The quietened rebel: L’Eau sauvage de Dior

Dior chose Alain Delon to embody one of the great classics of French perfumery: L’Eau sauvage. Yet, the campaign does not put the seventy-year-old star forward, but the young Alain Delon, at the top of his seductive power, when he was 31…


The photograph by Jean-Marie Périer, taken in 1966 in Saint-Tropez, underlines the timelessness of a perfume created by Edmond Roudnistka on the same year. The aim of the campaign is to touch both the core target – through the nostalgia of bygone days – and the youngest, attracted by the boldness and irreverence of the Delon “myth”. “This image has not aged. It will allow us to touch both the men who remember Delon at that time and younger customers that will be seduced by his rebellious and irreverent side.”

Because of the Loi Evin and of the brand image, the actor’s cigarette has been erased to deliver a cleaner image: a paradoxical vision where the past is glorified in the oversight of its most disturbing aspects. If the essential accessory of the rebel outfit has been rubbed out, the historical rooting is well asserted again. Indeed, on the mini-site dedicated to the perfume universe, we discover the founding myth of l’Eau sauvage: May 68. The perfume creation took place at a moment in time when youth is said to be rid of complexes or else to love freedom while a wind of change is blowing over the whole word… 1966 becomes “the dawn of 1968”…


To emphasize still more this link to the 60’s, the music of the advertisement film for l’Eau sauvage – “A beautiful Mine”, song of the RJD2 musician – is identical to the credits music of the chain smoking Mad Men series (2007, AMC). With this campaign, Dior joins History and stresses its attachment to the values passed down by May 68. Sometimes considered a “failed revolution” by historiography, it is actually more about a withdrawal to a reassuring and comfortable period: the Post-war economic boom. It is an initiation perfume for the youngest, like a symbol of the transition to adulthood for young men (actually, it is often the first perfume offered) and a memorial present for seniors, like the memory of an “irreverent, conquering but ever elegant” male youth.

Dior carries on the change started since the years 2000 when the advertisement saga of l’Eau Sauvage is personalized, looking for male icons truly able to embody the myth. After Gruau’s posters (from 1966 to 1987), often presenting the man in the intimacy of his bathroom and always seductive, came the decade of anonymous models, arms crossed in a locker-room atmosphere and then the fictitious or real stars, revealed by the turtleneck and the signature “Méfiez-vous de l’eau qui dort” (i.e. “beware of a snake in the grass”, though the French phrase uses the word “water”). Zidane (1999), followed by Johnny Halliday (2000), then Largo Winch and Corto Maltèse (2001-2002) have embodied these values of masculinity, mystery, strength and softness of the perfume.

With this idealized Delon and the change of signature “l’Eternel masculin” (Eternal male), l’Eau sauvage reasserts its iconic and timeless status. All the more so as the flask design, created by Pierre Camin, has never been changed since its creation. Directly inspired from the flask, a male accessory with a strong suggestive power: from the English gentleman to Prohibition, the flask wearing Mr Dior’s thimble is a symbol of rebellion.

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