Fashion, at its best, is art. This is a belief to which the Pirelli calendar has stayed true for the past 50 years: The famously exclusive and nearly-impossible-to-obtain project — which is produced by the Italian car tire company as a corporate gift for distinguished clients and VIPs — has historically combined the glamor of high fashion with the raciness of nude photography, in an elevated, pin-up poster kind of way. And its big reveal has become a highly-anticipated event in and of itself.
The 2023 Pirelli calendar, lensed by Australian-born photographer Emma Summerton, is titled “Love Letters to the Muse,” and has quite the stacked crew (with set designer Viki Rutsch and costume director Amanda Harlech, who happens to be a former muse to John Galliano and Karl Lagerfeld herself) and cast.
Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski, Ashley Graham, Cara Delevingne, Karlie Kloss and more appear in this year’s spread, each assigned a label based on their unique passions. Ratajkowski, the author of the essay collection “My Body,” is named “the writer,” while Kloss — whose scholarship program Kode with Klossy teaches young women how to code — is the “tech savant.”
For Summerton, whose style is highly experimental, the Pirelli calendar represented a moment where she could abandon commercial constraints and instead focus completely on artistry through a whole body of work — a rare opportunity in a profit-oriented industry.
“I started thinking about a painter, music, film actress or book character that I loved,” she says. “It became about creative women who inspire me, and then the whole idea fell onto the page.”
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The project evolved into a collaborative affair between Summerton and each of the 14 women. While their subjects are dubbed “muses,” the images dismantle the traditional artist-muse dynamic, not only celebrating the women for their physical beauty, but also highlighting their unique inner qualities.
“In working with these women who do so many other things, I thought it would be great to give them this platform to speak about the work,” says Summerton. “[The photograph] was tied around who the girl was, a lot of it was imagining what kind of world she could be in based on the message she was bringing.”
Kloss, for one, felt that there was something really special about bringing “all aspects of who [she] is to [this year’s] calendar.”
“What an honor to be named the ‘tech savant,'” she says. “[Emma] did such a beautiful job creating this tech dynamic with the neon lights, colors, abstract mirrors and dome… It was special because a huge part of who I am is the work I do with Kode with Klossy.” (In her photograph, Kloss dons a futuristic, light-up ensemble and silver boots with a neon-blue wig.)
Graham — a newcomer to the Pirelli calendar — says this “is a big marker in a model’s career… It’s more than just a beautiful woman stepping into her sexuality. There’s a story behind it.” She poses in silver latex stockings and underwear encased in a wave-like sculpted piece designed by Amanda Harlech. “I was wearing this huge piece of art. I love doing shoots like that because you can just lean into the fantasy.”
The images in the 2023 Pirelli calendar offer a magical glimpse into the multifaceted nature of these muses. It may be difficult to get your hands on the physical copy, but these visuals are a feast for the eyes — click through the gallery below to see some of the highlights.