Actor Johnny Depp has signed a seven-figure multi-year contract with international fashion company Dior to resume his role as the face of the Dior fragrance Sauvage, just months after suing his ex-wife Amber Heard for defamation.
“Fearless yet human, just like Sauvage.” If you have been following Johnny Depp or Dior on social media recently, then you definitely know what this statement is! This week, the 59-year-old actor and Dior issued their first collaboration update, involving one of the men’s most admired Dior fragrances, following the decision of his court case, with the caption: “Fearless yet human, just like Sauvage.” In the black-and-white images shared on Instagram, taken by photographer Greg Williams, Depp can be seen playing guitar backstage at Olympia Hall in Paris ahead of a performance.
In a second Instagram post released right after, Dior included a bottle of Sauvage next to Depp’s guitar and quoted Depp about how the perfume conjures up happy memories for him. Also, Dior’s tweet on Tuesday featured a backstage video interview with Depp.
So far so good, right? It sounds like a really interesting collaboration between Johnny Depp and the Sauvage Dior fragrance, and it gives the actor the comeback needed after the court battle he has been having with Amber Heard. So, why is everyone making a big fuss about it?
Did you know that Depp’s ambassadorship with Dior was put on hold during his trial?
The actor initially joined Dior in 2015, but the campaign was suspended when Amber Heard claimed that Depp had abused her emotionally and physically. A UK court later deemed those claims to be “substantially true.” The actor’s working connections with movie franchises including Fantastic Beasts and Pirates of the Caribbean came to an end in 2018.
However, The New York Times reports that Dior did not revoke Depp’s brand ambassadorship. Although, as Hypebeast stated, the fashion brand “did limit its presence and connection with the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ actor during the height of the abuse allegations.”
The controversy over Dior fragrance Sauvage in the past
As previously reported by Insider’s Chloe Pantazi, the brand was accused of cultural appropriation in August 2019 after releasing a video promotion that hailed the fragrance as “an authentic journey deep into the Native American soul.”
The video was criticised for disrespecting Native American culture, and several people pointed out the racist connotations of the fragrance’s name, Sauvage, which translates to “savage” in English. The term “savage” is frequently used in a racist manner, particularly when referring to members of the African-American and Native American populations, according to Wesley Morris’ 2018 article in the New York Times.
Depp has been given a second chance this year after he won his defamation case, first by Dior and now by a French film firm, which has recently unveiled the first pictures of his new role in a biopic.
Following his victory in court, Depp posted a statement on Instagram, but more than a dozen celebrities have since quietly withdrew their support. This is because newly released documents, which included testimony from Depp’s former girlfriend Ellen Barkin and ex-agent Tracey Jacobs, detailed his history of alleged misconduct.
With all these angles being taken into consideration, is working with Depp as an ambassador a brand masterstroke that ensures headlines while addressing people who feel Depp was innocent of all claims or is Dior dismissing a significant percentage of its customer base who may be concerned by Depp’s dark past?
For a big brand like Dior, it must be a calculated move
People and experts were sharing their opinion on social media around the choice of Johnny Depp to represent the Dior fragrance. Some believe that it’s plausible that Dior is using the reappointment as an opportunity to make a statement and gain major media attention, while some claim that it merely reinstates an earlier contract.
Brand expert, Sally Branson, who specialises in crisis and special situations, commented on the proximity of the tagline — “Fearless yet human, just like Sauvage” — to Depp in the wake of the abusive allegations “makes me feel sick. It’s like an “F-you” statement to the progress of understanding of the prevalence of domestic violence,” she said. She continued by saying that “Dior’s target for this new campaign is not empowered, progressive customers who are their target for couture.”
The half-life of a scandal
Let’s consider the opposite side; given that scandals these days have a relatively brief half-life, it would be a wise wager. The brand did not completely remove Depp as an ambassador despite pausing the initial campaign during the defamation trial. That implies that Dior has made a deliberate risk, betting that more people, including men, women, and teenagers, love Depp, than those who dislike him.
And if you’d like to even check it yourself, the majority of the comments on Dior’s Instagram post featuring Depp in monochrome ensembles are positive, so the fashion house may have it right, in case the unfavourable comments were not deleted. Brand counsel Michel Hogan says that Dior might just be in it for the brand awareness that such a controversial reappointment can generate. “The timing of the campaign reset does seem guaranteed to generate publicity for both Dior and their Sauvage scent, so the reboot to Depp as a spokesperson is unlikely to be coincidental,” she said.
Overall, there is a big probability that in essence, Dior is venturing that their long-standing association with Depp and his image of a renegade is more valuable to them than any potential short-term loss of their social capital with some customers. But frankly speaking, let’s be honest, whether Johnny Depp or any other star takes the campaign, Dior fragrance has always been and will always remain on top and a go-to brand for everyone worldwide after decades of building loyalty. Whether it was the right move or not, Dior is Dior.