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Gender fluidity as luxury in perfume packaging

Journal article
Authors Magdalena Petersson McIntyre
Published in Fashion, Style and Popular Culture
Volume 6
Issue 3
Pages 389-405
ISSN 2050-0726
Publication year 2019
Published at Gothenburg Research Institute (GRI)
Centre for Consumer Science
Pages 389-405
Language en
Keywords emotional luxury, femininity, gendered luxury, gendered marketing, luxury, perfume, perfume packaging, visual culture.
Subject categories Media Studies, Ethnology, Cultural Studies


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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