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Tom Ford is notorious for using sexuality to sell his products, from clothing and accessories to beauty and fragrance.  In this advertisement for Black Orchid perfume, found in many monthly high-fashion magazines such as Vogue and Elle, a very thin female is depicted seductively and leisurely lying on what appears to be a bed.  In one version, she’s completely nude and in another, she is scantily clad; however, in both shots the placement of the perfume bottle is inconspicuous and hard to discern.  This could leave the consumer to wonder what exactly Tom Ford’s Black Orchid is, as well as have problematic effects on the young women typically viewing the ads.

Tom Ford seems to blatantly objectify the female body in his fragrance ads.  Surprisingly, the Black Orchid ads are some of his most conservative, especially compared to those for his men’s fragrance.  This isn’t the first time that Ford has used sex to sell his products – he did the same as Creative Director at Gucci prior to launching his own line.  Because the Black Orchid ads are placed in magazines that young women read, the ads are likely influencing the identities of those women, normalizing visible ribs and provocatively dress (or undress in some cases).  While it may be assumed there is symbolism in using white models for a fragrance called Black Orchid, the brunette shown is Ford’s go-to model and his self-professed epitome of beauty.  The New York Times ran an article on the fragrance when it was released in 2006, and Ford had Old Hollywood glamour in mind when designing the ads:  “For me to put a story back into fragrance and put the fragrance into a beautifully designed bottle and shoot it in a very lush way, this is a reaction to a decade of minimalism that has left people starved for content and substance.”

According to Wharton (2013), “Fashion magazines play a central role in the conditioning of taste and identity for young women and magazines… (and) have an identity predicated on the endorsement of celebrity fashion” (p. 89).  Women have become less dressed, both in life and in ads.  Wharton (2013) states, “From the late 1990s, the concept of glamour has been ever more central in women’s fashion markets.  The body has been on show… Traditional notions of ‘good taste’, attached to restraint and a ‘less is more’ aesthetic, have been largely abandoned by the fashion industry…” (p. 90).

It seems fair to assert that the values of good taste have been thrown out the window in these Tom Ford ads for Black Orchid perfume and replaced with a ‘less is more’ attitude, just as Wharton discusses in the textbook, regardless of Ford’s intentions.  Ads such as these can be challenging to young women whose identities and personalities are forming, because they idealize and promote a culture of provocativeness and promiscuity where sex sells pretty much everything.

*Title lyrics from Jay Z’s “Tom Ford.”

*Note: All of Tom Ford’s advertising can be viewed at the following link: