Popular high street store Topshop has sparked outrage in the media this month with their
controversial range of scar tattoos. But, do they celebrate flaws or trivialise mental illness?
Earlier this month, high street giant Topshop released a new range of ‘self-love’
accessories, controversially including a line of golden, scar-like temporary tattoos. The
collection was created and designed in collaboration with Lucie Davis, a student of Central
Saint Martin’s Art School, London. Davis was the winner of a competition for second year
students of the school, in which they were asked to design a collection based on the words
‘women and power’. In a statement promoting the range of designs Topshop said “Lucie’s
designs aim to leave a lasting impression by ultimately encouraging a greater appreciation
and ownership of ourselves; highlighting imperfections and celebrating adversity”.
Despite the company’s good intentions, they have been under fire from a large
number of customers who view the range as distasteful and demeaning to mental illness. The tagline of the collection, ‘flaws worth fighting over’, aimed to promote body confidence and
encourage women to accept and love their imperfections, with less taboo designs such as
freckles and moles also included in the range. However, the scar design proved one step too
far for some.
Customers immediately associated the designs with scars left from self-harm,
claiming that the store was promoting these scars as beautiful and fashionable. A strong
attitude that Topshop was trivialising mental illness quickly circulated social media.
Facebook and Twitter users were ‘horrified’ at the collection, one tweet read “@topshop As a
past self-harmer, I find you ‘scar tattoos’ offensive, triggering and insensitive. Beyond
disgusted as a longtime customer. A Change.org petition was started against the
company, declaring that “Topshop should not be normalising self-harm. Or presenting it as a
Not all opinions in the press were negative though. There has been some suggestion in
the media that these tattoos could help to combat self-harm, in that the user would be able to
feel a sensation on the skin on there would be a visible but not harmful mark left on the body.
Cognitive behavioural therapist, Marie Taylor commented that “temporary tattoos of this kind
could have value as a recovery strategy”.
There have also been individuals who do not think the tattoos are related to self-harm
at all. Some customers were appreciative of the range and believe that this type of accessory
can help women to embrace their imperfections and insecurities by adorning them. On
Facebook Dana Batts commented that “gold scar tattoos can have a positive meaning for
those who have a scar or birthmark” and that these tattoos can help people to celebrate their
imperfections as “unique and normal”.
The reaction to this daring move from Topshop was huge and two sided, but with an
overwhelming negative response to the collection, the company made the decision to remove
all of the designs from their stores and their website. The range of tattoos is no longer
available and customers are grateful that their opinions have been heard.