Sarah Grace Goolden
Fashion is more than just the clothes we wear. It can be art. The avant-garde gowns on runways are whimsical and beautiful but not something you’d wear in everyday life. Fashion can also be used to make a statement or as a political tool. Drag queen and former Rupaul’s Drag Race contestant, The Vixen, consistently sports dresses and costumes with a message. One reads “Black people are gay too.” Fashion is not limited to purely aesthetic or comfort only. However, there is a line, just like in art and media, that should not be crossed.
American fashion brand Bstroy made headlines when they unveiled their Spring 2020 collection during New York Fashion week. Their line featured hoodies with four schools or universities on the front, but with a disturbing twist.
At a quick glance, you might mistake them for any other overpriced university sweatshirt your school sells. However, the schools they chose to put on the hoodies were Columbine High, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook Elementary and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. These are all education institutions that were terrorized by mass shootings. Adorned on the hoodies were a kind of distressing meant to resemble bullet holes. A card provided by Bstroy read, “Nirvana is the goal we hope to reach through meditation and healthy practices that counter our destructive habits.”
Just when America gets done reeling from one mass shooting, it seems another occurs right after. For college students, it’s hard to even remember a time when we weren’t constantly hearing about these tragedies in the news. Primary and secondary school students were born into an era of fear.
The co-founders of Bstroy explained the message they were trying to send with the hoodies in an email to fashion site, The Cut. They said, “we wanted to make a comment on gun violence and the type of gun violence that needs preventative attention, while also empowering the survivors of tragedy through storytelling in the clothes.”
Clothing and fashion can be powerful. It can convey emotion. It can break stereotypes. It can celebrate diversity. However, if the goal of Bstroy’s hoodies were to raise awareness, they weren’t even close to achieving that.
They achieved a tasteless representation of a major problem in America. They are offensive towards the students, teachers, faculty, parents and neighborhoods devastated by these senseless tragedies. They turned the death of sons and daughters into a trend. Bstroy fell flat and did so in a very tacky and crude way.
That is not to say that fashion should steer clear of addressing gun violence. March For Our Lives, a student-run advocacy group, sells merchandise revolving around gun violence. Their proceeds go to supporting the gun violence prevention movement and organizing youth across the country. There are ways to use fashion as a medium for advocacy and awareness. Bstroy did not do that.
The hoodies were originally not for sale but the company now says it is considering selling them. If they choose to give the money made to charities and organizations, I can see how these articles of clothing were a misguided attempt at social justice fashion. However, if they do not, this company is just monetizing the death of 150 children and adults.
This is not the first incidence like this. Forever 21 came under fire for a similar sweatshirt that read “Kent State” with what looked like blood stains.
“Meditation and health practices” will not save a nation from the tragedies it has faced and will continue to face with acceptable legislation. A “destructive habit” is going back to your ex that cheated on you; it is not going into a school building and murdering children.
Fashion is art and can be used as a way to force people to pay attention and to care. However, when there is no substance to the point being made, besides maybe shock value, it is not art and it is not powerful. It is useless as a political message and tasteless as a piece of clothing.