Did streetwear fashion brand Bstroy take tragedy too far?
Earlier this month at New York’s Fashion Week, streetwear brand Bstroy sparked controversy after unveiling a line of clothing inspired by school shootings.
Founders of Bstroy and Atlanta based designers Brick Owens and Dieter Grams presented hoodies riddled with bullet holes and emblazoned with names of schools where mass shooting took place: Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech and Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
Bstroy’s Instagram page shares the brands description, a “Neo-Native Menswear Design House.” Owens and Grams have come under scrutiny and have defended their creations as a form of art and expression.
After some of the backlash, Owens took to Instagram in an attempt to explain.
“Sometimes life can be painfully ironic,” Owens wrote. “Like the irony of dying violently in a place you consider to be a safe, controlled environment, like school. We are reminded all the time of life’s fragility, shortness, and unpredictability yet we are also reminded of its infinite potential.”
Grams and Owens sent a statement to TIME, the New York Times, the Cut and the Washington Post claiming their brand simply used its platform to shed light on important issues.
“We wanted to make a comment on gun violence and the type of gun violence that needs preventative attention and what its origins are,” the statement read. “While also empowering the survivors of tragedy through storytelling in the clothes. Arts job is to wring emotion out, what we do with it after is subjective and on us.”
However, not everyone views the act in an artistic light. Family members of victims took to social media to share their views. Fred Guttenburg, whose daughter Jamie Guttenburg was killed by the gunman at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, went to Twitter to express his disgust.
“Under what scenario could somebody think this was a good idea?” Guttenburg wrote. “This has me so upset. If any of my followers [know] anybody involved with this clothing line, please ask them to stop it immediately.”
Shawn Sherlock, whose niece Gina Rose Montalto was also a victim at the Stoneman Douglas shooting, posted a tweet in response as well.
“My 14-year-old fashionista niece was murdered in Parkland,” Sherlock wrote. “She was a professional illustrator and aspired to be clothing designer like you. You should be ashamed of taking advantage of her death to make [money].”
Some HSU students noted that if Bstroy were to donate some of their proceeds, they could be more likely to accept the creators’ stance.
Journalism major Israel Landes said he found Owens’ explanation insincere, seeing it more as Owens defending his artistic choice and saying he thought there were ways to make it clear they were making a statement.
“If at the event, fashion show, maybe just a quick announcement, ‘Hey we’re doing this to represent whatever group, whatever victims, whoever’s being affected by these shootings,’” Landes said. “He could if he wanted to go the extra mile and say ‘Hey you know we are donating X number of the proceeds to families of the victims.’”
Mari Agaton, an art history major, agreed with the charity aspect lightening the grim connotation of the hoodies.
“Coming as an artistic statement, if the proceeds were donated to the families I could buy into it better,” Agaton said.
Owens and Grams met on MySpace while they were both living in Atlanta, and while they initially planned to have the sweaters be only for NYFW, they have stated they’re now considering putting them up for sale.