The New York street wear brand Bstroy’s new hoodies are unremarkable at first glance. They come in powder blue, a dark and worn gray, a muted red and a light green. Each one is stamped with collegiate-style block lettering featuring the name of one of four well-known American schools. They look like any other school sweatshirt, until you notice the bullet holes.
The backlash began immediately this week after the company posted photos on Instagram of the bullet-hole-riddled hoodies with the names of schools where dozens of students have died in mass shootings: Columbine, Sandy Hook, Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Virginia Tech.
The photos showcasing the hoodies, which were introduced at a Manhattan fashion show on Friday, drew the ire of those affected by school shootings, along with many others.
“Under what scenario could somebody think this was a good idea?” Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime Guttenberg, was killed in the Parkland, Florida, shooting last year, said on Twitter on Tuesday.
“This has me so upset,” he said, adding that if any of his followers knew anyone involved with the clothing line, they should “please ask them to stop it immediately.”
On Monday, Delaney Tarr, a survivor of the Parkland shooting, called the sweatshirts “disgusting” and “unacceptable.” She pointed out that March for Our Lives, a student-led gun control advocacy group, sells shirts of its own whose proceeds “go to actually empowering survivors.”
Despite the uproar, the brand, which did not respond to requests for comment this week, found scattered support among those who felt the bullet-hole design brought needed attention to the issue of gun control.
DeAndre Rodriguez, who commented on Instagram in support of the hoodies, said that the idea was “executed perfectly,” but that people were not ready to talk about it yet.
“These shootings were some of the worst in the U.S. and I completely forgot about them till I saw the hoodies yesterday,” he said, adding that he grew up two hours from Virginia Tech and was old enough to have remembered the shooting.
“Nobody talking about how this enrages people more than the actual gun violence itself,” commented another Instagram user.
One of the brand’s co-founders, Dieter Grams, offered an explanation of the concept in a statement to Time.
“We wanted to make a comment on gun violence and the type of gun violence that needs preventative attention and what its origins are,” he said, “while also empowering the survivors of tragedy through storytelling in the clothes.”
According to Time, Bstroy never intended to sell the sweatshirts online, but the intense response may have changed that.
The brand’s other co-founder, Brick Owens, defended the designs in a post on his personal Instagram account.
“Sometimes life can be painfully ironic,” reads a statement on a card printed with the collection’s name. “Like the irony of dying violently in a place you considered to be a safe, controlled environment, like school.”
Bstroy’s spring 2020 menswear collection, Samsara, was named for “the cycle we must transcend to reach Nirvana,” according to the statement, which also refers to “life’s fragility, shortness and unpredictability.”
“It is this push and pull that creates the circular motion that is the cycle of life,” the statement reads.
“We are making violent statements,” Grams, who goes by Du, told The New York Times for an article last week that details the brand’s provocative aesthetic and its hopes for a future in luxury fashion.
“That’s for you to know who we are, so we can have a voice in the market,” he said. “But eventually that voice will say things that everyone can wear.”