Fashion retailer H&M is experiencing a backlash against its much-anticipated line based on the grunge style of heroine Lisbeth Salander from Steig Larsson’s “millennium trilogy.” The 30-piece collection debuted in stores last week ahead of the opening of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” in the United States.
Among some complaints that the line is the antithesis of Steig’s protagonist — a severely introverted abuse victim and computer hacker — more serious arguments about the issue of rape have emerged.
Blogger Natalie Karneef wrote a post entitled “An open Letter to H&M From a Rape Survivor,” in which she says the retailer has “created a line of clothing based on her character: a woman who has suffered a lifetime of abuse, who is violently raped, and who is hunting down a man who violently rapes and kills other women.
“Lisbeth has been through hell, and her clothing is her armor. That's her choice, and it's an understandable choice,” Karneef says. “But you glamorize it, putting a glossy, trendy finish on the face of sexual violence and the rage and fear it leaves behind.”
In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, a spokesperson for H&M apologized to anyone offended by the line, saying: “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.”
H&M has a point. The edgy, punkish style of Salander, brought to life by actress Rooney Mara and envisioned by costume designer Trish Summerville, is becoming a major trend this season. And a popular one at that — the line sold out at Los Angeles stores in 10 minutes according to Summerville.
Leather is a core element of Salander’s look, and the fabric is all over this season from gold studded leather bracelets at Banana Republic to lace-up leather combat boots by Madewell. Another successful H&M collaboration released in stores last month also featured several leather garments. The Versace for H&M collection, and the fashion show marking its launch, exuded a fierce energy albeit more glitzy and tailored.
Lady Gaga is likewise up on the leather and motorcycle inspired trends. In addition to her “Born This Way” album cover, where she is part bike in an odd half-human-half-machine amalgamation, she included leather jackets and moto gloves in her collaboration with Barney’s this winter.
Deconstructed styles were also seen on the runways for fall 2011. Ragged models in all black, covered in fringe and elbow length gloves, fit the part in Ann Demeulemeester’s fall/winter 2011 collection.
But the real trend seems to extend beyond fabric choices and the goth-hacker vibe excellently imbibed by Mara (who chopped off her hair and pierced several body parts for the role). Salander’s strength is what is most closely mirrored by fashion trends this fall. Girly, demure sweaters have been replaced by what Vogue calls “fetish” inspired looks. The key to pulling it off is confidence, and as Salander shows, introverts and computer hackers can wear it as well as models or movie stars.
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