Streetwear brand Bstroy is facing backlash after debuting their latest clothing collection.
The New York-based brand unveiled its spring 2020 collection at a fashion show earlier this week, and many Instagram users are calling some of the designs "disgusting" and "tasteless" in response. The garments at the center of the controversy? A series of sweatshirts embroidered with the names of several school shootings locations, including Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech and Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
Each of the sweatshirts also features tattered details and distressing that resemble bullet holes.
Shortly after the fashion show, Bstroy designers Brick Owens and Duey Catorze posted the entire collection to Instagram, including the controversial sweatshirts. The comments showed a range of reactions.
"This seems somewhat unethical," wrote Instagram user @jasperdaileyehhh, while @ttcrp commented "Making money off tragedy."
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Some shoppers saw value in the contentious garments. "u getting a lot of hate but it’s a good message," @kaare_ wrote, while @ayyyokayokk said, "Just so y’all know this is to draw awareness to the gun problem not make fun of."
The majority of Instagram users felt the sweatshirts were offensive.
"There are so many ways to use fashion and clothing to make sociopolitical commentary—this isn’t it. How do you think the parents who saw their children’s clothing with bullet holes through them feel seeing this? Comforted? Empowered? As if we are on the precipice of change? I doubt all of the above," @ktwilkes wrote.
In a separate post, Owens explained the inspiration behind the hoodies, which were part of the brand's "Samsara" collection.
"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," he wrote. "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."
Owens explained to TODAY Style via email that he and Catorze were trying to make a bold statement with the collection: "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.
"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," he wrote.
While the controversial hoodies were initially created just for the fashion show and not intended to be sold, Owens said the brand is considering selling them now.
Still, many consumers worry the sweatshirts send the wrong message.
"The families of the victims are doing so much to raise awareness, Sandy Hook Promise being one, actually working to prevent further school shootings, like with their campaign video “Evan”. They were 6/7 years old, they were teachers going above and beyond to protect their pupils. Please rethink this, support what’s already out there and bring attention to the families’ foundations as that’s how they have decided to honour their children," @tayla.mp4 wrote.
CORRECTION (Sept. 17, 3:03 p.m.): An earlier version of this article's headline misstated the name of the fashion brand. It is Bstroy, not Bstory.