years, the publication's tone has changed. Instead of sultry supermodels captured in various states of dishabille, Pirelli has shifted the focus to images that make statements beyond the world of fashion, tapping photographers like Annie Leibovitz and Peter Lindbergh to shoot photos that address body positivity, female empowerment, and challenge beauty standards.
This year's Alice in Wonderland-themed offering follows the new regime with fantastical images shot by Tim Walker and, perhaps most notably, an all-black, star-studded cast that features the likes of RuPaul, Lupita Nyong'o, and Naomi Campbell. While the calendar won't debut until the fall, behind-the-scenes photos are here to divert you until then. Click through the slideshow above and then read about what you should know about this year's calendar below.
It was shot by fashion photographer and filmmaker Tim Walker: The photographer for the Pirelli calendar is responsible for conceptualizing and bringing the finished product to life, a responsibility Walker took to heart.
In an interview with The New York Times, Walker talked about how the decision to cast only black models was "entirely my own."
"There were zero creative or commercial demands from Pirelli for this project," he said. "That is pretty rare in this business." He also elaborated on why an all-black cast for the calendar's theme was important to him.
"The story of Alice has been told so many times and in so many ways, but always with a white cast," Walker said. "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.”
It features the biggest names in entertainment and fashion: The calendar's roll call reads like the guest list at a fashion week party: veteran supermodel Naomi Campbell posed alongside rap mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs, while stars like Whoopi Goldberg, Lupita Nyong'o, and Sasha Lane were all featured prominently with models-of-the-moment like Adwoa Aboah and Duckie Thot. Other faces worth noting? "King of the teens" and mumble rapper extraordinaire Lil' Yachty and the one and only RuPaul, who made a stunning turn as the Queen of Hearts. For Diddy, the opportunity to be a part of the project was a way of ensuring that there would be more representation for the black community in fashion.
"I moved mountains to be a part of this,” Diddy said, noting that the calendar comes at a time when he feels there needs to be "an unapologetic expression of black pride."
“It is a chance to push social consciousness and break down barriers. For so many years, something like this would not have happened in the fashion world, so it feels like being part of history and playing an active role. I want to lead by example.”
The fashion is next-level: The calendar was styled by British Vogue editor Edward Enninful, who received an OBE for his work that helped to diversify the fashion industry. Enninful used avant garde designs from labels like Rei Kawakubo (the inspiration behind this year's Met Gala theme) and Yohji Yamamoto to bring the fantasy world of Alice in Wonderland to life. Beyond the clothes, Enninful saw the theme as an excellent lens to examine the world through.
“Inclusivity is more part of the conversation than it has ever been before, but it goes far beyond black and white,” he said. “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.”