Topshop accused of glamorising self-harm with gold scar temporary tattoos

Oct 14, 2015 at 5:03 a.m. ET

Topshop has been slammed for selling temporary tattoos in the shape of gold scars as part of its new range of accessories which it claims promotes “self-love.”

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The packaging for the “transferable gold scars” bears the description “flaws worth fighting for” but many shoppers are angry that the retail giant appears to be glamorising self-harm and mental illness.

Topshop gold scar tattoos
Image: Topshop

The temporary scar tattoos are part of a “statement” collection created in collaboration with jewellery design student Lucie Davis from London art school Central Saint Martins. Less controversial designs in the collection include gold freckles and moles.

“Living in the age of Photoshop and airbrushing tools, skin is always under pressure to be ‘perfect’,” Topshop said in a statement promoting the range. “Lucie’s designs aim to leave a lasting impression by ultimately encouraging a greater appreciation and ownership of ourselves; highlighting imperfections and celebrating adversity.”

Unfortunately plenty of customers don't agree.

“Disgusted with @Topshop and their temporary 'scar' tattoos. Self harm is not a fashion trend & mental ill health is not a designer label (sic),” Twitter user Holly McCormack posted, while another angry customer, Juliette Rogers, wrote: “the fact that topshop is selling fake scar tattoos like they're a f****** accessory is disgusting (sic).”

Leanne Woodfull added: "@topshop As a past self-harmer, I find you 'scar tattoos' offensive, triggering and insensitive. Beyond disgusted as a longtime customer (sic)."

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Lucas Shelley from Oxford started a petition calling for the product to be removed from sale, saying: “Topshop should not be normalising self harm or presenting it as a fashion trend. Not only is the glamorisation of self injury dangerous for the mainly teenage demographic but harmful for others who have struggled with self harm and see what for them, is a painful reminder being presented as acceptable — as long as its temporary and elegant (sic).”

Topshop responded quickly to the backlash, removing the scar tattoos from all stores and Good news, insofar as retailers are finally realising that customers have a voice, which in the age of social media simply cannot be ignored. As was the case with another fashion brand recently, when Next bowed to pressure from customers and removed its controversial “Happy girls are the prettiest” T-shirt from sale.

To give Topshop the benefit of the doubt it clearly had the best of intentions. A range of accessories that promotes “self-love” has to be applauded. However including scars alongside freckles and moles belittles the struggles that those who self-harm go through. Turning scars into temporary gold tattoos suggests that at best self-harming is merely a trend or, at worst, something to aspire to. The message that mental health is less important than looking good isn't one that any forward-thinking retailer should be supporting.

Perhaps Topshop should stick to what it’s good at — selling clothes — and leave mental health to those who know what they're doing.

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