So my good Pagan friend Gary Suto (who is a designer in the New York fashion industry) contributed this piece, which I think is really super important on any number of Pagan/ Cultural Arts levels:
Every so often a famous fashion designer will make me look at them in a different way. This month, that fashion designer happens to be Karl Lagerfeld. He is the man behind the 2011 Pirelli Calendar “Mythology’. Every year, Pirelli (Pirelli tires), creates a calendar for friends and family. Many of his past calendars are what some may see in the back of the mechanics shop or inside someone’s locker, and fall into the category of those that objectify women. Perhaps the company had a shift in consciousness, perhaps it’s the alignment of the planets or perhaps it’s just the direction that this company is going. Regardless of why they chose Lagerfeld and the theme of Mythology, this is indeed a beautiful calendar that depicts Greek Gods, Heroes, and myths.
As a New York fashion designer who is also Pagan, I am constantly looking for pagan inspiration in fashion. As the fashion planning calendar goes, November and December are very busy with designing and finishing up design work. January is much slower and time for research. So while the Pirelli calendar started getting press releases and blog postings in the beginning of December, I came upon this early this month.
For me, Karl Lagerfeld has never been in my top ten designers. In the past I did not like most of his designs and I did not like the way he presented himself. To me his designs are too ‘old school’- made for 5th Ave Socialites that are more interested in wearing a name than in wearing something beautiful. He always wears the same black outfit, with sunglasses and gloves and unchanging hair style. So what changed for me? The calendar by itself is not enough to make me change my view, I had to look deeper. Did he do the calendar on a whim? How did he come to use Greek Gods? Which Gods did he choose and why?
In an interview with writer Freédeéric Beigbeder, the Kaiser [Lagerfeld] explained why he decided to focus on Greek and Roman mythology:
“Because it’s my favourite religion: one god for every occasion. I’m a polytheist: all present-day religions are recent, but I prefer this mythology, which does without hell, without sin (an obstacle to happiness), and without forgiveness. We need to return to the disciplined form of beauty of Antiquity. Simone Weil said that Jesus was a direct descendant of Prometheus — which caused a scandal at the time. I love the goddesses, because they were the first emancipated women. They had a right to everything. The female divinities and the Muses are feminists!”
WHAT? Really?? How in all my years doing fashion did I miss this? Quite simply, I was being judgemental. Rather than look into what made this man so successful, I chose to be disdainful. How many others have I done this with? In light of what is being forecasted for Summer 2012, I need to re-evaluate many designers. Enough of my personal lessons and back to the calendar.
One would expect to see young supple airbrushed models in a fashion spread, and while you have this in this calendar, there are distinctions to be noted. The first and most talked about is the use of Julianne Moore as Hera. Julianne is a beautiful actress with credits beginning in 1984, who turned 50 on December 3rd. The reason this is talked about so much is because it is fashion photography, where ageism is not hidden. In the same Huffington Post article, Lagerfeld says:
“I really did want an actress for the wife of Zeus and for the mother of the Olympian gods. Julianne’s a beautiful woman – more matronly than the young girls under the olive trees. She’s a very dear friend. She knew she wouldn’t be running any risks with me — there wouldn’t be a parallel publication sold under the counter!”
This shows that Karl Lagerfeld has more than a passing interest in the Greek Gods, that he really understands what they represent and the relationships they have with one another.
Another distinction, while minor, is the fact that there are 5 men in this calendar. This is distinctive because, in its history, the calendar has mostly (if not exclusively) featured women. In addition to 5 male models portraying male deities, there are 3 female models also portraying male deities (Hermes, Hades and Apollo). I have not found out why he made this choice, but will continue to look.
For those interested, the list of Gods, Goddesses, demigods and heroes include
ZEUS, HERA, APOLLO, ARTEMIS, ATHENA, APHODITE, MARS, HADES, HERMES, BACCHUS, (3) BACCHANTES, ACHILLES, AJAX, AMPHITRITE, AURORA, FLORA, NARCISSUS, THE NYMPH ECHO, CASTOR AND POLLUX, TERPSICHORE, PENTHESILEA, ESTIA, ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE
While the Huffington Post is safe to view at work, the below link will let you see some of the more explicit photos from this calendar (NSFW).
As this calendar was made for friends and family, it is not for sale in common areas. If you are willing, however, to part with $300 you might be able to obtain this treasure on Ebay.
Thanks so much for this, Gary, delivered from the heart of the NYC fashion industry!