Fashion and Style

Amanda Gorman, Angela Bassett and Idris Elba Star in Latest Pirelli Calendar

Wearing a gold strapless gown, Angela Bassett stood before two massive gilded doors while resting one hand on a giant key. She was standing inside a shallow makeshift pool that had been set up inside a heavily guarded photo studio on a muggy Thursday in June. Around the pool’s edges, assistants were crouched down and slapping the water with their hands to make waves that lapped at Ms. Bassett’s feet.

The actress had come to the studio on an industrial street in north London at the invitation of Prince Gyasi, 28, a Ghanaian artist and the photographer of the 2024 Pirelli calendar: a lavishly produced promotional product bankrolled by that Italian tire manufacturer. It is not sold, but instead given to a group of around 12,000 clients, public figures and people Pirelli deems influential, which has made it a sort of collectible.

“I am not a gatekeeper in this scene,” Ms. Bassett, 65, explained during a breather from striking poses in the pool. “I’m triumphantly opening the doors wide and telling a next generation to come on through.”

While Pirelli has yet to make its calendar widely available since first releasing it in 1964, the company has lately sought to make it appear more accessible. It hired Mr. Gyasi, who is from Accra, Ghana, to produce the calendar at a time when African creatives across fashion, music, film and art are enjoying overdue interest and influence on the global stage.

“Now, together, we’re closer to removing the roof for everyone,” he added. “It is a victory for Black representation.”

On set in London, Mr. Gyasi wore a black suit with spliced cutaways and gold Schiaparelli earrings, and his electric-pink-tinged hair was in Bantu knots. Before photographing Ms. Bassett, he had been shooting in a different corner of the studio that had been arranged to look like a classroom with sunshine yellow walls and a blue chalkboard.

Around the board were the poet Amanda Gorman, who was scrawling equations devised by Mr. Gyasi while hanging from a pink ladder, and the “Hidden Figures” author Margot Lee Shetterly, who sat on a stool nearby. Both women had their hair in intricate braids and were wearing custom gowns made with painted hay.

While her braids were being unwound after the shoot, Ms. Gorman, 25, said she and Ms. Shetterly, 54, “looked modern, but also like we could be queens from another time or even dimension.” Mr. Gyasi’s cast of Black subjects, she added, “was an enormous source of power and inspiration.”

Despite the calendar’s limited distribution, Ms. Gorman said, “Pirelli still has incredible liquid cultural capital — especially online.”

“It still matters,” she added.

Lucie Greene, a trend forecaster and the founder of Light Years, a consulting firm in London, said that Pirelli hiring Mr. Gyasi could make the new calendar more relevant among a younger demographic.

“Ghana is part of me, who I am and my identity,” Mr. Gyasi said. “I wanted to showcase all its beauty, its majesty and its potential.”

“My calendar,” he said, “is a reflection that Africa’s time is now.”

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