Annie Leibovitz
Pirelli Calendar 2016 photographer Annie Leibovitz attends the launch of the calendarStuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

The Pirelli Calendar for 2016 features the likes of comedienne Amy Schumer, tennis ace Serena Williams, writer Fran Lebowitz, Selma director Ava DuVernay, artist Yoko Ono and rocker Patti Smith. Photographed by Annie Leibovitz at her New York studio, the calendar features 13 women of what the tyre maker called outstanding professional, social, cultural, sporting and artistic accomplishment.

While the companiy's previous calendars have featured mostly nude models, Schumer and Williams are the only two shown in their underwear in next year's edition. Schumer posed in a pair of heels with her arm positioned strategically to cover her bare chest. She adds a carefree element to the image by holding a lipstick-stained coffee cup. Williams's photo has been given a more intense feel and showcases the sportswoman's athletic body as she poses with her bare back to the camera.

Some of the other well-known faces that feature in the calendar are: Chinese actress and UNHCR goodwill ambassador Yao Chen; Tavi Gevinson, the 19-year old actress, writer, singer and founder of online magazine Rookie; Agnes Gund, the 77-year-old philanthropist and president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art; Mellody Hobson, the 46-year-old president of money management firm Ariel Investments; Russian model Natalia Vodianova; and Iranian artist Shirin Nesha.

Speaking about the shift in style for the famous calendar, Liebovitz, said: "Pirelli has always given free rein to the photographer, so it's really about choice of photographer. I think the company has wanted to shift for a few years and my mandate was that they wanted to see some change."

Referring to the new league of powerful female characters, Jennifer Zimmerman, the global chief strategy officer for advertising agency McGarryBowen, said: "We call it the rise of the shero. We are in the midst of a perfect storm of cultural icons and politics and Hollywood. Between the first credible woman presidential candidate, all the powerful female characters on television from Supergirl to Madam Secretary to Scandal, the pressure for parity in pay, it is impossible to ignore the empowerment of women. Besides, who uses a calendar anymore? It has to stand for something else."

Pirelli's decision to move away from pinup style photos brings to mind Playboy's decision to stop featuring nude models in its magazine to embrace more feminist content.