Indigenous

Dior pulls ad for Sauvage perfume amid criticism over Indigenous imagery

Dior has pulled a new advertisement for its Sauvage perfume amid criticism over its use of Indigenous imagery.

'It’s as if they used the N-word to promote a perfume,' says Idle No More Quebec co-founder

Luxury fashion house Dior is facing backlash over its latest advertisement. It features Indigenous imagery and what many are calling an insensitive brand name. For its part, the brand says it took care to be culturally sensitive. But critics say those efforts are still tone deaf. 1:53

Dior has pulled a new advertisement for its Sauvage perfume amid criticism over its use of Indigenous imagery.

A video posted on Twitter that featured an Indigenous dancer and an Instagram post explaining that the video was crafted with Aboriginal consultants — both posted Friday — were deleted hours after the company was called out for insensitivity and cultural misappropriation.

Dior initially described the new ad as "an authentic journey deep into the Native American soul." 

The 60-second video titled "We Are the Land" featured actor Johnny Depp playing Shawnee guitarist Link Wray's famous tune Rumble, First Nations actress Tanaya Beatty and dancer Canku One Star atop a cliff.  

Criticism quickly spread over social media.

For Indigenous people in Canada, the ad perpetuated a racial slur.

"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," said Melissa Mollen-Dupuis, the co-founder of Idle No More's branch in Quebec.

The 60-second ad for Sauvage perfume features actor Johnny Depp, First Nations actress Tanaya Beatty and dancer Canku One Star (Dior)

"It's as if they used the N-word to promote a perfume."

Fashion designer Lesley Hampton said the ad reinforces old stereotypes. 

"We're not wild or savage or all these connotations that the history books or the movie created us as," she said in Toronto, where she is preparing for Fashion Week. "It's a slap on the face to us."

Fashion designer Lesley Hampton calls the ad 'a slap in the face.' (Sharon Wu/CBC News)

The Instagram post, a behind-the-scenes video about the ad, said the group Americans for Indian Opportunity were consulted.

"Cultural appropriation for us is a huge thing because we've been dealing with this since colonization," Ron Martinez, a consultant with the non-profit organization, said 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 has not responded to an email seeking comment on the ads or its deletion. One of the deleted posts had promised more details about the fragrance and campaign on Monday.

About the Author

Jessica Deer

Journalist

Jessica Deer is Kanien’kehá:ka from Kahnawake. A former staff reporter for the Eastern Door, she works in CBC's Indigenous unit based in Montreal. Email her at jessica.deer@cbc.ca or follow her on Twitter @Kanhehsiio.

With files CBC's Sharon Wu and the Associated Press