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Dior campaign for Sauvage perfume with Indigenous imagery draws criticism


A new ad campaign for a men’s fragrance by Dior claims to be “an authentic journey deep into the Native American soul,” but for Indigenous people in Canada, it promotes a racial slur.

The French fashion house released the campaign for the fragrance Sauvage by perfumer Francois Demachy this month. 

The 60-second ad titled “We Are the Land” features actor Johnny Depp playing Shawnee guitarist Link Wray’s famous tune Rumble, First Nations actress Tanaya Beatty and fancy dancer Canku One Star atop a cliff.  

Criticism of the campaign quickly spread over social media.

“It’s as if they used the N-word to promote a promote a perfume. That’s the equivalent in French, for us,” said Melissa Mollen-Dupuis, the co-founder of Idle No More’s branch in Quebec.

“It has huge connotations. ‘Sauvage’ was to say we were dirty, uncivilized, that we had no culture. So this is not good at all. This is a racial slur for any Indigenous French-speaking person.”

A video posted by Dior Friday about the behind the scenes of the campaign said Americans for Indian Opportunity were consulted on the ad.

“Cultural appropriation for us is a huge thing because we’ve been dealing with this since colonization,” said Ron Martinez, a consultant with the non-profit organization, in the video.

“Our presence on this project is for us to make sure the look and identity is authentic. It’s very important.”

It’s not the first time both Depp and Dior have been accused of cultural appropriation. Adrienne Keene, the Cherokee blogger behind Native Appropriations documented a long list of problems with Johnny Depp’s representation of Indigenous people since his role as Tonto in the 2013 Disney movie The Lone Ranger.

Keene also criticized the Dior Sauvage product when it was released in 2015 before the campaign included any Indigenous references.

Dior raised eyebrows in 2017 when the company used a shaman image on a bag. In 1998, British fashion designer John Galliano launched an Indigenous-influenced fall collection for Dior called “A Voyage on the Diorient Express, or the Story of the Princess Pocahontas.”

The company’s public relations team did not respond to a request for comment.

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