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BSTROY Controversy

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

By Cameron Rubner

Disclaimer: Story speaks about sensitive material — reader discretion is advised

Opinion: Where do we draw the line between making a statement and being offensive?

At New York Fashion Week, brand BSTROY unveiled their new hoody line that used various schools affected by mass shootings. The hoodies were designed with bullet holes, and featured the logos of Columbine, Sandy Hook, Stoneman Douglas, and Virginia Tech.

This stirred backlash due to the serious and traumatic nature of these events. On Good Morning America, a parent of a Sandy Hook victim said in response, “you’ll never know what our family went through, our pain is not meant for your fashion.”

Whether this line is viewed as a publicity stunt to profit off these individuals’ deaths or a statement to bring awareness to gun violence in America, the owner and designer of BSTROY, Brick Owens, said the following on his 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. We are 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 habits. Samsara is the cycle we must transcend to reach Nirvana.”

BSTROY isn’t the first brand to do this. In 2015, streetwear brand FTP released a collection of t-shirts that referenced the Columbine High School massacre. Back in 2014, Urban Outfitters found controversy with the release of a Kent State University sweatshirt that appeared to be bloodstained.

In an oversaturated market like fashion, it seems like some designers will do whatever they can to stand out. But where, as designers and creators, is the line drawn?

Most would try to steer clear of hateful and offensive imagery. However, when you release a collection like BSTROY’s and say its purpose is to highlight the irony of gun violence, it strays far from the “normal” standards of fashion — to create pieces to solely be worn without societal repercussions.

While the hoodies have brought awareness to these horrible events, who in the United States isn’t already aware of what’s going on in American schools?

Owens, the designer, originally stated the hoodies were only used on the runway as an art installation — not to be sold. But, after all the backlash and publicity, he’s considering selling them.

In my opinion, making a profit off of children’s and teens’ passings will not push Owen’s message, but will likely be seen as an exploitative cash grab. While some may think pushing boundaries will bring awareness to sensitive issues, I’m not sure this is the best way to go about it.



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