Fashion has long struggled with diversity, but many believe the industry has demonstrated better representation on catwalks and in campaigns of late when it comes to race, disability, age and body shape.
While there’s clearly still a long way to go before the thin white ideal is no longer the accepted norm, some brands are going all out to shake off outdated reputations – and to that end, Pirelli has released images of its 2018 calendar featuring an all-black cast.
The shoot is a reimagining of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and stars several big names, such as Naomi Campbell, RuPaul, Whoopi Goldberg, Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs and Lupita Nyong’o.
Despite being known for years as a showcase of barely-clad models, in 2016 the famed calendar took a new direction with photographer Annie Leibowitz shooting women of “outstanding professional, social, cultural, sporting and artistic accomplishment”, such as Yoko Ono, Patti Smith, Serena Williams and Amy Schumer – notably missing sexual poses and pouting expressions.
The 2017 iteration continued in this vein, with Peter Lindbergh not airbrushing his pictures and encouraging his subjects – including actors of varying ages and women in academia – to be shot without make-up, saying his vision was to “create a calendar not around perfect bodies, but on sensitivity and emotion, stripping down to the very soul of the sitters, who thus become more nude than naked.”
Photographed by Tim Walker, the 2018 shoot was styled by new British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful (the first black journalist to hold the role) and he told 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 colours, all sizes and people just living their truths. A lot of this is about digital [platforms] giving people voices, and a new generation who refuse to compromise and want answers to the questions that matter to them.”
Walker added: “The story of Alice has been told so many times and in so many ways, but always with a white cast.
“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.”
Combs also told reporters how the shoot felt like “being part of history” and that he had campaigned to be involved: “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.”
While Pirelli had a calendar of black models once before, an Eighties number that featured supermodel Campbell topless, this time the shoot has a clear message. Model and lawyer Thando Hopa, cast as the Princess of Hearts, said she hoped her appearance in the calendar, given she has albinism, would inspire others.
As reported by The Guardian, she explained: “You see someone portrayed in a particular way and it gives you inspiration and motivation […] This is an important step in culture development – to push images that aren’t generic, that don’t conform to stereotypes […]
“Alice can be anyone.”
She also revealed that Walker – given free reign by Pirelli – had explained his vision to her as “any person with a different colour should be able to see themselves in any way. So any girl, whether she is black or Chinese or Indian, they should be able to have their own fairy tale.”
Campbell is cast as a Royal Beheader, as is Combs, while Nyong’o is the Dormouse, RuPaul is the Queen of Hearts, model Duckie Thot is Alice, actor Sasha Lane is the Mad March Hare and Goldberg is the Royal Duchess.
Images: Pirelli / Tim Walker