Why? Lex Houser and Andi Cross, the 26-year-olds who run the EDM (electronic dance music) themed t-shirt line, whipped up a custom tee for a friend–who is a fan of Swift–to wear to her concert. You can see it above, left: It simply lists the last names of men who Swift has been linked with. The shirt was a joke, but as soon as Houser and Cross posted the shirt to their Instagram page, things turned not so funny real fast: the Swifties (Taylor Swift’s massive fan base) had found them and they were pissed.
They started bombarding the company with requests to remove the shirt. “They keep telling me to take it off the site, but it wasn’t on the site, so I guess they wanted me to take down the picture [from Instagram],” Houser explains. “So I took down the picture–I don’t really care–and then they kept going. It got worse and worse.”
“Finally I just responded to one and I was like, ‘It’s gone, what do you want?’ And they were like, ‘Oh, you think just because it’s gone that this is over? Just wait until you see what happens to you.’”
So rather than pulling the shirt, BKC figured they could make a profit from the attention by selling what they felt was a “cool shirt” and put it into production. (It’s $19.99, if you’re so inclined). Plus, they didn’t want to cave to the demands of teens. “Andi and I both had a history of being cyber bullied growing up, and these kids are thinking if they just tell us that they’re going to kill us and that 30 million people are going to attack us, that we would just do what they said,” she adds. “That rubbed us the wrong way.”
Feeling pretty bolstered by their successful takedown of a similarly-themed Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirt, the Swifties went in for the kill. “That’s what all these girls are saying–’We took Abercrombie down in three hours, obviously we’re going to take you down because we’ve never even heard of you!’” Houser says.
“And I’m just thinking to myself, that’s why you’re not going to take us down, because we don’t have to. Abercrombie has to because you’re their demographic, but you’re not ours and we’re not this ginormous company so we don’t have to follow any protocol so we’re leaving it up.”
Swifties began attacking BKC en masse through phone calls, emails, and naturally, Twitter. Per a blogpost by Cross, they threatened to burn down the store (which is near impossible, since it’s, you know, online), to kill the employees with knives and guns, called the women “uneducated faggots,” and told them “that everything [they] stood for was worse than Hitler and the assassination of millions of Jews.” (You can check out the highlights on BKC’s Tumblr.)
While the women are saving every single text and email they’ve received in case they need to report anything to the authorities, they’re not scared of the threats. “It does scare me to think that if this is going on with us, that this is going on with real kids in real schools,” Houser says. “In all my days of being bullied, I have never experienced anything of this magnitude,” Cross added.
The one concession that BKC did make was the removal of Cory Monteith’s name after his tragic passing this weekend, something Cross hopes will open these kids’ eyes. “We both are really just sad that these children look at life in such a different manner than what I ever thought possible, and I hope they realize that the hate is not worth it,” she tells us. “People die at 31 in the blink of an eye. Cory was a good person and he died–Lex had a personal relationship with him when she was in LA–and life is precious, it can be gone in a second.”
They don’t expect to hear from Swift or her PR team, but they do hope these girls will learn a valuable lesson. “It’s easier to spend your time and your energy on things that will make the universe a better place,” Cross tells us, “and hopefully this whole thing will help at least a couple of kids realize that sending death threats and hate isn’t necessarily the best use of their energy.”
While some Swift fans have since apologized, both Houser and Cross tell us the messages are ongoing.