Karl Lagerfeld's Pirelli calendar is getting lots of press for his inclusion of Julianne Moore in the famous nude periodical, and for his introduction of naked men. But what's potentially more interesting is Lagerfeld's gender-bending depiction of Freja Beha Erichsen.
The Pirelli calendar has been a bit of a mess lately. Peter Beard's dead animals and naked ladies theme was creepy; Terry Richardson's Brazilian beach babes effort was cheesy and, like a lot of Richardson's work, trying way too hard.
Who would have thought that superannuated Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld could rejuvenate the form? Especially given Lagerfeld chose to work within a theme — ancient Greek and Roman mythology — that is almost as quaint as the notion of producing a no-expense-spared print calendar of nekkid ladies for a select group of VIP customers. Luckily for Pirelli, I suppose, the very fact that the calendar's circulation is strictly limited (Prince Andrew is said to be on the list) means that this "exclusive" publishing event generates headlines and makes the calendar a vehicle for "branding." You can't buy the Pirelli calendar, and — like a dude who only responds to one text out of three — that's part of its mystique. You can, however, see the images readily online.
So Pirelli makes, essentially, a more expensively produced version of the girlie calendar that hangs in the bathroom of your local auto shop. It's certainly not the kind of venue where one would expect to find a picture of a nude woman, model Freja Beha Erichsen, posed front on to the camera, wearing a golden codpiece.
Lagerfeld cast Erichsen as the god Apollo, and it's pretty ballsy. (Pun intended.) Perhaps especially so because Erichsen, an out lesbian with small boobs, is not a natural choice for a calendar that aims to be sexually appealing to straight men. But rather than styling and posing Erichsen in such a way as to "soften" her, Lagerfeld shot Erichsen in virtually the same position as he did his muse Baptiste Giabiconi.
As I mentioned, the presence of naked men in the Pirelli calendar was another Lagerfeld first.
Adorned in gold, wearing flat sandals and the odd piece of body armor, the women in Karl Lagerfeld's Pirelli calendar look sexy but also powerful, like Anja Rubik's interpretation of another male character — Hermes.
And if the interpretations of the mythical characters are fairly straightforward (Hermes and the winged headpiece, Daria Werbowy as Artemis and the bow and arrow), at least the props make contextual sense and serve the gods' purposes.
To be sure, there are some shots that read more readily as cheesecake, like Erin Wasson, Bianca Balti, and Lakshmi Menon here, portraying bacchantes:
Ass or titties! Pick now.
Erichsen also plays the man's role alongside Australian model Abbey Lee Kershaw in the story of Orpheus and Eudydice. The resulting shot even hides Abbey's breasts. I can't help but imagine a legion of frustrated Pirelli-calendar-receiving VIPs — the kind of men who are used to getting what they want — scratching their heads and wrinkling their noses. You could see this whole calendar as yet more evidence that the straight male gaze is almost totally irrelevant to fashion.
In the behind-the-scenes video, Erichsen calls Kershaw her wife in the shot, without hesitation. Neat.