Björt Ólafsdóttir, Iceland’s minister for the environment, says that the decision to have a photo shoot inside Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament building, which was used for a British company’s marketing campaign, was made in jest between friends. She claims not to have thought the matter through and says that she understands the opinions of those who consider it to have been inappropriate, RÚV reports.
A picture of Björt, wearing a dress by the British fashion label GalvanLondon, appeared on the label’s Instagram feed. The artistic director of the company is a friend of Björt’s. The minister has since been subject to harsh criticism on social media. She claims that the idea behind the photo shoot was to emphasize strong female role models in Iceland, but has instead come under fire for misusing her power and access for personal interests. In an interview with RÚV yesterday evening, Björt apologized for her actions, saying that the decision was initially made in jest. “I didn’t think it through to the end, and I admit that readily. I can understand the opinions of those who consider it to have been inappropriate. I deeply and humbly apologize for it.”
Björt claims that while other pictures of her were taken at different locations, it was the one inside Alþingi which was chosen in the end. Explaining her reaction to the criticism on social media, Björt remarked, “My first reaction was slight annoyance, since I thought the underlying tone was that it was inappropriate that a minister was showing herself in such a way inside the parliamentary chambers. I admit that that annoyed me”. She continued, admitting that other factors are also at play. “Though I bought the dress, it can surely be interpreted in such a way that I was supporting my friend above others. I have actually often worn other Icelandic design [clothing] in the same room. But it doesn’t matter. I understand the perspective that it wasn’t a good idea since I was in some way showing her preferential treatment above others.”
The picture has since been taken down from the label’s Instagram page.