Dior stands by creative process in face of Native American appropriation accusations

The campaign is set to launch on 1 September

Dior has defended its use of Native American traditions in its latest campaign promoting the Johnny Depp-fronted Sauvage fragrance, which has been labeled as a practice in cultural appropriation.

Central to the creative is a film starring Canku Thomas One Star, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, performing a traditional Native American war dance clothed in traditional dress in his local territory.

Set to premiere on Monday (1 September), Dior has so far only teased the spot with clips posted on Instagram and Twitter.

However, a number of online commenters have accused the fashion house of cultural appropriation, “social colonialism” and racism off the back of the trailers alone.

Many have additionally noted the fragrance’s name of Sauvage is the French translation of ‘savage’, a term once used derogatively by white settlers to describe native peoples.

Dior has highlighted how it collaborated with Native American consultants and the indigenous advocacy organization Americans For Indian Opportunity to create the campaign in all communications thus far.

It has also released a behind-the-scenes film, featuring Depp playing the electric guitar in the middle of what he calls the "sacred land". Its accompanying caption describes the latest Sauvage initiative as a “love letter to the spirit of a land that should be protected, cultures that should be celebrated and to peoples that should be honoured”.

Meanwhile, in a statement first published in Time, Dior stressed the lengths it had taken to collaborate with the Native American community to create an authentic portrayal of their culture.

“As soon as we began to evoke Native American imagery and symbols in this new film, the House of Dior, [director] Jean-Baptiste Mondino and Johnny Depp immediately decided to contact Native American consultants who are enrolled citizens of the Comanche, Isleta and Taos Pueblos and the Pawnee Nation, with years of experience fighting cultural appropriation and promoting authentic inclusion,” it wrote.

“This collaboration, which started at the very beginning of the project, led to a work process that was extremely demanding and specific. Ongoing communication about the project, and then on the film set, had a shared aim: moving away from clichés in order to avoid the cultural appropriation and subversion that so often taints images representing native peoples.”

Depp first launched the fragrance in 2015 and has fronted its campaigns ever since.

Dior was hauled up for whitewashing last November when it hired American actress Jennifer Lawrence as the face of its campaign purportedly celebrating Mexican culture.

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