Brick Owens and Dieter Grams are the co-founders of the menswear clothing company Bstroy, which is causing controversy because it is selling bullet-riddled sweatshirts with the names of four of the nation’s most prominent school shootings: Stoneman Douglas, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and Columbine.
According to NBC News, the sweatshirts come in different colors and were unveiled at a New York Fashion Week show. Heavy confirmed that they were then showcased on the Bstroy Instagram page, where they came more widely to the public’s attention. Condemnation has been swift. On Instagram, BStroy calls itself a “Neo-Native Menswear Design House.”
They are from Atlanta, met in high school, and have been pushing fashion limits since that time.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Designers Were Featured in a Flattering Article in The New York Times That Said They Are Creating for a ‘Neo-Native’ Period & They Showcased the School Shooting Sweatshirts on Instagram
An article in The New York Times featured the men on September 11, 2019. “The hip-hop generation has arrived in luxury fashion. Here, haute street wear’s next generation of innovators and inspirations,” it reads. The story calls Owens and Grams “Brick and Du of Bstroy, post-street-wear avant-gardists.”
The Times reported that “Brick and Du” have an apocalyptic mindset and are designing for a period called “neo-native,” which means “those who have survived will begin building things anew.”
According to the newspaper, the pair have “punk impulses,” and Bstroy’s goal is clothing that is “primal, polyvalent and sometimes mutant.” One of their previous creations: “double-edge jeans,” which The Times described as two pairs of jeans “stitched together at the ankle hole.”
2. Grams Defended the School Shooting Apparel but the Father of a Parkland Victim Had Harsh Criticism
Grams told NBC News that the clothing items were meant to treat the “incidents with reverence and respect.”
“At Bstroy we have always used our platform to shed light and begin conversations on overlooked issues from reality,” Grams said to the network. “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.”
“Art’s job is to wring emotion out,” Grams added. Initially, they were going to sell the sweatshirts, but now they might, he told NBC. ”
However, Fred Guttenberg, the father of Jaime Guttenberg, who died in Parkland, Florida, wrote on Twitter, “Under what scenario could somebody think this was a good idea? This has me so upset. If any of my followers no [sic] anybody involved with this clothing line, please ask them to stop it immediately.”
Shawn Sherlock added her voice to the criticism, writing on Twitter, “My 14 year old fashionista niece was murdered in Parkland. She was a professional illustrator and aspired to be clothing designer like you. You should be ashamed of taking advantage of her death to make ? Today, I proudly wear her designs.”
Owens took to Instagram to try to explain, writing, “Sometimes life can be painfully ironic. Like the irony of dying violently in a place you consider to be a safe, controlled environment, like school. We are reminded all the time of life’s fragility, shortness, and unpredictability yet we are also reminded of its infinite potential. It is this push and pull that creates the circular motion that is the cycle of life. Nirvana is the goal we hope to reach through meditation and healthy practices that counter our destructive baits. Samsara is the cycle we must transcend to reach Nirvana.”
3. Brick & Grams Met in High School in Atlanta & Launched Their Fashion Line in a Subway Station
According to The Times, Brick and Du (Brick is a year older at 29), met in an Atlanta high school and would skip school to “hang out at the Polo store.” They couldn’t find the clothes they wanted so they sewed them, the newspaper reported.
By 2013, they held an unauthorized fashion show in an Atlanta subway station, and two years later, they moved to New York, where they showcased a collection in a funeral home. It was called “Will You Bury Me.”
The Face reported in a profile that Brick and Grams “started the label back in 2012 before the mass influx of streetwear in luxury fashion.”
4. Grams, Who Worked With Matthew Williams, Has Been Firing Back at Critics on Twitter & Once Said They Were Making ‘Violent Statements’
The Times reported that Bstroy is independent but Grams has previously worked with Matthew Williams. The Face reported that the pair are “inspired by designers like Rick Owens and Raf Simons.”
According to Face, their New York “pop up” was visited by “industry big dogs Heron Preston, Aleali May and Matthew Henson.”
“We are making violent statements,” Du said to The Times. “That’s for you to know who we are, so we can have a voice in the market. But eventually that voice will say things that everyone can wear.”
Grams has been responding to critics on Twitter. “O. M. G. Did you just recount your recent (mediocre) accomplishments…here? And to accuse me of attention seeking ??♂️ The levels of hypocrisy, I’m torn between ignoring you and showing you yourself,” Grams wrote, responding to a Twitter user who wrote, in part, “You gave us a reason to hate you when you made those sweatshirts. They will be your downfall and your biggest lesson.”
5. Grams Has Said the Pair ‘Don’t Fit Into Boxes’ & Brick Says They Wanted to ‘Express Themselves’
Grams told Face that the pair created Bstroy because “We wanted an outlet for ourselves and for our friends. Other people who were creative in a similar way. We were considered weird and now it’s mainstream to be into fashion and to not be gay. But at that time it was like, you like clothes – you’re gay. We don’t fit into the boxes that were made for us so we wanted to make a platform for people like us who also don’t fit.”
For Brick’s part, he said to Face that “we figured that if we were to put on shows and to make clothes, there’s enough room for us to express ourselves and prove our ability to express our creativity.”
The Instagram photo above shows clothing from their collection.
READ NEXT: A Tribute to Jaime Guttenberg.