A New York-based brand is catching heat over a series of designs that reference real-life tragedies.
During its spring/summer 2020 fashion show, menswear imprint Bstroy unveiled a handful of hoodies emblazoned with the school names "Columbine," "Sandy Hook," "Virginia Tech," and "Stoneman Douglas"—all of which were devastated by mass shootings. Bstroy designers Brick Owens and Duey Catorze also added distressed detailing to each sweatshirt, resulting in a bullet-hole ridden appearance.
The provocative pieces have continued to draw polarizing reactions, with many accusing Bstroy of trying to profit off of gun violence, while others have praised the brand for bringing attention to this issue.
Kyle Kashuv, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas survivor, responded to the designs via Instagram:
"I would just like to say, what actual the hell is wrong with you," he commented, as reported by the New York Post. "Goddamn monetizing off a school shooting. Disgusting."
The Instagram account dedicated to Vicki Soto, a teacher who was killed at Sandy Hook, also weighed in:
"As a Sandy Hook family, what you are doing here is absolutely disgusting, hurtful, wrong and disrespectful," the account wrote. "You’ll never know what our family went through after Vicki died protecting her students. Our pain is not to be used for your fashion."
Owens and Catorze explained the inspiration behind the collection, dubbed "SAMSARA," in the following statement.
"We wanted to make a comment on gun violence and the type of gun violence that needs preventative attention and what its origins are, while also empowering the survivors of tragedy through storytelling in the clothes," Owens wrote in an email to Today. "Also built into the device is the fact that our image as young, black males has not been traditionally awarded credit for introducing avant-garde ideas. So many people have assumed our message to be lazy just because of what they’ve been taught about black men. These hoodies were made with all of these intentions in mind, and to explore all of these societal issues. Not just the surface layer of gun violence in schools but also the different ways that we relate to each other and the dated ideas that still shape the assumptions we make about each other."
Owens told Today that the sweatshirts in question were made strictly for the brand's New York Fashion Week show; however, he and Catorze are now considering selling them.
The New York Times recently highlighted Bstroy in a piece about the next generation of high-end streetwear. The outlet specifically pointed to the brand's rebellious take on classic designs and motifs.
"Each Bstroy collection is a blend of high-concept pieces and sly tweaks to more conventional forms, like graphic T-shirts that nod to preppy interests like tennis and fencing, but with the sports gear replaced by guns," the Times wrote.