Outrage is growing after a clothing designer debuted a stunning sweatshirt collection at New York Fashion Week, with many are seeing as an attempt to profit from school shooting tragedies.
The swetashirts made by an Atlanta-based fashion brand feature what appears to be bullet holes in the fabric and the names of schools devastated by mass shootings including Sandy Hook Elementary, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Virginia Tech and Columbine High School.
Brand experts say that Bstroy's attempt at using fashion to make a statement about gun violence in America came across as exploitative.
"Bstroy was trying to use their platform to spotlight these tragedies. The challenge in a social media world is that context is often stripped from the communication," Chuck Welch, founder of Rupture Studio, told FOX Business. What you ended up with, in this case, is a bunch of lifeless sweatshirts with the names of tragedies, devoid of positive meaning in a giant socially networked game of telephone. The stunt did the very opposite of what it was trying to achieve."
The brand faced backlash on Wednesday for posting photos from the show on social media. Critics, parents and family members of victims who lost their lives called the company “repulsive” and “disgusting” for attempting to make money off of tragedies.
“As a Sandy Hook family, what you are doing here is absolutely disgusting, hurtful, wrong and disrespectful. You’ll never know what our family went through after Vicki died protecting her students. Our pain is not to be sued for your fashion,” a memorial Instagram page dedicated to Vicki Soto, a teacher who was murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, wrote on Bstroy’s Instagram.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas survivor Kyle Kashuv also lashed out at the company on Instagram: “I would just like to say, what the actual hell is wrong with you. G---damn monetizing off a school shooting. Disgusting.”
"The victims and their families only perceive an exploitative intent to make money off their pain without any explanation, in an environment that is as glib and fleeting as fashion," Welch, the brand expert, said. "They don’t know or understand why Bstroy created those sweatshirts or what they hoped to achieve."
Amid the controversy, Sandy Hook Promise, the nonprofit formed after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 students and six adults, released a chilling public service announcement on Wednesday that shows kids preparing for the school year with the threat of gun violence every day. More than 228,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since the Columbine mass shooting in 1999.
Other clothing retailers have come under fire in recent years for exploiting school shootings for fashion. Urban Outfitters put out what many said appeared to be a blood-splattered sweatshirt in 2014 that critics said made light of the Kent State University shooting in Ohio in which four unarmed college students lost their lives in 1970 by members of the Ohio National Guard. The clothing store defended the $129 sweatshirt saying the design was "vintage" at the time.
Bstroy did not immediately return a FOX Business request for comment. The sweatshirts did not appear to be for sale on the brand’s website as of Wednesday morning, and the designer has not removed the controversial photos from its social media accounts.