In 1982, Baron came to New York with the idea of staying just six months. He brought along his portfolio and within four days he had landed a top job at GQ magazine. Shortly thereafter he was appointed creative director of Italian Vogue and began dividing his time between New York and Milan. He returned to New York in 1990 to open his company Baron & Baron and guide the relaunch of Interview magazine. In 1992 he became creative director or Harper's Bazaar. Through Baron & Baron Fabien Baron has designed very high profile advertising campaigns for many high profile and leading names in fashion.
Baron is the creative director for Calvin Klein and has been responsible for some of Klein's most controversial ad campaigns. In 2008 a TV ad for the fragrance Secret Obsession was banned from US television. The ad features a nude Eva Mendes and at one point her nipple is visible. Regarding the controversy Baron remarked:
You must be kidding me. This country really needs a new president — this country is so messed up,” said Baron. “It’s such a joke and it’s quite upsetting, frankly, how hypocritical this country has become. It’s OK for children to see people killed by guns? Spreading a little love right now would be a good idea.
“She is being a little sexy, but they are not provocative,” added Baron. “They are really well done. The spot is really beautiful — I really can’t believe this is happening.…I don’t know what else to say.”
Sex was designed by Madonna and Baron & Baron Inc. (consisting of Fabien Baron and the photographer Siung Fat Tjia), who also designed the packaging for Madonna's Erotica album and single. The book is largely presented in a style not far off from Andy Warhol's works, namely the famous shot on the metallized plastic cover of the book (a colored reverse negative), which Madonna also used for the cover of her Erotica album.
Certain pages include images that are collages of ripped and pasted prints, proof sheets, entire pages in monochromes and full color, and other collages of photos that look as though they were stapled together. The text of the book varies from handwritten to printed, with eye-bending styles of typefaces and colors. In the French, Italian and Japanese versions of the book any printed text that was not printed in these complex typefaces had the French, Italian or Japanese translation printed over it, and any text that could not have the translated text printed over it was included at the back of the book on additional pages. In the Japanese version, Madonna had any photos that included visible genitalia "scribbled out".
Included with the book is a CD single. It contains a more subdued version of the song "Erotica", titled "Erotic", which was only released via the book (this version of the song was also released in an edited version on a promotional-only 12" picture-disc released in the UK of the song "Erotica"). The song includes alternate spoken verse taken from the book's opening pages.
There is a small photonovella-style comic bound into the back of the book titled Dita in "The Chelsea Girl" which depicts a party at the Hotel Chelsea in New York City. Allegedly Madonna created the dialogue of the comic book when photographer Steven Meisel placed a stack of randomly ordered photos from one of the book's photo sessions on her desk. He suggested she conjure up a story while maintaining the random order of the photos.
The English language release of Sex was printed in 1.5 million copies in its first edition and another 1.5 million in its second (Madonna herself is said to own the very first printed copy of the first edition.) Warner Books only allowed Sex to be printed in the English, French, Italian, and Japanese languages. The Japanese, French, and Italian language releases all received a 1 million copy printing each for the first edition, and since the Japanese version was banned shortly after its release, it did not receive a second edition printing as the French and Italian versions did. The English version was the only version printed in the United States, while the French, Italian, and Japanese versions were printed in their respective countries, and aside from the translated text and differences in paper quality, they are identical to the English language version. The Japanese version was printed on art paper of far higher quality than that of the English, French and Italian versions.
The Japanese version was the only release of Sex to be put into a special box. Although all of the other official releases of the book include the title on the metallized plastic cover as "Madonna Sex", the Japanese language release had the title printed as "Sex by Madonna" on the metallized plastic cover.
Books that were printed in languages such as Spanish, Thai, or Russian are all unofficial and were manufactured without the consent of Madonna or Warner Bros. These versions of the book were printed in a variety of styles, with varying covers and quality.