Larsson's anti-heroine an unlikely high-street fashion muse

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 December, 2011, 12:00am


We find style inspiration in the unlikeliest of places. At 16, with little success and to my parents' dismay, I dyed my hair partly bright pink. I wanted to look like Marilyn Manson on the cover of his Mechanical Animals album.

But when I saw H&M's most recent 'inspired' capsule collaboration, I did a double take. A 'Lisbeth Salander of the Millennium Trilogy' 30-piece collection?

It was released with to coincide with the much-anticipated US film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and created by the production's costume designer, Trish Summerville. Aimed at younger customers, it hit Central and Canton Road stores in Hong Kong two days ago. It launched at Colette in Paris on November 28.

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past few years, the Millennium Trilogy centres on Lisbeth Salander. This unlikely hard core feminist heroine takes sweet revenge against the corrupt political system and men in power who abuse women (herself included). The original Swedish title of Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is translated into English as The Men who Hate Women. Imagine if they'd kept the original book title in naming the H&M collaboration.

Does no one balk at the fact that Salander - a supposed embodiment of strength in the face of injustice and violence against women - has been turned into the latest marketing tool for a high street label?

Don't get me wrong. I like the collection's aesthetics. The tight, black leather pants, boyish biker jackets and tough rock 'n' roll T-shirts remind me of those Manson-inspired university days. The hard-edged style is a great reprieve from the cheap hyperbolic girlishness of many high street collections. The character in the Swedish films, played by Noomi Rapace, is well styled and has that radical punk androgyny nailed. But is her fashion sense the point here?

For starters, there's something strange about using a violently sexually abused - albeit strong, defiant and eventually avenged - character to sell hoodies to teenagers. In a Women's Wear Daily interview, Summerville says that the Swedish retailers are much more relaxed than Americans - so they didn't freak out at this tough female character, with a sexual past, becoming their style icon.

But that's beside the point. Isn't this collaboration tragically missing the whole purpose of Salander's character and her story?

According to Summerville, we'd all like a bit of Salander's fearlessness. As a fan of the books, I rather agree. But I like to think something so hard earned could not be so easily obtained by buying US$3.95 tribal style earrings or a US$199 leather jacket. Salander's character is fictional, but her defining issues are certainly not.