Entertainment Style Pirelli calendar makeover: from breasts to brains
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Pirelli calendar makeover: from breasts to brains

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It’s known for its lavish photos of scantily-clad supermodels in exotic locations, but the annual limited-edition Pirelli calendar has undergone a dramatic image makeover.

Let’s just say that you’ll be unlikely to spot the 2016 calendar on the walls of any car repair shops.

For its latest effort, the tyre company has enlisted Vanity Fair regular Annie Leibovitz to photograph a group of women known for far more than just their physical appearance.

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The 2016 calendar is such a departure that when Fran Lebowitz, a 65-year-old author, got the phone call asking her to pose for its pages she “thought it was a joke”.

The calendar’s subjects include powerful women like tennis star Serena Williams, entrepreneur Mellody Hobson, comedian Amy Schumer, philanthropist Agnes Gund, blogger Tavi Gevinson and Iranian artist Shirin Neshat, all of them (mostly) fully clothed.

In fact, the only model included in the calendar is Natalia Vodianova, who has parlayed her success in the fashion world into an extensive philanthropy career.

Vodianova, who is pictured cradling her child, has appeared in the calendar several times before, although in substantially less clothing.

Natalia Vodianova in the Pirelli Calendar in 2015 (left) and 2016.
Natalia Vodianova in the Pirelli calendar in 2015 (left) and 2016.

The New York Times style critic Vanessa Friedman has deemed the new calendar both a cultural shift and an effort to capitalise on the “rise of the female dollar”.

It’s worth noting Pirelli is not the first company to take a stand against the constant sexualisation of women’s bodies and respond to the increase in feminist discourse online.

This year, men’s magazine Playboy announced it would relaunch without any of the female nudity it became famous for.

“You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free,” Scott Flanders, Playboy chief executive, told the New York Times. “It’s just passé at this juncture.”

Similarly, America’s Maxim magazine attempted a change in approach when Kate Lanphear, former style director at The New York Times‘ T Magazine and Elle magazine, took over as editor-in-chief in September 2014.

Recent 'Maxim' magazine covers featuring (L-R): Lana Del Rey, Candice Swanepoel. Taylor Swift and Isabeli Fontana.
Recent Maxim magazine covers featuring (L-R): Lana Del Rey, Candice Swanepoel. Taylor Swift and Isabeli Fontana.

Under Lanphear’s watchful eye, the magazine’s covers shifted to focus more on women’s faces and less on bikini-clad bodies.

Unfortunately, a decline in newsstand sales saw Lanphear step down in October this year.

However, Pirelli has arguably taken things a step further by removing models entirely in favour of “women of substance”.

The women in question hope this signals a permanent shift in the company’s approach.

“It would be a huge disappointment,” Ms Neshat told the NYT, if Pirelli were to “abandon the idea of the women who define modern life, and go back to sexy girls who are too young to have accomplished anything”.

To illustrate just how dramatic a change Pirelli has undergone, here’s a recap of the calendar’s last few decades since its 1964 debut.

Your move, Victoria’s Secret.

1960s

1960s

1970s

1970s1980s

80s

1990s

90s

2000s

00s

2010s

10s

2016

2016

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