“Don’t Profit From Our Tragedy”

Bstroy, a U.S.-based fashion brand, debuted a collection of “distressed” hoodies during a show that coincided with New York Fashion Week that featured the names of schools involved in deadly mass shootings, including “Stoneman Douglas,” “Sandy Hook,” “Virginia Tech,” and “Columbine.” The sweatshirts seemed to have been made with holes made by bullets. Photos of the clothing were posted to the Instagram account of one of their designers, Brick Owens. Not long after, the hoodies were criticized for their insensitivity and for the manner in which they appeared to exploit tragedies.

On his Instagram account, Owen said the sweatshirts demonstrate the “push and pull that creates the circular motion that is the cycle of life.” “Sometimes life can be painfully ironic,” he continued. “Like the irony of dying violently in a place you considered 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.”

One commenter on a photo of the Columbine sweatshirt 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.” On a photo of the Stoneman Douglas hoodie, one person commented, “My dead classmates dying should not be a f***ing fashion statement.” On Twitter, a spokesperson for the Vicky Soto Memorial Fund, established after teacher Victoria Soto was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, posted, “This is just absolutely horrific. A company is [making] light of our pain and other’s pain for fashion. Selling sweatshirts with our name and bullet holes. Unbelievable.”

This isn’t the first time a marketer has seemed to profit from tragedy. Urban Outfitters marketed a $129 sweatshirt that recalled the deadly 1970 shooting at Kent State University, and La Señorita Mexican Restaurants seemed to recall a 1978 mass suicide that took place in Guyana, South America. More recently, fashion brands have seemed to capitalize on racial issues by marketing goods that resemble black face make-up and nooses.

As of this writing the sweatshirts do not appear on Bstroy’s website. Controversy seems to be no stranger to fashion. Presumably brands such as Bstroy engage in these kinds of activities to gain attention, even if that attention is by no means favorable. In fact, seeking out bad press might be a way to boost a brand’s street credibility. As legendary circus promoter P.T. Barnum once said, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” What do moral lapses such as these say about our culture?

Thank you to #jmcawesome journalism major Emily McKenna for the tip.

Sources: CNN.com; papermag.com

Does This Apple Ad Evoke Memories of 9/11?


Today Apple released an ad for its Apple Watch 4 promoting the “freedom of cellular.” In the ad a woman starts off running, becomes airborne and gyrates in midair, eventually falling face-first into a lake. The images of her tumbling in the air seem to recall famous images of people jumping from the World Trade Center on 9/11. One still from the ad (above) more clearly shows her falling head down, which perhaps is more evocative of the 9/11 images and memories of the event itself.

For some, this may well be a trigger––once again bringing to mind the awful site of seeing people plunging to their deaths (below) to escape terrible fires after terrorists flew two airliners into the twin towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

World Trade Center Hit by Two Planes

One reader on the website macrumors.com likened it to someone committing suicide:

“Woman has a midlife crisis and falls into a deep depression.
She tries exercise (and consumerism) to help with it but is overwhelmed by feelings of fear and lack of control.
She decides to attempt suicide by drowning and for a brief time feels she has regained control.
She fails in her attempt and continues to shut out her friends who call to help her.
Weird ad.”

See the ad for yourself: https://youtu.be/4tfa-n1iSdo.

Does it evoke memories of 9/11 or does it seem to portray suicide?