Prabal Gurung's spring 2012 collection, which was inspired by Nobuyoshi Araki's photo series, "Sensual Flower," was an explosion of edgy floral prints, see-through mesh panels and a lot of deep purple. The beauty was equally-severe: slicked-back hair paired with an intense magenta lip (the darkened center resembling an orchid). So when we heard that Candice Swanepoel was the model chosen for Gurung's spring ads, we all let out a collective "Huh." The Victoria's Secret model better known her beachy blonde waves and de facto bikini isn't really a face we associate with the designer.
But that was exactly the point. "We sat down and talked about a lot of girls, and decided on Candice," Gurung told us over the phone recently. "You know, we were thinking that we don't want her to look, how do you say it -- expected? I want it to be a surprise. Where people are like, 'Oh wow!'"
Which was, indeed, our reaction when we first saw the campaign images. With dark hair and no evidence of a tan, Swanepoel had morphed into one of the austere-looking girls Prabal sent down the runway last season. "The potential was already there in her, you know? And it was all about going dark."
The idea to take Swanepoel darker was the result of the shoot's creative team, which included hair stylist Didier Malige, wardrobe stylist Tiina Laakonen and photographer Dan Jackson (who had just shot the model in an earlier project, and initially suggested her). "We all thought that was an amazing idea," recalls Laakonen. "How do you take someone like Candice, who is blond, tan and gorgeous, how do you bring her into that world. We thought first of all about the coloring of the collection; I think the darker hair gives it a romantic feel. The contrast becomes more interesting, so the idea to go dark was really to reinforce the kind of image, going back to the Araki images, which are Japanese girls obviously. We didn't want to make her look Asian in any way, but it was just trying to make the images stronger and more graphic and darker."
Gurung knew he "needed a girl who could bring out the sexuality and movement" of Araki's images. And that's exactly what they accomplished with the stunning visuals. "We decided to treat this with some kind of edge," he said. "That was the basis of our collection when I decided to put it on the runway. Between the portraits and the ad campaign, I just wanted to make sure that it was sensual, but it wasn't too vulgar. Just provocative enough, just exciting enough. Just almost crossing the line of misogynous. Just teetering the line of sensual and exciting. Tension is what I wanted to create."
Check out behind the scenes photos from the shoot as well as the final campaign images in the gallery below.
HuffPost Lifestyle is a daily newsletter that will make you happier and healthier — one email at a time. Learn more