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

Johnny Depp is endorsing Dior’s Sauvage again ... but the fragrance actually has a controversial past. Photo: Dior
Johnny Depp is back to endorsing a controversial Dior fragrance after his defamation lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard finished in June. Depp has signed a seven-figure, multi-year contract with Dior to resume his role as the face of the French fashion house’s fragrance Sauvage, a source close to the deal has confirmed.

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

Dior Beauty recently shared black-and-white images of Johnny Depp. Photo: @diorbeauty/Instagram

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.

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Dior Beauty also shared this photo of a bottle of Sauvage fragrance next to Johnny Depp’s guitar. Photo: @diorbeauty/Instagram

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.

Johnny Depp has been an ambassador for Dior since 2015. Photo: @diorbeauty/Instagram
A third post from Dior Beauty, also shared on Tuesday, showed a video interview with Depp backstage. In the clip, he says it’s “apt” to be performing at Paris’ Olympia Hall as it’s where he saw his ex-wife Vanessa Paradis perform and took his children to see Bob Dylan.

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

Johnny Depp, left, attending the trial, and Amber Heard looking on in the courtroom, at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 24. Photo: AFP/Getty Images/TNS

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.

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Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Photo: Film Frame/Disney Enterprises Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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”.

Johnny Depp for Dior Beauty’s Sauvage fragrance. Photo: Dior

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.

Actor Johnny Depp arrives into the courtroom at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 16. Photo: AP Photo

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

Dior’s Sauvage fragrance has faced controversy even without considering Johnny Depp. Photo: Dior

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”.

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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.

Johnny Depp in an ad for Dior Beauty’s Sauvage fragrance. Photo: Dior

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.”

LaDonna Harris, left, president of Americans for Indian Opportunity, with actor Johnny Depp at her Albuquerque, New Mexico, home in 2012. Photo: AP Photo/Courtesy of Americans for Indian Opportunity

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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”.

This article originally appeared on Insider
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  • 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