Feminist Dior Is Back to Johnny Depp
Armed with thriving fan support and a jury verdict in his favor, Dior Beauty has decided he is a worthy representative.
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After remaining silent throughout Johnny Depp’s ugly defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard, Dior has publicly resumed their lucrative joint pursuit of selling Sauvage cologne and beard moisturizer.
This week, the Dior Beauty Instagram account posted photos of Depp at the concert he performed with Jeff Beck on July 25 at L’Olympia in Paris, weeks after a jury awarded him $15 million and a winning judgment on three counts of defamation. In the black-and-white images by Greg Williams, Depp plays his guitar and sits pensively backstage in pirate-like attire next to bottles of Sauvage (translates to “savage”), of which he became the face when it launched in 2015. In a video, he says, “Sauvage brings me a lot of memories, a lot of shows, things that you smelled growing up that if I smell it, it takes me right back, and I see the person that used to wear it. It’s a sense memory. So a smell can make you travel, Sauvage representing the idea of fearless yet human.”
TMZ reported this week that Depp signed a new, multi-year, seven-figure contract with Dior to be the face of Sauvage. (Fox News Digital reported that it confirmed Depp had signed the seven-figure deal.)
Whether or not you side with Heard on the defamation matter, Depp is a man who admitted during the trial to have said some vile things about women. Yet he’s also a man who attracted impassioned support from millions of fans online, including some who even bothered to show up in person at the courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia dressed as his Pirates of the Caribbean character Jack Sparrow.
After months of saying nothing about Depp, it’s now clear where Dior Beauty stands on him. Armed with thriving fan support and a jury verdict in his favor, Dior Beauty has decided he is a worthy representative. Dior Beauty is a business so perhaps this is just about money — the trial got so much exposure and Depp so much support that some of it transferred to interest in and sales of Dior’s Sauvage products; continuing the alliance with Depp will likely bolster both. This marketing approach would seem to be at odds with that of Dior’s women’s brand, which took up the mantle of feminism years ago, and currently sells a “WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS” T-shirt for $920.
As many have already pointed out, blatant double standards were on ample display in the depressing spectacle of the Depp-Heard trial. I want to focus on two double standards relevant to Dior: one concerns men and women spokespeople who have said or done things that offended a large group of consumers; the other concerns Dior’s men’s and women’s businesses, and why the former gets to apparently completely disregard the activism-oriented marketing of the latter.
Whether or not you sided with Depp in the trial, it’s true that the things he admitted during the proceedings offended and still offend a large number of people. Take this text message sent from Depp’s phone that was presented as evidence:
Regarding Amber and Elon Musk (“Mollusk”), whom she dated, it reads:
She’s begging for total global humiliation… She’s gonna get it. I’m gonna need your texts about San Francisco, brother… I’m even sorry to ask… But she sucked Mollusk’s crooked dick and he gave her some shitty lawyers… I have no mercy, no fear and not an ounce of emotion, or what I once thought was love for this gold digging, low level, dime a dozen, mushy, pointless dangling overused flappy fish market… I’m so fucking happy she wants to go to fight this out!!! She will hit the wall hard!!! And I cannot wait to have this waste of a cum guzzler out of my life!!! I met a fucking sublime little Russian here… Which made me realize the time I blew on that 50 cent stripper… I wouldn’t touch her with a goddam glove. I can only hope that karma kicks in and takes the gift of breath from her…
Sorry, man… But NOW, I will stop at nothing !!! Let’s see if mollusk has a pair… Come see me face to face…. I’ll show him things he’s never seen before… Like, the other side of his dick when I slice it off…
Depp did not deny that he wrote these words. Nor did he deny texting to actor Paul Bettany about Heard, “Let's drown her before we burn her!!! I will fuck her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she is dead.” He did, however, deny writing other texts sent to his assistant from his cell phone, which read:
Right!!! Exactly!!! Molly's p***y is RIGHTFULLY MINE!!!! Should I not just bust in and remove its hinges tonight??? I want to change her understanding of what it is like to be thrashed around like a pleading Mackrel… I NEED. I WANT. I TAKE.
Depp’s explanation for these texts being sent from his phone was, “Sometimes you give your people your phone to text for you.” He also suggested that Heard’s lawyer wrote these words the previous night, which displays both Trump-level disregard for how the legal system works and Trump-level willingness to believe supporters will buy into ideas this illogical.
Offensive remarks have led major fashion brands — including Christian Dior — to take action against women celebrity faces. Take Sharon Stone, whom Dior cut from Chinese advertisements in 2008 after comments she made at that year’s Cannes Film Festival:
"I'm not happy about the way the Chinese are treating the Tibetans because I don't think anyone should be unkind to anyone else," Stone said. "And then this earthquake and all this stuff happened, and then I thought, is that karma? When you're not nice that the bad things happen to you?"
Chanel cut ties with Kate Moss as the face of its Coco Mademoiselle fragrance after she admitted to using cocaine in 2005. Burberry and H&M also canceled campaigns with her at the time, an H&M spokesperson outright saying in a statement that “after evaluating the situation, we have decided that a campaign with Kate Moss is not consistent with H&M's clear disassociation with drugs.”
Depp’s alcohol and drug use was a focus of the defamation trial. He even admitted to using drugs with his friend Marilyn Manson: “We drank together, we've had cocaine together, maybe a couple of times.” He added, “I once gave Marilyn Manson a pill so he would stop talking so much.”
I am guessing Dior womenswear designer Maria Grazia Chiuri, whose work and career I admire, doesn’t decide who gets to be the face of Christian Dior’s men’s beauty products. Chiuri is the first woman creative director for the house, and her debut collection that walked in September of 2016 featured a model wearing a "WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS” T-shirt (the title of the 2014 essay by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie). Chiuri has talked repeatedly since then in interviews about her beliefs about feminism and why she applies this lens so visibly to Dior. This 2017 Guardian story by Jess Cartner-Morley provides just one example:
If the creative director of Dior is a kind of unofficial art director for femininity, then the appointment of a woman to the job after decades of mansplaining is a feminist moment that goes beyond T-shirts. Chiuri has already had a very successful career, alongside bringing up two children who are now both in their early 20s. At 53, she finds herself in a position to seize a new opportunity in a new country, living alone in Paris from Monday to Friday and returning home to her husband in Rome most weekends. “Feminism for me is about equal opportunities. If I am going to stand for something, I would like to stand for this idea: that if you are a woman you can have these opportunities in life.”
Whether or not you believe that Chiuri’s use of feminism as a brand tenet and marketing tactic is good for the movement, it’s notable that a corporate fashion brand chose to go in this direction at all. Presumably, the company decided that this was the right way to sell the women’s brand to customers between 2016 and today because there are profits to be reaped via this feminist messaging.
Yet over in the men’s beauty division, a different kind of decision is being made — to market products with a celebrity who admitted to saying and doing things that are not only not feminist, but are also objectionable to many people regardless of how feminist they are or not. The team in Dior’s women’s division must now go forth marketing the women’s business — Chiuri will undoubtedly continue to be asked about her feminism and Dior’s feminism as she promotes her creative work on behalf of the house — while her colleagues’ men’s marketing blatantly undermines that position. Surely, other famous and appealing men could have been hired to promote Sauvage that also aren’t known to have called their exes an “overused flappy fish market.”
Business of Fashion recently declared that Sauvage is “the world’s number one fragrance,” citing the brand as the source that it had become “the best-selling fragrance in the world, genders combined.” The piece added:
Dior declined to comment on its strategy of keeping Depp as the face of Sauvage. But the brand may be betting that in today’s rapid-fire news cycle, consumers will quickly move on.
Last week, Balenciaga released a handbag called the “Trash Pouch” inspired by a garbage bag with a price of $1,790. When it debuted in March, creative director Demna Gvasalia told Women’s Wear Daily, “I couldn’t miss an opportunity to make the most expensive trash bag in the world, because who doesn’t love a fashion scandal?” Selling a glorified garbage bag for $1,790 is a choice, of course, but at least the brand doesn’t give consumers any doubt about what’s going on here. This is a trash bag being sold as a trash bag.
Like Balenciaga, Christian Dior is a brand that sells products to people. It’s not a government agency. It’s not running for elective office. This is why many consumers will not expect it to have values, and will therefore shrug off the Depp arrangement. However, the brand blatantly chose a value when it started promoting itself as feminist seven years ago, explaining why many other consumers will be justified in not shrugging it off. That the women’s business operates from a bully pulpit that the men’s division can simply walk all over is not just a bothersome bug of this particular brand. It is a disturbing feature of capitalism in our post-Roe world.
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