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Gender fluidity as luxury in perfume packaging

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As the world changes, so do perceptions of luxury. Consequently, the luxury industry’s efforts to capture the consumer’s imagination also change. Traditionally, the visual language that is used to market perfumes builds on a heterosexual logic; by objectifying and subordinating the feminine subject and portraying ‘her’ as desirable to an internalized male gaze. However, if you want the best money can buy, why would you subject yourself to such subordination? To deal with this seeming paradox, the marketing of luxury perfumes has, in the last decade, increasingly portrayed gender identity as something fluid. A new discerning consumer has emerged; a customer who is not constrained to making conventional product choices that are based on price and quality. More and more diverse concepts of ‘consumer types’ and ‘identities’ have emerged, where notions of gender rigidity are challenged, by blending and blurring the categories of masculine, feminine, unisex and androgynous. According to many perfume brands, consumers are now free to choose and rise above (and even break free from) the stereotypes previously represented by the industry. This article presents the argument that that these shifting representations of gender should be interpreted as ways of enacting luxury, congruent with definitions of luxury as ‘emotional’ and ‘self-pleasure’, instead of indicative of a real change in the luxury industry’s view on gender identity. Gender fluidity is only presented as ‘luxury for women’, thereby indicating that freedom from structures is qualified as luxury for women. Therefore, the marketing representations employed in the perfume industry express a commodification of gender fluidity rather than the dissolution of gender categories.
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Keywords: emotional luxury; femininity; gendered luxury; gendered marketing; luxury; perfume; perfume packaging; visual culture

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Gothenburg

Publication date: October 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • Fashion, Style & Popular Culture is a peer-reviewed journal specifically dedicated to the area of fashion scholarship and its interfacings with popular culture. It was established to provide an interdisciplinary environment for fashion academics and practitioners to publish innovative scholarship in all aspects of fashion and popular culture relating to design, textiles, production, promotion, consumption and appearance-related products and services. Articles related to history, manufacturing, aesthetics, sourcing, marketing, branding, merchandising, retailing, technology, psychological/sociological aspects of dress, style, body image, and cultural identities, as well as purchasing, shopping, and the ways and means consumers construct identity as associated to Fashion, Style & Popular Culture are welcomed. The journal offers a broad range of written and visual scholarship and includes works done through various methods of research. We welcome conceptual, theoretical and translational applied research in the areas of fashion, style and popular culture. This journal hopes to stimulate new discussions in the fashion disciplines and to push the envelope of scholarship by welcoming new and established scholars to submit their works.

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