Why is Dior’s Johnny Depp-endorsed fragrance so controversial? After his trial against Amber Heard, the star signed a new contract as the face of Sauvage … but the scent has a muddy history
The actor has been an ambassador for Dior since 2015, according to The New York Times, and appeared in a mini film to promote Sauvage in 2019. Dior faced accusations of cultural appropriation at the time, with many arguing that the fragrance’s name and its marketing centred on Native American culture was offensive.
Here’s everything you need to know …
Johnny Depp is back to endorsing Dior’s fragrance Sauvage
On Monday, the 59-year-old actor and Dior Beauty shared their first partnership post since the verdict in his court case, captioned: “Fearless yet human, just like Sauvage.” In the black-and-white images shared on Instagram, taken by photographer Greg Williams, Depp can be seen playing guitar backstage at Olympia Hall in Paris ahead of a performance.
A second Instagram post shared on Tuesday, August 9, showed a bottle of Sauvage next to Depp’s guitar, and Dior Beauty included a quote from Depp in the caption about how the scent brings back memories for him.
Hypebeast reported that the images will be used in a new Dior campaign including Depp and his music. Dior Beauty did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Dior didn’t terminate Depp’s brand ambassadorship during his trial
When Depp brought a defamation suit against Heard in 2019 – alleging that she defamed him by describing herself as a victim of domestic abuse in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed – film franchises such as Fantastic Beasts and Pirates of the Caribbean ended their professional relationships with the actor.
However, Dior did not terminate Depp’s brand ambassadorship, according to The New York Times. Although, as Hypebeast pointed out, the fashion brand “did limit its presence and connection with the Pirates of the Caribbean actor during the height of the abuse allegations”.
While Depp was not directly named in Heard’s article, he sought US$50 million in damages and the Aquaman actress countersued for US$100 million in damages.
A Virginia jury reached a verdict on June 1, awarding Depp $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages, while Heard was awarded $2 million in compensatory damages.
Dior has faced controversy over its Sauvage fragrance in the past
In August 2019, the brand was accused of cultural appropriation after it released a video campaign that touted the fragrance as “an authentic journey deep into the Native American soul”.
The clip, which no longer appears to be available online, featured Depp and also included Canku One Star of the Rosebud Sioux tribe performing a version of a war dance. The clip ends with Depp’s voice-over saying: “We are the land. Dior.”
Many found the video to be disrespectful to Native American culture and some called out the racial undertones of the fragrance’s name Sauvage, which translates to “savage” in English. In 2018, Wesley Morris wrote in a New York Times article that the word “savage” is often tinged with racism, especially in reference to those belonging to Native American and African-American communities.
At the time, the Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO), a non-profit that advocates for indigenous peoples, said that they worked with Dior on the project.
“AIO does not speak for all Indigenous peoples,” the AIO’s executive director Laura Harris said. “We are proud to have successfully achieved our goals of education and inclusion for this project with Parfums Christian Dior.”
A statement from the AIO said that the collaboration came about after Depp – who was adopted by the Comanche Nation in 2012 after claiming Cherokee heritage – “reached out to his Comanche family to ask for their help to ensure Native cultures were portrayed appropriately”.
Depp was quoted in the statement as well, saying that “from the choice of location, wardrobe making, right down to casting and set design, AIO was involved”.
- Johnny Depp has been a brand ambassador for Dior since 2015, and the luxury fashion house kept him on throughout his trial, even as Pirates of the Caribbean and Fantastic Beasts dropped him
- But the fragrance already faced controversy when Depp first appeared in a mini film in 2019, with claims that the ad appropriated Native American culture