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Dior and Johnny Depp Face Backlash After New Native American-Themed 'Sauvage' Campaign Is Called Out For Racism

@Dior/Instagram

As early as 2015, Dior began floating ads featuring vaguely Native American themes and Johnny Depp, who has been the face of Dior parfum line Sauvagesavage in English—for several years. The new campaigns featured Depp in a decidedly less polished tuxedo-clad international playboy look and more Native American imagery.

At the time, Dior and Depp received backlash over hinting at a connection between Native Americans and a product called sauvage. The line itself has been part of Dior Parfum since 1966 without any Native American connection.


Sauvage, like savage in English, is used throughout French accounts of interactions with Indigenous people in North America during the settler colonial period in the USA and Canada. The Declaration of Independence even includes a passage referring to Natives as "merciless Indian savages."

Like many derogatory terms from the colonial era, savage is now recognized as a racial slur and not used to refer to Indigenous peoples.

Dior eventually took most of these earlier ads, including these from 2018, down from their official pages...

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• King of commercials. 👌🏼 Song: Come Down by Elk Road. { #johnnydepp #diorsauvage #asahibeer }

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...due to comments like these...

@depplungs/Instagram

...and people considered the matter resolved.

But neither Dior nor Depp got the message from Native activists, organizations and individuals because their new latest teaser ads went full Native.

Watch some of the many snippets here hinting at a big event on September 1, 2019.

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Dior'dan (@dior ) Büyük Pot! Yeni parfümü "Sauvage" için yerli Amerikan dansçı kullanan Dior, Fransızca "sauvage" kelimesinin anlamının "vahşi, ilkel, dokunulmamış" olduğunu unutmuşa benziyor. Bir Fransız markası olan Dior'un vahşi ve ilkel göndermesiyle neden yerli bir Amerikalıyı seçtiği sorulunca, kültür sentezinin kendileri için çok önemli olduğunu ve burada "vahşi bir ruha saygı"larını sunduklarını söyleyip, Amerika yerlilerinin hayatlarına ışık tutmak için bu yolu seçtiklerini ifade ettiler. Bu proje için birkaç yerli Amerikalıyı danışman olarak tutmuşlar hatta. Ancak markanın "yerli Amerikalıların hayatına ışık tutacağız" ibaresinden sonra parfümün yüzü olarak bir yerli Amerikalıyla değil, adı Amber Heard skandalıyla anılan tartışmalı bir beyaz olan Johnny Depp ile çalışması gülünç bulundu. Eleştirmenler, Dior'un "vahşi, ilkel" anlamına gelen Sauvage isimli bu parfümünü yerli Amerikalılarla tanıtmasını oldukça sert karşıladı ve markayı ağır ırkçılıkla suçladı. Marka kısa süre içinde tüm sosyal medya hesaplarından Sauvage ile ilgili her şeyi sildi. . . . . #dior #diorsauvage #sauvagedior

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Джонни Деппа вновь тянет на Дикий Запад. Изучив легенды индейцев в прошлой короткометражке Dior, Депп вернулся – чтобы еще больше узнать о культуре коренных американцев. Но в новой рекламной кампании аромата Sauvage Джонни не только наблюдает, как на фоне практически марсианских пейзажей исполняет традиционный боевой танец актер Canku One Star. Депп и сам включается в творческий процесс – играет на гитаре легендарную композицию Линка Рэя Rumble. За причудливым сочетанием древних обычаев и рок-музыки 1950-х наблюдает Таная Битти (актриса – потомок древнего народа Da'naxda'xw). Для съемок видео режиссер Жан-Батист Мондино пользовался советами специалиста по коренным народам Северной Америки, так что фильм получился не только завораживающе красивым, но и точно отражающим особенности загадочной культуры индейцев. Вместо апроприации ценностей видео показывает их в полной красе. Когда наступает вечер, Джонни Депп устраивается у костра. Тут-то и самое время вспомнить про обновленный аромат Sauvage, который начинается свежими цитрусовыми нотами, а затем раскрывается кардамоном, дымным ладаном, сандалом и кожей. Такой пригодится вам не только на Диком Западе, но и осенью в городе, когда вы заскучаете по природе. Создатель аромата Франсуа Демаши добавил в композицию анималистические ноты, сделав ее еще более насыщенной, чем в предыдущей версии. #newsauvage #dior #diorsauvage #diorfragrancerevolution2019 #diorbeautylovers #lovediorfragrance_ru #fragrance #sauvage #johnnydepp #джоннидепп #саваж #новыйсаваж #диорсаваж #pyatigorsk #пятигорск #диорпятигорск @rivegauche_exlusive_pyatigorsk

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One issue raised is cultural appropriation.

Depp has no known or named Native ancestors or tribal affiliations beyond his honorary one. Depp was made an honorary member of the Comanche tribe when tribal members were given jobs on his film The Lone Ranger.

LaDonna Harris, founder of Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO) who "adopted" Depp during The Lone Ranger period, was cited as a consultant on the new Dior Sauvage project.

When a direct connection was made between Sauvage and Natives, the backlash was swift and vehement across social media, however, despite AIO involvement.

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#diorsauvage #redskinsishatespeech #notinvisible #mercilessindiansavages

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IllumiNative Executive Director Crystal Echohawk released the following statement today regarding the @dior “Sauvage” Campaign: “The “Sauvage” campaign released by Dior today is deeply offensive, racist and cultural appropriation at its worst by a corporation that is exploiting Native peoples and culture for profit. Dior’s campaign promised, “An authentic journey deep into the Native American soul in a sacred, founding and secular territory.” Instead, it is an example of how a perhaps “well-intentioned” collaboration can be done in an exploitative and racist manner. The word “sauvage” closely related to the English word “savage,” is a racist slur used to describe Native peoples throughout history and was used as justification for genocide, violence and discrimination against Native peoples, and forced relocation. The video released with the campaign presents a romanticized stereotype of Native Americans coupled with a racist slur to sell their product with no attempt to understand our history and derogatory myths they reinforce. IllumiNative’s research has found that these stereotypes and portrayals fuel bias and racism against Native peoples. While trying to “honor” Native people, Dior has entrenched the same offensive and racist tropes that have been used by those in power to exploit Native peoples and to relegate them to the past. Dior must pull this entire campaign immediately as it does nothing but advance racism and harmful stereotypes against Native peoples.” To learn how you can change the National narrative about Native peoples, visit http://bit.ly/2xAraEV #NotYourSavage #DiorSauvage

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Meanwhile, Dior had tipis on display with their logo and "NEW SAUVAGE" at the Victoria and Albert museum in London.

Dior also held "New Moon Festivals" across Europe with tipis, a dance routine with dancers and participants in redface—dressing in stereotypical costumes mocking Native American sacred regalia including headdresses and face paint.

Author, artist and activist Ryan RedCorn called it a "cultural appropriation orgy" complete with a dance number in headdresses around a fire with tipis in the background.

Watch snippets of Dior's Sauvage events in Europe here.

Even before Dior's festival began, Natives online let Dior know Sauvage was not a word or image they wanted to be associated with.

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🧼Dior’s new fragrance. It’s ok if it’s in French, right? Wait - no it’s not- that’s right. @dior s new ‘Sauvage’ fragrance campaign is so fucking problematic! 1. They’ve released a “native” inspired fragrance called Sauvage. That’s cool, right, cuz it’s in French. WRONG. This is their idiotic campaign: “Unleash your inner savage and be the alpha of the pack with Sauvage by Dior. This remix of the 1996 Eau Sauvage is a modern take of the original’s fresh, ferocious fragrance. Inspired by the fierce plains and wild open spaces of feral lands, Sauvage would unleash your unruly side with its primal and breezy scent.” . 2. Savage IS a term used to dehumanize indigenous people. We don’t use that word - we ain’t reclaiming it, and it sure as hell is not ok to use Indigenous people in you racist campaign for YOUR PROFIT. @dior - you disgust me. . 3. Their idiotic tag line. “We are the land. Dior” NO YOURE NOT 🤣🤣🤣🤣 4. 📈Carbon Footprint: Christian Dior performs very poorly among its competitors for its carbon footprint. A company’s performance in this category is based on its success in implementing energy efficiency measures. Investments in energy efficient technology, green building and sourcing of renewable energy can all lead to cost savings and reduce the company’s contribution to climate change. 5. 📈Pollution Prevention: Christian Dior performs poorly on this issue. Companies are evaluated on pollution prevention by the levels of waste (including hazardous waste) they produce and release into the environment, and can be affected by whether they develop products that can reduce exposure to pollution. 6. 📊Forced labor: Dior performs “well” on forced labor- so like not all their clothes are made by slave labor, just some- that’s cool right? NO. 7. 📊Diversity: words? No this emoji will sum it up. 😂😂😂🤣🤣🤣 . . .company analysis based on Censible.co . Fuck outta here @Dior you’re ridiculous! . I made an edit for you @Dior “we are [using up, destroying and profiting off the image of the people of] the land. Dior” - that’s better. #diorsoracist #diorsauvage #canceldior #fuckoffjohnnydepp #diorparfums #dior #inspirednatives #hautecouture #diorcampaign #ootd #fashiondesigner

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And the charges of racism and cultural appropriation are not restricted to Instagram or Native Americans.

Prominent Native scholars and activists created the hashtag #NotYourSauvage on Twitter where Dior simultaneously launched their campaign.

Professor, author and activist Cutcha Risling Baldy posted a few times about the "New Sauvage."

Scholar and activist Dr. Adrienne Keene of Native Appropriations also weighed in with receipts going back to 2012 on Depp and Dior.

People were a bit confused by the message.

Some tried to defend Depp and Dior, but those fans appeared outnumbered.

By Friday evening, Dior had pulled their posts of the ad from social media as they had in December without explanation or apology. They did offer this statement however:

"The Parfums Christian Dior project is a part of AIO’s Advance Indigeneity Campaign to change the misperceptions about Native Americans, to share accurate American history, to build awareness about Native Americans as contemporary peoples and to promote Indigenous worldviews."

Whether they have scrapped the ad campaign and the association between Sauvage and Indigenous peoples or simply plan to use it outside of social media to avoid backlash is unclear.

Professor Cutcha Risling Baldy's book We Are Dancing for You: Native Feminisms and the Revitalization of Women's Coming-of-Age Ceremonies  is available here.

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