Dior has pulled its latest campaign for the fragrance Sauvage after accusations of cultural appropriation and racism.
The campaign, called "We are the Land," kicked off with a series of teasers and a short video featuring Rosebud Sioux tribe member Canku Thomas One Star performing the Fancy War Dance in traditional dress and actor Johnny Depp, who has been the face of Sauvage since 2015, playing guitar. "We are the land," Depp intones via voiceover as Canku Thomas One Star dances. "Dior." While the brand partnered with Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO) when launching the new campaign and did address the possibility of cultural appropriation, certain aspects raised eyebrows amongst fashion fans — namely the stereotypical imagery around Native Americans and the word "Sauvage" itself, which bears a striking similarity to the word "savage," a word that has been used in a derogatory manner toward Native Americans throughout history.
The brand did take the right step in partnering with AIO to craft the campaign. In Instagram Stories posted to support the launch, AIO member Ron Martinez Looking Elk directly addresses cultural appropriation. "Cultural appropriation for us is a huge thing because we've been dealing with this since colonization. Our presence on this project is really to help, so for us to make sure the look and the identity is authentic is really important," he said. While it appears the campaign was launched more thoughtfully than those in the past, the controversy surrounding the campaign has led to the creation of the Twitter hashtag #NotYourSauvage.
According to CNBC, Johnny Depp said of the campaign in a press release, "There was need for authenticity and respect for the land and the nations that allowed us to shoot there. From the choice of location, wardrobe making, right down to casting and set design, AIO was involved." When CNBC asked about the controversy, Dior sent a press release from AIO.
Crystal EchoHawk, the executive director of IllumiNatives, an organization "designed to increase the visibility of — and challenge the negative narrative about — Native Nations and peoples in American society," has been vocal about the campaign, speaking out on Twitter. She told Business of Fashion that “the Sauvage campaign released by Dior today is offensive, racist and cultural appropriation at its worst by a corporation that is exploiting Native peoples and culture for profit. This is a company that is looking to profit off of advancing a harmful stereotype about Native people.”
The campaign was set to officially launch on September 1, but Dior has since removed all trace of it from its social media accounts. Fashion industry watchdog account Diet Prada posted the teasers and Instagram Stories to its account, writing, "Dior's instagram is feeling the heat. In one teaser for a new 'Sauvage' fragrance film, a Native American is seen dancing in the wilderness. It's triggering imagery to see on the instagram feed of a French luxury company, but a closer look at the caption revealed that the company tried to take some steps to avoid controversy, albeit in vain." Diet Prada's beauty industry counterpart, Estee Laundry, also posted some concerning clips that claimed to be from a Sauvage fragrance launch party in Russia.
Dior has come under fire for allegations of cultural appropriation before. In November of 2018, its Cruise Collection ad campaign featuring Jennifer Lawrence was questioned as the collection was allegedly inspired by traditional Mexican horsewomen yet featured a white actress as its centerpiece.
Teen Vogue has reached out to Dior and Johnny Depp's teams for comment and will update this piece as more information becomes available.
Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue