School Shootings are a Tragedy, not a Fashion Statement

Last month, American fashion label, Bstroy, unveiled a line of sweatshirts during New York Fashion Week that sparked national outrage. 

The show included four models wearing layered ensembles with street-style hooded sweaters boldly displaying rips that appear to represent bullet holes, and the embroidered names of the locations of mass school shootings: Sandy Hook, Columbine, Stoneman Douglas, and Virginia Tech. 

The designer, Brick Owens, said on Instagram: “Sometimes life can be painfully ironic. Like the irony of dying violently in a place you considered to be a safe, controlled environment, like school.”

Owens’ note tried to explain the meaning behind the insensitive sweatshirts, but the message was a thinly-veiled publicity spin..This is exploitation, pure and simple.

“The fact that a designer would seek to profit by glamorizing the school violence that killed our children, Dylan and Daniel, and the deaths of so many more, is repugnant and deeply upsetting,” said Sandy Hook Promise co-founders Nicole Hockley and Mark Barden. The organization started a petition that asks the company to stop “profiting from school shootings.”

Other survivors and the families of victims responded similarly. An Instagram post on Sandy Hook victim Vicki Soto’s memorial account said the clothing line was “absolutely disgusting, hurtful, wrong, and disrespectful.” 

Owens attributed the backlash to his race rather than his insensitive designs. He said, “Also built into the device is the fact that our image as young, black males have not been traditionally awarded credit for introducing avant-garde ideas.” 

But the issues around the sweatshirts is not avant-garde. The issue is the exploitation of victims of mass shootings, using others’ pain for shock value, and making money off of that.

 The co-founder Bstroy, Dieter Grams, said the show was intended 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 the tragedy.”

According to Forbes, the sweatshirts go for $210, and Owens and Grams have yet to issue an apology to the grieving families they offended.