Thanks to the great vision of Pirelli UK, the Calendar has been produced and gifted to a specific group of enthusiasts from its introduction. It is more than an object; it is richly symbolic and the conveyor of an idea. Its exclusiveness boosted media interest and very quickly earned it cult status. In 1971 “The Cal”™ was sent to ministers of the British Government, the Royal Family and a list of selected VIPs. It is a fashion phenomenon and a powerful communication tool.
In the mid-1980s, Pirelli Italia realized the global potential of the Calendar and wanted in on the act. The only way to achieve this was to produce one for itself. The gauntlet had been laid. An in-house "head-to-head" was launched with two projects running in parallel, each ignoring the other.
The Brits, led since 1984 by artistic director Martin Walsh, had already broken many taboos, publishing explicitly nude images. They entrusted their project to US photographer Bert Stern, the man who shot Marilyn Munroe in a veil and who started in advertising before progressing to immortalize stars the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn. The decision marked a new era in the evolution of the project, taking it a step closer to the cinema and celebrity world.
Pirelli Italia, on the other hand, engaged Helmut Newton. The German photographer was already a big name in the business. His 1981 book, Big Nudes, had already pushed him to the forefront of 20th century visual culture. He turned fashion photography into a cult. He pushed boundaries, breaking away from studio poses and taking his models out into the streets. His pictures make up sequences which in turn become glamour shoots. His conception of the naked female form, in black and white, is traditionally statuesque with a powerful erotic charge.
In 1986, Newton was chosen to shoot the 1986 calendar but was forced to leave the set due to family problems. His conception of and photos for the Calendar were preserved like precious "family jewels", awaiting an opportunity for them to shine in their own light.
Stern's pictures, in which models play around in the imaginary studios of modern and contemporary artists, emphasizing their presence as sensual muses, portray images which were consistent with and a vehicle of the spirit of the Calendar at that time.
“The Cal”™ was thus born, interpreting the kaleidoscope of colours and graphic elements that were unique to the amazing 80s. With the addition of striking, powerful nudes.