Dior’s celebrated saddle bag returned practically overnight in what looks like a thinly veiled ad campaign on Instagram.
You may recognize the iconic mini bag, which ranges from $2,350 to $8,500, and first hit the scene back in 1999 in then-creative director John Galliano’s inaugural, wild west-inspired ready-to-wear show. The bag’s fame was further cemented in 2000 after Carrie Bradshaw carried it in season three of in Sex in the City.
But you’re more likely to recognize today’s revived model after its overnight Instagram takeover. Folks who follow even a single fashion influencer likely noted that they all seem to be sporting the new saddle this morning. But the strange thing is that very few of them disclosed that the kidney-shaped It Bag was actually a gift from Dior.
The trend was pointed out at first by the Instagram account Diet Prada, the digital fashion police that calls out design rip-offs and repeats as they occur. Diet Prada noted that influencers had been posting pictures with the bag on Instagram over the past 24-hours with only a handful of users acknowledging that it was gifted to them by the storied French fashion house.
Some influencers did note that it was a gift from Dior, either by explicitly acknowledging it or using the hashtag #SuppliedbyDior. But this only added to the confusion.
Diet Prada also posted a purported section of the original “gifting” request from Dior, which allegedly asked influencers the following:
“The new Dior Saddle bag will be launching Globally in Dior boutiques on 19th July. To celebrate the launch, we are planning on a huge digital moment and have asked 100 influencers to post images of the Saddle bag at exactly the same time and day.” Dior did not immediately respond to a request confirming the statement.
Diet Prada pointed out that the request from Dior is technically in violation of the Federal Trade Commission’s endorsement guidelines. According to the FTC, when given something to promote the endorser must make clear that the post is part of an endorsement: ”‘The point is to give readers the essential information. A simple disclosure like ‘Company X gave me this product to try . . . .’ That gives the necessary heads-up to your viewers,'” the FTC’s website reads. The FTC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the saddle bag controversy.
What’s more, the campaign is skirting some of Instagram’s own endorsement tools. Last year, the FTC famously sent warning letters to 21 Instagram influencers asking them to disclose whether there existed a “material connection between the endorser and the marketer of a product” including “the provision of free products to the endorser.”
The FTC’s fit lead to Instagram’s paid partnership feature, which made it easier for users to label posts as paid product endorsements in a move to bring greater transparency to sponsored content (the Facebook-owned platform has yet to create a profound endorsement policy, but according to Fortune, plans to develop one that includes some kind of enforcement based in part on the feedback it gets on the new feature). It was surprising, then, that Instagram’s head of fashion partnerships, Eva Chen, didn’t use to tool use to label her own saddle bag post, which was posted at the same time as other influencers. When a follower asked her about the post, Chen noted that she returned the bag later that day, and that no money was changed hands.
So who is to blame? Dior? The influencers? Gullible Instagram users? Precedent would tell us that Dior is likely to get the bulk of the flack if they truly made the request—back in 2016 the FTC slammed department store Lord & Taylor for failing to disclose paid social posts, and ended up settling over charges that it deceived its customers.
This article has been updated to include Eva Chen’s comments on her Dior bag post.