High street retail giant Topshop have been accused of glamorising self-harm with the introduction of a controversial temporary tattoo collection based around ‘flaws’ including scars, which have worryingly already sold out online. The connotations of these products are highly offensive to those who have, and are struggling with, self-harm, and, at worst, are actually dangerous. Despite the innocent ‘self-love’ message Topshop are trying to put across, turning scars into temporary gold tattoos suggests that, at best, self-harming is a merely a trend, or at worst, something to aspire to.

The Statement collection was designed in collaboration with Lucie Davis, a Jewellery Design student at London’s esteemed Art School, Central Saint Martins, and comes in packaging with the slogan ‘flaws worth fighting for.’ Topshop released a statement, informing the public that ‘Lucie’s designs aim to leave a lasting impression by ultimately encouraging a greater appreciation and ownership of ourselves; highlighting imperfections, and celebrating adversity.’ However, you wouldn’t see tattoos of broken bones saying, ‘flaws worth being involved in an accident for’, or tattoos of damaged livers entitled, ‘flaws worth binge drinking for.’ Whilst it is easy to understand the self-confidence boost sentiment behind the self-love range, Topshop must realise that it can be perceived to both glamorise and belittle mental health conditions.

“You wouldn’t see tattoos of broken bones saying, ‘flaws worth being in an accident for”

A petition has already been launched to remove the products from Topshop’s sales, and has attracted 1,800 supporters so far. Lucas Shelemy, the creator of the petition which can be found on the change.org website, argued that the glamorisation of self-injury is not only dangerous for the teenage demographic, but also harmful for others who may have struggled with self harm. To sufferers, these ‘harmless’ temporary tattoos may act as a painful reminder. They might present scars as socially acceptable – but only in the context that they’re temporary and designed to be elegant.

The controversial body art has also received backlash from self-harm and suicide awareness charity, Harmless UK. They have regarded the tattoos as ‘dangerous and irresponsible’, arguing that they ‘could potentially promote and trigger self-harm and should be withdrawn from sale immediately.’ To attribute a tagline to scars risks demeaning the struggles of self-harm sufferers, and the gold and glittery nature of the product implies that self-harming is something to aspire to.  A worrying message is therefore being placed upon young and impressionable shoppers, that to be young you should embrace this new craze and subsequently view scars as ‘cool. This is not the first time Topshop have come under attack for selling controversial items. Last year, Topshop was criticised for selling a moto bag stating ‘stressed, depressed, but well dressed’, suggesting that mental wellbeing is irrelevant providing that you are fashionable and look good. Fashion retailer Next was also made to remove a T-Shirt with the slogan ‘Happy Girls are the Prettiest.’ It needs to be remembered that self-harming is not a fashion trend, and mental health is not a designer label.

“We are surely just one step away from a self-harming emoji”

At a time in which it is estimated that up to a quarter of 12-18 year olds are suffering from some sort of mental health issue, there is no doubt that we need to be addressing the issue. But not via temporary stickers. Topshop are branding these scar tattoos as a desirable flaw worth spending pocket money on. We are surely just one step away from a self-harming emoji. It is thoroughly offensive that something many self-harmers are shamed for, and spend a great deal of time recovering from, is being adopted as a fashion statement. Implicit is the idea that scars are an aesthetic choice, a superficial trend, and a teen statement which somewhat reflects a patronising view of genuine self-harmers. It is worrying that these temporary fashion tattoos are reflecting a growing culture of glamorising self-harm. Microblogging sites such as Tumblr and Reddit are regarded as a growing concern by Psychiatrists who worry about their contribution to the 70% rise in the number of reported cases of self-harm in British 10-14 year olds in the past two years. Topshop’s new creation is surely just adding fuel to the fire.

“These temporary fashion tattoos are reflecting a growing culture of glamorising self-harm”

However, Cognitive Behavioural Therapist Marie Taylor has made the case that temporary tattoos could have value as a recovery strategy for previous self-harmers, as ‘a means to encourage compassion towards themselves and improve body acceptance.’ This may be the case, but even so, the place for these is definitely not in Topshop as a fashion accessory.

I feel Topshop should stick to what it’s best at: selling clothes, and leave mental health awareness to the experts. Self-harm is not a fashion trend.

Sophie Morris

Image by Magnus D 

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