Gray Area: Don’t profit off tragedies

Gray Timberlake, Editor-in-Chief

The avant garde menswear brand Bstroy designed four sweatshirts for New York Fashion Week with the names of schools where students were shot to death. The sweatshirts, which feature Sandy Hook, Columbine, Stoneman Douglas and Virginia Tech, were decorated with bullet holes. 

The hoodies sparked buzz and made headlines, but not in the way the designers would have hoped. Thousands of disgusted Instagram users, some claiming to be survivors or to have children who died in the school shootings, flooded the comments on Instagram. 

Bstroy co-founder Dieter Grams claims the sweatshirts were designed just for New York Fashion Week as a statement as well as to raise awareness and empower survivors. However, Grams’ partner Brick Owens however, responded to the backlash in the media and took it as an opportunity for publicity, saying the brand is considering putting the hoodies on the market. 

The new Bstroy line has not been the only recent statement on school shootings. Sandy Hook Promise, an organization that aims to honor school shooting victims and prepare for shootings, has also made recent efforts to spread awareness with a public service video on how back to school time is an essential time to raise awareness for school shootings. While Bstroy claims that their hoodies were created for the same purpose — raising awareness — the difference in intent lies in the profit. 

The hoodies with the schools’ names do their job in making a statement, as they have made many people, including myself, talk about the importance of gun safety and school shooting preparedness, but Bstroy crossed the line in considering putting the hoodies on the market. 

While Owens did not say how much the hoodies would cost, sweatshirts currently for sale on Bstroy range from $180 to $410. Owens also failed to mention where these sales would be going, suggesting they would most likely go straight back to Bstroy, not towards a school shooting awareness organization. 

Shawn Sherlock, aunt of Gina Montalto, who was shot and killed in Parkland, posted on Twitter “My 14 year old fashionista niece was murdered in Parkland. She was a professional illustrator and aspired to be a clothing designer like you. You should be ashamed of taking advantage of her death to make [money bag emoji]. Today I proudly wear her designs.”

Raising awareness for school shootings is important, however, the PSAs made by family and friends of children who died at the Sandy Hook shooting is different from profit-seeking fashion designers who have said they “have a voice in the market.”

School shootings are a rising problem in the United States. They require awareness and preparedness, but they should by no means be a trend.