BStroy and Bullethole Hoodies

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“Stop calling 911 on the culture” t-shirts and “Make America New York” hats continue to dominate the New York Fashion Week runways. Fashion has the power to make a statement and tell a story, though no one was prepared for what a pair of designers had to say through controversial hoodies hitting America’s deepest wound— school shootings. 

Bstroy, an up-and-coming streetwear label designed by Brick Owens and Dieter Grams, presented its Spring 2020 collection entitled “Samsara” this past fashion week. The collection included four collegiate-style hoodies representing American schools: Virginia Tech, Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Majority Stoneman Douglas. What do they have in common? Each have undergone mass shootings; to reflect that, the brand added distressed details, designed to look like bullet holes, to each sweatshirt. 

Naturally, the hoodies sparked public outrage. Once Bstroy uploaded  pictures of the sweatshirts to Instagram, users were quick to attack the line in the comment section. Many were appalled and disgusted that a fashion company appeared to use tragedy for their own profit. Even so, some people backed the brand, saying that it was a way to start difficult conversations about gun violence in our schools. 

After the Instagram pictures initiated controversy, Bstroy released a statement explaining that they intended to bring awareness to gun violence and empower survivors through their collection. They never planned to sell the hoodies but are now reconsidering after they have brought the brand publicity. This makes us question if the collection was designed with the intention of bringing awareness, or if it was a means for the company to derive attention and make a profit. 

This is not the first incident where a brand appeared to use a school shooting as a means of bringing in revenue. In 2014, Urban Outfitters made a vintage Kent State University sweatshirt available online. The problem? The sweatshirt had dark red splotches of coloring, which appeared to represent blood, along with the same “bullet holes” that we are seeing in Bstroy’s line. It was thought the design alluded to when 13 Kent State students were shot– four killed, nine injured– while protesting the Vietnam War. 

While Urban Outfitters claimed that they never intended to promote or sell an offensive article of clothing, Bstroy continues to proudly state that their allusion to mass school shootings was intentional. Survivors have come forward on social media saying how offensive the collection is, and yet Bstroy has not changed the narrative behind their design or made any sort of apology. 

To stand with survivors of gun violence and bring awareness, you don’t have to support companies like Bstroy. Instead, endorse organizations such as Sandy Hook promise and their recent public service announcement video. The PSA shows students using their new school supplies to help themselves try and survive a shooting. While the video is difficult to watch, it doesn’t glamorize school shootings and was created solely to educate the public about gun violence in American schools. 

Fashion can— and should—  be used as a platform to draw awareness to important political issues; however, school shootings are a very delicate subject. The way Bstroy made a political statement was insensitive to survivors and to those who have lost someone in a school shooting. No matter Bstroy’s intentions, the company’s hoodies represent hundreds of students’ trauma and resemble what some may have seen on the days of the attacks. A political statement made through fashion should not distress the group it is claiming to stand with.