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St. John Signs Gisele to Star In New Advertising Campaign

Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen is the new face of St. John.

NEW YORK — St. John has found its new face — Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen.

The choice marks a dramatic departure for the Irvine, Calif.-based firm, which for the last 22 years has featured Kelly Gray, daughter of company co-founders Bob and Marie Gray, in its advertising. St. John’s new outside agency, New York-based Lipman, said last February it was seeking a replacement. The decision to pick Gisele is the latest step by new chief executive officer Richard Cohen in repositioning St. John in the designer category.

Gisele was photographed Tuesday in the Hollywood Hills by Mario Testino and styled by Camilia Nickerson for the fall ad campaign. The ads will break in September magazines. The campaign was inspired by the ease and spaciousness of California, seen under the bright lights of Hollywood. It is expected to exude star power and glamour.

Ad agency chief David Lipman was on the photo shoot and unavailable for comment Tuesday. In a statement, he said, “California is where it begins. The wide-open spaces, the sunshine and the infinite possibilities. Gisele is the personification of those things.”

Kelly Gray, a tanned blonde, was photographed for the firm’s ads in exotic locales cavorting with beefcake models. She is the company’s creative director and in January entered into a new three-year agreement. Prior to Cohen’s arrival, she had been co-ceo with Bruce Fetter, who has left. She could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Gray family sold a majority of St. John, which it founded in 1962, to Vestar Capital for $520 million in 1999, when the company was taken private, but retains a minority stake. In January, Marie Gray, chief designer, extended her contract through the end of 2005, although she has remained silent about her plans beyond the end of the year. There has been speculation that the company is seeking a new head designer to ultimately succeed Marie Gray.