Dior accused of racism for Sauvage, a Native American-themed cologne


Luxury fashion house Dior has come under fire for its new Sauvage cologne and advertising campaign, which features Native American imagery and Johnny Depp as its celebrity face.

The French brand ignited fury on social media Friday morning after tweeting a teaser video about the new cologne.

“An authentic journey deep into the Native American soul in a sacred, founding and secular territory,” the tweet reads. “More to come. September 1st.”

The since-deleted original clip featured dancer Canku Thomas One Star wearing traditional Indigenous regalia and dancing against a desert background.

Angry Twitter users immediately flooded the brand with accusations of racism, insensitivity, and cultural appropriation.

One Twitter user responded: “So all the proceeds are going to Native American tribes?”

Others took issue with the word “sauvage” — a French word meaning “wild” — and suggested that it was one letter away from a racist slur for Indigenous peoples.

“It’s still a slur if you add a ‘u’ to it,” one person pointed out.

“This marketing blunder will be studied in business schools for a long time,” “Being racist in French does not make it classier.”

Dior had deleted the ads from its social media accounts by Friday afternoon.

The company has not responded to an email from the Associated Press seeking comment on the ads or their deletion. One of the deleted posts had promised more details about the fragrance and campaign on Monday.

Global News had reached out to Dior for comment but did not hear back by publication.

Depp also faced strong backlash for participating in the campaign. The fate of a film he recorded to promote it is unclear.

“Johnny Depp is not Native. Dior is not Native-owned,” one user wrote.

Another said: “We all knew you were implying the word ‘savage’ when using fake Native Johnny Depp.”

A video ad recorded for the campaign shows Depp walking through the desert in Utah. He drinks from a river, then straps on a guitar and plays a few rock chords while a woman in Native American garb — including a wolf’s skin — watches him from afar.

Depp previously faced accusations of cultural appropriation and “redface” for playing Tonto, a Comanche character, in the 2013 film The Lone Ranger.

WNYC Studios’ The Takeaway called this one example of Hollywood’s “long tradition of non-Native actors playing Tonto,” which they say began in 1933 on the radio. Native Appropriations activist Adrienne Keene wrote an article titled “Why Tonto Matters,” which broke down the significance of white actors playing Native American roles.

“Every day, we see millions of representations of white people in varied and diverse roles. We see white actors as ‘real’ people, as ‘fantasy’ characters, and everything in between,” she wrote. “But for Native people, the only images that the vast, vast majority of Americans see are stereotypical in nature.” Several big brands have triggered outrage in the past for seeming to appropriate Native American culture.

In 2011, fashion retailer Urban Outfitters came under fire when a Native American customer posted an open letter describing its “Navajo”-themed items as racist.

“In all seriousness, as a Native American woman, I am deeply distressed by your company’s mass marketed collection of distasteful and racially demeaning apparel and décor,” Sasha Houston Brown wrote in a letter shared by Jezebel. I take personal offense to the blatant racism and perverted cultural appropriation your store features this season as ‘fashion.’”

As of publication, Dior has not released any formal statement addressing the backlash against its Sauvage campaign.

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