By Natalie Clark
With the approaching release of the latest version of the worldwide phenomenon, ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,’ H&M have launched a collection inspired by the protagonist’s character, Lisbeth. The collection has been designed by none other than the film’s costume designer herself, Trish Summerville. Released in major retail stores, this Thursday, the collection features dark and neutral tones, leather jackets, skin tight trousers and chunky biker boots, pieces that embody Lisbeth’s gritty, mysterious persona.
However, the internet has been a flurry with disgruntled fans unimpressed by the fact that this self-isolating, shunner of society’s style has been commercialised. The utter reverse of Lisbeth Salander. These murmurs of displeasure and annoyance from die-hard fans have now taken a more serious turn.
The clothes label has been slammed for producing the new collection, deeming it to glamorise sexual attacks. Blogger and writer, Natalie Karneef, published an open letter to H&M telling them that their “irresponsible” designs put a “chic and consumerist finish” on sexual violence. “What message is H&M sending to the world? Look at the trendy rape survivor? Look how strong she is, that she can get through all that hell and still wear cool leather jackets?”
Ms Karneef, a rape victim herself, recognises the type of clothes in the new fashion line as a message to men: “stay the f**k away.” The point she makes about how carefully victims of such terrible abuse use their clothes as armour, to avoid further emotional trauma, is poignant and a reason for H&M to have considered a wider range of connotations (other than their profit margins) before utilising Lisbeth as their muse.
Stieg Larsson, the late author of the book, was inspired to write ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ after witnessing a girl being gang raped as a teenager. The raw, emotional and shocking trilogy was an instant success, with the first installment selling over 27 million copies worldwide, allowing many men and women to connect with Lisbeth on a vast variety of levels. Her independence, strength and experiences are what readers engage with making her one of the most important characters in modern literature.
In response to the growing criticism H&M spokeswoman, Jennifer Ward, issued the following statement:
“We have read the open letter by Natalie Karnef [sic] and we apologize if she or anyone has been offended by the Stockholm collection – this has not in any way been our intent. The collection is based on and inspired by the film and character Lisbeth Salander and though we think Lisbeth is a strong woman who stands up for her ideal, we are not trying to represent her specifically. Our goal is to rather offer a collection that we see in today’s trend picture that will appeal to many customers. We do not view this collection as provocative—it contains pieces that are staples in many people’s wardrobes: jeans, biker jackets and t-shirts. It’s all about how you wear them. We encourage our customers to find their own personal way to wear our products.”
The apparent Swedish connection between book and brand made it an obvious move for the collection to be created. Yet surely H&M would have seen that the origins of Lisbeth’s sartorial decisions have deep-rooted notions of survival.
No doubt the brand will see another collection fly off the shelves, as they have stated, the items are all key and somewhat classic pieces of a woman’s wardrobe. At such affordable prices the consumer is just not going to say no.