The controversial Topshop temporary tattoos in the shape of scars, freckles and moles with the slogan “Flaws worth fighting for” have faced a backlash of social media cover since their release in October.
The temporary tattoos were designed following a competition for second year jewellery design students at the prestigious Central Saint Martins who created collections centred on the theme “Women and Power”. The temporary tattoos are metallic and the packaging reads “Flaws worth fighting for” and “Flawless? Flawmore”.
The tattoos were designed to highlight and embrace elements of our bodies which we may see as imperfect such as freckles, moles and scars. However, the tattoos have faced a huge backlash and change.org campaign to remove the items from Topshop’s’ websites and stores with the accusation that they glamorise self-harm.
The tattoos are similar to scars of those who have experienced self-harm and could be seen as encouraging this behaviour as a fashion statement. The target audience of Topshop represents a vulnerable and media-led range of young people for which self-harm is already a prolific problem. Records show that approximately one in twelve young people experience self-harm between the ages of 10 – 15, with a 68% rise in hospital admissions for young people due to self-harm in the last ten years.
It is widely recognised that ‘social contagion’ plays a large role in the increase of certain behaviours such as self-harm and suicide. Celebrities such as Demi Levato, Mylie Cyrus, Brittany Spears and Lady Gaga openly speaking about their battle and recovery with self-harm serves to break the stigma of mental health, but also makes the behaviour more acceptable and available to younger more vulnerable audiences. Certainly, Topshop’s market demographic should not be encouraged to “Flawmore”. Similarly, with a vast array of self-harm media available to young people on social sites such as Tumblr, Reddit and Instagram; these behaviours are perpetually normalised to adolescents and serve to help them feel a sense of belonging in a stage of life where they are finding their identity and sense of self.
The temporary tattoos do not account for the shame and pain experienced by those that self-harm who try and keep their scars hidden. The products are irresponsible and the wider implications of marketing these tattoos at Topshop’s impressionable target audience do not seem to have been considered.
However, I feel the tattoos could have some value in a very niche market of those entering therapy following recovery from self-harm. The tattoos could be used to encourage self-compassion and as a means to develop body acceptance following self-harming behaviours. What is clear is that the tattoos do not belong on Topshop’s shelves; the product is at best ill-conceived and at worst, dangerous.
If you are struggling with self-harm and would like some support please have a look at these websites for more information: