One streetwear company is courting controversy with a new line of hoodies that recently debuted at New York Fashion Week. Bstroy — a brand Heron Preston described as “the most daring in streetwear” — sent models walking down the runway wearing pieces from its Spring 2020 menswear collection, which included four hoodies that depicted the mass school shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and Stoneman Douglas. The hoodies themselves feature details that seemingly resemble bullet holes — a design decision that many are finding uncouth at best and tragedy-profiteering at worst.
Brick Owens and Dieter “Du” Grams, the Atlanta-based duo behind Bstroy, have received some fashion notoriety for their $1,000 double-edge jeans and for dipping Nike Air Max Uptempo ’95s in concrete, which was reportedly “a commentary on remaining grounded in your history,” according to The New York Times.
“We are making violent statements,” Du told the publication. “That’s for you to know who we are, so we can have a voice in the market. But eventually that voice will say things that everyone can wear.”
But if the backlash to the brand’s school shooting hoodies is any indication, that plan may not be completely foolproof. “This seems somewhat unethical,” wrote one Instagram user, while another put it more bluntly: “Making money off tragedy.”
In a separate post on his personal Instagram account, Owens explained what inspired the hoodies — part of the brand’s “Samsara” collection — in the first place.
“Sometimes life can be painfully ironic. Like the irony of dying violently in a place you consider to be a safe, controlled environment, like school,” he wrote. “We are reminded all the time of life’s fragility, shortness, and unpredictability yet we are also reminded of its infinite potential. It is this push and pull that creates the circular motion that is the cycle of life. Nirvana is the goal we hope to reach through meditation and healthy practices that counter our destructive baits. Samsara is the cycle we must transcend to reach Nirvana.”
Cool story, bro. The fact of the matter is triggering people does not equate to sparking meaningful conversation surrounding America’s gun violence epidemic. Sure, fashion is no stranger to being an arena for provocateurs looking to make a statement. And clothing has long been a tool for self-expression and boundary pushing.
That said, in the era of social media, it’s easy to get caught up in the quest for clicks, views, and viral fame. The line between what’s considered risqué and what’s downright inappropriate becomes blurred. While Owens and Grams are certainly entitled to their opinions and artistry, those traumatized by gun violence — and specifically school gun violence — are just as entitled to criticize the designers for their so-called commentary.