Welcome to Fragrance Friday, where each week we’ll be keeping you abreast of the newest and most iconic releases in the dynamic world of men’s fragrances. Born out of the desire to showcase one of the most overlooked, yet versatile, elements of any discerning man’s style this weekly column will help you finesse your own signature scent.
I’m not sure why – well… I am, claiming ignorance just helps me sleep at night – but the Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard case has not only become the seismic cultural moment of the year. It’s also become a lightning rod of polarisation. Discussions surrounding how society engages with both celebrity and cancel culture have been cracked wide open to make room for hot takes on Depp’s successful defamation case against his ex-wife. The lawsuit is yet another example of a generation trying desperately to use a headline in order to (arbitrarily) gauge who is a “good person” and who is a “bad person” based on moral purity or lack thereof.
I realise that’s a strange way to start yet another edition of our weekly Fragrance Friday column, but you might see where I’m going with this. Johnny Depp has emerged as somewhat of the hero from this whole defamation lawsuit. While I won’t get into the arguments for or against that, I will get into how fascinating it is when you look at Dior’s long-standing partnership with Depp, which dates back to 2015 and centres around what is now the bestselling perfume worldwide – Dior Sauvage.
Sauvage has become somewhat of a Chanel No. 5 for the new generation, which favours unisex perfumes. That’s likely why Dior Sauvage has been reported as not just the bestselling male perfume of our time, but one that also leads the female category.
As reported by Marie Claire earlier this year, before the Depp v Heard trial was the talk of the digisphere, one bottle of Dior’s Sauvage was sold every three seconds in 2021. Now that Depp has won the trial, and Dior has quickly put his Sauvage ads back in rotation, it’s likely this jaw-dropping rate will pick up even more as Depp supporters are using the perfume to show their support for the Pirates of the Caribbean actor.
Is it a surprise though? Dior Sauvage is a genuine beauty of a perfume, and the more recent release of Dior Sauvage Elixir only serves as a reminder of that. I took a closer look at the release last October for a Fragrance Friday edition, noting that the Aromatic Fougere has become inescapable when we’re talking about the best men’s perfumes to wear in this day and age. Yes, even more so than 1 Million Lucky.
Dior Sauvage Elixir, which was put together by Dior’s in-house master perfumer Francois Demachy, is defined by the following:
Top Notes: Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, grapefruit.
Middle Notes: Lavender.
Base Notes: Licorice, sandalwood, amber, patchouli, Haitian vetiver.
Yes, this is not a terribly complex bill but it’s one that has been worked quite well. It’s also not common for a celebrity-backed fragrance to actually be worth anything more than say $40 (got to keep those margins wide), and yet a bottle of Dior Sauvage Elixir goes for $205 per 60ml bottle in Australia. Celebrity perfumes are profit-making machines, making fragrance one of the most lucrative endeavours for someone who already has the immense power of celebrity behind them. But most celebrity fragrances fall on the much less expensive side.
Imagine then, how much Dior must stand to make from aligning some Sauvage promotion with the intense publication fascination, justified or not, that surrounds Johnny Depp right now.
And that’s an interesting point of discussion for the simple fact that Dior hasn’t backed away from the house’s association with Depp, even when the outcome of the trial was not as clear. Fashion houses have a long history of stepping away from celebrities when controversy strikes.
Kate Moss was dropped from a bunch of planned ad campaigns with the likes of Chanel and H&M back in 2005 due to public drug use, while a few others distanced themselves from Tiger Woods in 2009 when the golfing legend admitted to several extramarital affairs.
Fashion houses take major risks when they attach a celebrity to a product as opposed to something a bit less risky like a model. As long as the model isn’t also a well-known figure, they are essentially a blank slate for the product’s messaging. Whereas a celebrity inevitably comes with baggage and existing perceptions. This isn’t just past baggage either. It’s everything the celebrity could be involved with in the future, from drugs and alcohol to sex scandals or – since the threshold of tolerance doesn’t exist anymore – saying something offensive in a Tweet.
With the general public absolutely exhausted by the zealots of cancel culture, it’s likely Dior can safely strap in for a very wild ride with Sauvage over the next year at least. While Johnny Depp fever is on the horizon, with all the polarisation that will come with it, it seems standing by the actor throughout the trial will be paying off massively.
I should note that unlike some other celebrity fragrances, Sauvage doesn’t actually belong to Johnny Depp. He wasn’t involved in any bit of the production process as far as I know, but he has always been the face of it. The actor has become synonymous with the scent because of ads he and Dior have been shooting together since 2015.
So does this mean the Sauvage line will continue to evolve? It’s likely. Dior has already capitalised on the fragrance by releasing ancillary Sauvage products such as a body wash. And if you’ve been paying attention to Fragrance Friday, you’ll know that these supporting products are some of the best ways to make sure your scent lasts throughout the day.