When School Shootings Turn into High Fashion
Bullet Hole Hoodies by Bstroy
This past September, during New York Fashion Week, Bstroy streetwear brand presented their controversial Spring 2020 collection, dubbed Samsara. It was dedicated to the issue of gun violence in the U.S., specifically addressing disastrous mass shootings at Columbine High School, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Sandy Hook Elementary School and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The collection received major backlash for displaying disturbing designs on hoodies which included a range of bullet holes scattered throughout and the school names printed on the front.
According to the Bstroy collection statement, "Samsara was made in loving memory and honor of all the victims of gun violence in schools… [Bstroy] remembers not only those that died but also their loved ones who were left with gaping voids."
The designers took extreme means to honor the victims of the mass shootings and highlight the current gun control situation in America. But this left many people bewildered, uncomfortable and angry. The Marist community was no exception.
Students spoke out in response to the controversy, initiating an important debate: whether or not it is appropriate to make high fashion statements from national tragedies.
According to the anonymous responses, some Marist students felt confused, calling the collection "weird." One of the students explained the reasoning: "Looking at it evokes visceral reaction: it's just not fun to look at." The student added, "I understand that the collection was trying to spread awareness on the cause but gun violence is something that we are certainly already aware of. It makes me think about how those designs are going to affect the victims' families. I wonder if the company's profit will go to charities to support the cause."
Another anonymous response from a student in the fashion design department stated that he felt uneasy because of the personal connection to the issue. The student remarked that "growing up during the age of normalized mass shootings and watching its impact within [his] home state, [he] felt sickened to see the brand use Sandy Hook" as an example. The student stressed that fashion should be "thought-provoking" but "never tasteless." Another fashion student anonymously commented that the collection was "disgusting" and thought that the designers were using the tragedies "as a way to profit money."
Another Marist student admitted that she was shocked when first encountering the collection. The student rationalized her point of view by saying, "I didn't feel personally offended because I'd like to believe that humanity behind the cause was somewhat decent. I don't think that the designers were trying to profit off of the school shootings." To explain her point she added, "According to the statements I've read, I think that the brand is trying to raise awareness about the issue of gun violence and how it affects the modern generation. In this case, the designers were using the platform of fashion as a means of storytelling."
Regardless of supportive, neutral or antagonistic reactions to the Bstroy collection, gun violence is an unfortunate reality we all live in today. A high fashion statement like this one is another example of why America must seek an urgent change in gun control policies.