Dior accused of racism, cultural appropriation for new 'Sauvage' cologne ad

"On its face, this is horrible. Then you confirm the name: Sauvage. Like 'savage,' but fancier," tweeted activist April Reign, who created the #OscarsSoWhite campaign.
A scene featuring Johnny Depp from the Dior ad for their new perfume "Sauvage".
A scene featuring Johnny Depp from the Dior ad for their new perfume "Sauvage".Eric J Guillemain / Dior

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By Janelle Griffith

Fashion brand Dior released a video advertisement Friday morning for its cologne, Sauvage, featuring a Native American dancer in ceremonial garb, including a feathered headdress. The combination of the imagery and the name of the cologne, prompted many on social media to interpret the ad as racist and emblematic of cultural appropriation.

"An authentic journey deep into the Native American soul in a sacred, founding and secular territory," the tweet said of the cologne, which was first introduced in 2015.

Americans for Indian Opportunity, a 50-year old nonprofit that advocates for the rights of Indigenous peoples, said it collaborated with Dior on the new ad campaign titled “We are the Land" which was filmed near Arches National Monument in Utah.

The nonprofit said in a statement that it worked with music video director Jean-Baptiste Mondino and actor Johnny Depp to "provide advice on authentic inclusion of Native American images in the film promoting Depp’s signature parfum."

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Depp, who played Tonto, a Native American character, in the 2013 Disney film “The Lone Ranger," also faced backlash on social media for participating in the Dior campaign.

In previous “Sauvage” ads, Depp was filmed in the American west.

"On its face, this is horrible. Then you confirm the name: Sauvage. Like 'savage,' but fancier. THEN I clicked through (so others wouldn’t have to) and Johnny Depp is the face of this," tweeted activist April Reign, who created the #OscarsSoWhite campaign. "Depp, who immersed himself in cultural appropriation with Tonto. @dior, you can’t be serious."

A scene from the Dior ad for their new perfume "Sauvage".Eric J Guillemain / Dior

Author Laura Gilman tweeted: "So, either everyone at Dior's ad company has been snoozing for the past decade+, or they were counting on the outrage for cheap publicity."

Either way, she said, "it stinks."

Dior said the "new, highly concentrated interpretation of Sauvage" melds "extreme freshness with warm oriental tones and wild beauty that comes to life on the skin."

François Demachy, its creator, drew inspiration from "unspoiled expanses of wilderness beneath a blue-tinged night sky, as the intense aromas of a crackling fire rise into the air," according to the company's website.

Dior released a more than 3-minute long video Friday afternoon it described as "stories behind the creation" of Sauvage, featuring Depp.

This isn't the first time Dior has been accused of cultural appropriation or slammed for whom it featured as the face of a campaign.

In November 2018, an advertisement for the Dior Cruise 2019 collection, which was inspired by Mexican culture, drew criticism for starring actress Jennifer Lawrence, who is white.

Earlier this week, Kim Kardashian West announced she had renamed her shapewear line SKIMS Solutionwear, after she was accused of cultural appropriation for branding it Kimono.