What’s In A (Fabulous Fragrance) Name?

Fucking Fabulous Tom Ford

Fucking Fabulous Tom Ford

Fabulous. No, not just Fabulous, but Fucking Fabulous. That’s the eye-catching name of Tom Ford’s latest limited edition launch. The sexually provocative designer is once again courting controversy, further pushing his audience (and mother brand) to question where the lines of good taste in fragrance marketing lie. Through the use of ace alliteration and a touch of verbal vulgarity, the Fucking Fabulous campaign has already gone viral. The scent is eliciting a fever pitch of responses from fashion and fragrance followers across the globe. Love him or hate him, this is the genius of Tom Fucking Ford.

Fuckng Fabulous Bottle - Tom Ford

Smells Like Queer Marketing

While the rest of mainstream fragrance remains hung up on gender and olfaction [i.e. “Will Fragrance Be The First Non-Gendered Beauty Category?”, “Can We Stop Calling Fragrances ‘Androgynous’?”, “Genderless Perfume in Vogue”, …], with Fucking Fabulous, Ford avoids getting caught up in this game of olfactive semantics. Instead, he cleverly opts to show, not tell. He demonstrates the powerful effects of his unique style of queer thinking when aptly applied to the world of beauty.

The name, Fucking Fabulous, is dripping wet in queer connotations. The word, “fabulous,” alone gushes queer-ness. Whether it be its more clichéd version à la In Living Color’s Men on Film, or in reference to the comic genius that is French and Saunders’ Absolutely Fabulous, “fabulous” is a term heavily cemented into the queer lexicon. Ford’s choice of its usage here is one of a wink-wink nudge-nudge. Ironically, like most queer topics, watch as more attention for this fragrance is placed on the “Fucking” than on the “Fabulous.”

The Fucking Fabulous name also stays true to Tom Ford’s brand marketing strategy. From his early design days at Gucci, to acting as creative director for Estée Lauder’s Youth Dew Amber Nude, followed by the launch of his eponymous line (not to mention his latest forays into the world of cinema), Tom Ford has become synonymous with sex, body, and skin. Ford openly enjoys pushing buttons. Like so many of the greats before him, his designs seek to challenge beauty’s status quo. This latest fragrance launch is no exception. It is also not without precedent. Fucking Fabulous enters into a tradition of scandalously named perfumes (Opium, Addict, Tabu, Secretions Magnifiques, My Sin…). However, this is the first time a fragrance name has included such an obvious use of expletive.

Estée Lauder as the Betty White of Fragrance

Despite any personal feelings, Fucking Fabulous is a stroke of marketing genius – because of the name, the scent is already garnering a heightened level of attention and scrutiny. It is a viral PR success. Packaged as a limited edition, the scent is also sure to sell out quickly, even with a $310 asking price. The controversy has transformed a standard fragrance into a piece of olfactive history. This news is certain to please investors at Estée Lauder, a company not known for trafficking in such coarse overtones.

Ford’s relationship with Lauder may have also accomplished what so many have tried (and failed) to do in the past. He may have actually made the aging mother brand somewhat relevant again. This could be a very positive transition for Lauder – with some careful massaging of the messaging, of course. While often referred to as “your grandmother’s brand,” Estée Lauder could easily become the Betty White of beauty. While Lauder Blue is never going to be Tom Ford (or Dior, or Chanel…), through continued association with brands like Ford’s, a much-needed repositioning is certainly possible. Think what you will, but Ford’s campaigns are more likely to capture younger audiences than any Aerin Lauder project.

Fab - Fucking Fabulous Tom Ford

The Takeaway

With Fucking Fabulous Tom Ford produces yet another interesting queer performance piece to consider. The fragrance could have been called Absolute-ly Fabulous. After all, absolute has clear olfactive associations, and Absolute-ly Fabulous is a definitive nod to queer audiences. But Absolute-ly Fabulous is too obvious… too tame for the Tom Ford brand… and yes, perhaps too blatantly queer. By calling the fragrance, Fucking Fabulous, the scent stays close enough to the same idea behind Absolute-ly Fabulous. Fucking Fabulous is also far enough away to maintain its own originality. Without being too kitsch or cliché, it accomplishes the same wink-wink nudge-nudge effect. Absolute-ly Fabulous greets you with a knowing smile. Fucking Fabulous wallops you in the head with a hammer. The latter is more suitably Tom.

Tom Ford’s brand of queer is not always be my personal cup of tea. That being said, there is no denying that his fragrances (and fashion designs) demand a response. On the surface, Ford’s creations can appear quite simple, deceptively demure even. But beneath the surface there is consistently a subversive thread: the name, the imagery, the choice of materials… Some minor titillating perversion challenges the overall air of respectability. HIs designs are often a view askew (or perhaps more aptly a fucked form). Fucking Fabulous is no exception. The notes – bitter almond, tonka, orris, cashmeran, leather, and clary sage – are all pretty standard. Imagine a sweetened, powdered leather and musk. But the name subverts these materials. The sweet and demure is bent over and exposed. In a way, the name, Fucking Fabulous, is permission to objectify… an invitation to fuck the form. Without the name, permission is denied.

George Carlin’s 7 Words

Based on initial reactions to the name, it’s hard not to think of George Carlin’s classic “7 Words.” “There are some words that we just have decided we will not say all the time.” Only time will tell how the general public will respond, but I for one cannot wait to visit a Fucking Fabulous counter to find out. For that alone, I say thank you Tom Ford.


What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
– from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet


More Queer Fragrance Posts

– Olfactive Liberation
– You Smell Like A Girl
– Stop Unisex-ing Me
– Breaking the (Gender) Rules
– Let’s Talk About Sex (and Fragrance)
– Queer History of Fashion (and the Untapped Queer Potential of Fragrance)

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