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Designers Unveil Controversial School Shooting-Inspired Hoodies at New York Fashion Week

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New York Fashion Week is the iconic semi-annual event in which fashion designers showcase their new looks. It consists of a series of runway shows and glamorous parties across the city. The most recent Fashion Week ran from September 6th through September 14th, and featured designers from Badgley Mischka to Michael Kors to Rhianna. 

One of the biggest stories to come out of last week, though, was sparked by a lesser known name on the fashion stage. Bstroy, a label by designers Brick Owens and Duey Catorze, premiered their new looks at a small NYC venue. Their collection included sweatshirts featuring the names of schools where major shootings have occurred, complete with bullet-hole details. 

Owens and Catorze’s sweatshirt designs refer to “Sandy Hook,” “Columbine,” “Virginia Tech,” and “Stoneman Douglas,” four of the deadliest school shootings on record. Naturally, the backlash on social media has been swift. Several victims spoke out, including one commenter on Instagram who said, “As a victim of Columbine, I am appalled. This is disgusting. You can draw awareness another way but don’t you dare make money off of our tragedy.”

All this happened within days of the release of a chilling PSA that’s going viral. Sandy Hook Promise, an anti-gun violence group connected to the Sandy Hook massacre, created the video. It depicts young students using typical back-to-school purchases to protect themselves in emergency situations at school.

The fear of violence in schools is never far from the minds of parents, educators, and students. Recent reports of trauma caused by active shooter drills shows that even efforts to keep kids safe can have a hefty psychological cost.

Owens responded to the criticism in an email to Today. “We wanted 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,” he says. 

Owens continues, “Also built into the device is the fact that our image as young, black males has not been traditionally awarded credit for introducing avant-garde ideas. So many people have assumed our message to be lazy just because of what they’ve been taught about black men. These hoodies were made with all of these intentions in mind, and to explore all of these societal issues. Not just the surface layer of gun violence in schools but also the different ways that we relate to each other and the dated ideas that still shape the assumptions we make about each other.”

He told Today that the sweatshirts were originally only intended as Fashion Week pieces. However, now he and Catorze are considering selling them in their brand shop.

Mckenna Saady is a staff writer and digital content lead for ParentsTogether. Before working for nonprofits such as the Human Rights Campaign and United Way, Mckenna spent nearly a decade as a child care provider and Pre-K teacher. Originally from Richmond, VA, she now lives in Philadelphia and writes poetry, fiction, and children’s literature in her spare time.