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Dior sparks outrage with new Sauvage ad

Srinivas Mazumdaru
August 31, 2019

French luxury goods company Dior is facing widespread criticism for an advertising campaign that some Native Americans have said perpetuates stereotypes.

Dior's sauvage brand
Image: Reuters/M.Anzuoni

A Christian Dior promotional video for its Sauvage cologne was pulled on Friday following widespread criticism on social media, with critics accusing the company of cultural appropriation.   

Dior has produced Sauvage since the mid-1960s and has used Hollywood actor Johnny Depp in recent years to promote it. But the new advertising campaign paired them with Native American imagery, deepening wounds among a population whose ancestors were called savages and systematically killed.

Read more: Haute Couture in Paris: 70 years of Dior

In French, sauvage has a variety of meanings, including wild, unspoiled and savage. 

The video, which featured Johnny Depp, showed a Lakota dancer in colorful clothing that the company said embodied modern Native American culture, and promised more details on the fragrance Monday.

Dior's tweet said: "An authentic journey deep into the Native American soul in a sacred, founding and secular territory. More to come. September 1st."

Dior's website also advertises the perfume as having "warm oriental tones."

Raising awareness

The trailer and videos drew heavy criticism, with many calling them racist and accusing the company of cultural appropriation. The videos were removed from Dior's Instagram and Twitter accounts hours later, although they still appeared on some unrelated accounts devoted to Depp.

Dior worked with Americans for Indian Opportunity, a respected but sometimes controversial consulting firm based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on the campaign. The same group ceremoniously adopted Depp as an honorary member of the Comanche Nation while he was filming the 2013 adaptation of "The Lone Ranger."

Executive director Laura Harris said she expected the backlash but wanted to ensure that it would educate people on indigenous values and philosophy.

"Our aim was, hopefully, that the controversy would do exactly what it's done on social media and raise people's awareness," she told The Associated Press.

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