By Lauren Rearick
Streetwear label B.Stroy unveiled its Samsara collection in New York on Sunday (September 15), but rather than inspiring lines around the block for their latest drop, the brand for the “post-apocalypse generation” is facing some major backlash, Fashionista reported. The spring/summer 2020 presentation featured sweatshirts emblazoned with the names of schools — Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, and Columbine — where perpetrators have targeted students and teachers in mass shootings. Along with the names of the schools, the sweatshirts were strategically distressed with rips that seemed to approximate mock bullet holes.
Co-founder Brick Owens posted show notes to Instagram, where he touched on the collection’s intentions: "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,” the note read. “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 habits. Samsara is the cycle we must transcend to reach Nirvana."
While some social media users applauded the designs for “creating conversation,” many weren’t sold on Owens’s explanation. One Instagram user called it “tasteless, disrespectful, disgusting, and horrible,” and another pointed out that “bullet holes are not trendy.”
Delaney Tarr, a March for Our Lives cofounder and survivor of the Parkland, Florida, shooting, expressed outrage at the design on Twitter. “This is fucking disgusting. Unacceptable. Bullet holes? People died. People DIED,” she wrote.
Her disgust was echoed by fellow Stoneman Douglas student Natasha Martinez, who questioned the intentions of B.Stroy’s design. “School shootings are not fashion and you doing so is unsettling and vile,” she added. “Imagine thinking making hoodies with mimicked bullet holes with the names of schools that have endured mass shootings is cute and trendy.”
In a statement emailed to MTV News, B.Stroy co-founder Dieter Grams said the brand’s intentions with the line were 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.”
Grams also expressed a belief that “the mainstream consumer bids to ‘cancel’ so and so,” calling the almost instantaneous reaction to the collection a symptom of “mob mentality.” And while he said the hoodies were never intended to be for sale and were created as part of the runway show, he added that the brand is now reconsidering, even though that is ostensibly the opposite of how many vocal gun violence survivors want their schools to be memorialized.
This isn’t the first time fashion has been at the center of controversy for invoking a mass shooting as inspiration. Four years ago, Urban Outfitters debuted a sweatshirt that was stained with red dye and emblazoned with the Kent State University name and logo, Buzzfeed reported, ostensibly referencing the 1970 mass shooting at the Ohio school, where a perpetrator killed four people. Social media criticized the piece and noted the dye looked like blood. Urban Outfitters later apologized for the sweatshirt and removed it from its website.
Over 187,000 students have been affected by gun violence at school since the 1999 attack at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, according to the Washington Post, and many more young people face gun violence in their communities every day. Per Everytown For Gun Research, almost 40,000 people in America are killed every year from intentional violence, and over 100,000 more are injured. Students navigate surprise active-shooter drills that wear on their mental health, and politicians are taking clear stances about how to stop the epidemic of gun violence in our country.
“We can end this epidemic of gun violence. I think we are fully capable of doing it and that's why our multi-point plan is … not based on theory,” Senator Cory Booker told MTV News about both his own platform, and the greater need for action as a whole. “Every point that we put out there is an evidence-based point of something that would make us safer and more secure.”