When Sophia Loren appeared semi-naked for the 2007 Pirelli Calendar at the age of 72, her decision was controversial. 1987’s groundbreaking edition of the calendar featured only black models. This year’s calendar will be the first to include a plus-sized model. In other words, the Pirelli Calendar has always been controversial, radical, forward-thinking and provocative – which are 4 words we love to apply to most things, but especially to beautiful women.
For something so legendary, the Pirelli Calendar has surprisingly humble origins. Giovanni Battista Pirelli founded the company that bears his name in Milan in 1872. Pirelli initially specialised in rubber and derivative processes, and remains primarily focused on the production of tyres and cables. Looking for a way to differentiate itself from the competition, Pirelli UK Limited came up with a revolutionary idea in 1964: the glamorous, nude, and glamorously nude Pirelli Calendar.
The inaugural edition of the Pirelli Calendar featured models from Pirelli’s key markets with images of tyres laid over the top them (yes, really) and was shot by Robert Freeman, a photographer known for his work with The Beatles. Its availability was (and is) extremely limited – it’s given only as a corporate gift to a restricted number of Pirelli customers and famous VIPs – which makes the rest of us all the more desperate to sneak a peek. Well played, Pirelli.
The calendar was discontinued for a period beginning in 1974, as a money-saving strategy during the recession caused by the oil crisis. Thankfully, it was resurrected a decade later and has remained in production since. Today’s Pirelli Calendars have ditched the auto parts in favour of highlighting spectacular international locations and the even more spectacular models posing in them. The Pirelli Calendar continues to be a trailblazer, showcasing the most sought-after photographers and models around the world.
In Popular Culture
Appearing in the Pirelli Calendar is a point of prestige for both the photographers and models. Illustrious names like Annie Leibovitz, Mario Testino, Nick Knight, Patrick Demarchelier, Terry Richardson, Karl Lagerfeld, Helmut Newton and Steven Meisel have all lent their lenses to the publication. The famous faces (and bodies) who have graced the Pirelli Calendar’s pages include Cindy Crawford, Kate Moss, Helena Christiansen, Sienna Miller, Naomi Campbell, Gisele Bündchen, Doutzen Kroes, Heidi Klum, Karolina Kurkova, Caroline Trentini, Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio, Isabeli Fontana, Anja Rubik and Natasha Poly.
Where To Buy
Pirelli Calendars are not for sale. Production is limited and ownership is exclusive. They’re highly-favoured collectibles, but good luck getting your hands on one. For most of us, this is as close as we’ll ever get.