After clothing company Bstroy made sweatshirts displaying the names of schools targeted by mass shooters, it was shunned on social media. The designer now says the shirts are a commentary on gun violence.
A few days ago, Bstroy, which describes itself as a “neo-native menswear design house,” shared images on Instagram of male models showing off the Samsara collection, reportedly in New York City. The sweatshirts were riddled with faux bullet holes and read, “Columbine,” “Sandy Hook,” and “Stoneman Douglas,” representing three schools affected by gun violence over the years.
A mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, claimed the lives of 13 people in 1999; one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., resulted in 27 deaths; and in 2018, a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., killed 17 people.
This week, Bstroy designers Duey Catorze and Brick Owens posted images from the fashion show to Instagram, where their artistic vision was lost.
“My dead classmates dying should not be a f*cking fashion statement,” commented one person. Another wrote, “You thought this was controversial and thought provoking didn’t you.”
One person wrote: “As a victim of Columbine, I am appalled. This is disgusting. You can draw awareness another way but don't you dare make money off of our tragedy.”
“Wtf is wrong with you,” wrote another. “Cant support u after this,” commented yet another.
But one follower wrote, “Just so y’all know this is to draw awareness to the gun problem not make fun of.”
Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime died in the Parkland, Fla., tragedy, tweeted, “Under what scenario could somebody think this was a good idea? This has me so upset. If any of my followers [know] anybody involved with this clothing line, please ask them to stop it immediately.”
Under what scenario could somebody think this was a good idea? This has me so upset. If any of my followers no anybody involved with this clothing line, please ask them to stop it immediately.https://t.co/VzAlog0TCt— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) September 17, 2019
Actress Alyssa Milano echoed, “This is disgusting.”
Bstory cofounder Owens shared an Instagram post titled “Samsara” that read: "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. 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."
Co-founder Catorze tells Yahoo Lifestyle in a statement, “We wanted to make reference to the victims with reverence. And tell a story that depicts them as heroes.”
The statement read, “....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...”
Pointing to a “mob mentality” in the public’s response, the statement says, “But something interesting happens when making a statement so loud about something so obviously sensitive. People get the opportunity to form their opinions before they get all the information and here we see the internal desire of society rear its head. People seem to want to release hateful energy as a default. Rather than waiting to hear an explanation or assuming [there] is a good one, the mainstream consumer bids to ‘cancel’ so and so. Mob mentality.”
“The hoodies as a device had this function as well,” the response continued. “We get to see ourselves as we are when we are critiques and analyze why we assume in the direction we do. 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. 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.”
The response finished with, “The hoodies have only been shown not sold and the school shooting hoodies were initially intended to be just for the show and not to sell but that may change now. Art’s job is to wring emotion out. What we do with it after is subjective and on us.”
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