London (SunstarTV Bureau): A global fashion brand known for its bedazzled handbags issued an apology and ceased the production of a Ganesha clutch bag with leather lining after protests by Indian diaspora groups in the UK.
Judith Leiber said its goal is to create unique handbags that celebrate different cultures and that it would replace the lining with synthetic after concerns were raised about the use of leather alongside the image of a Hindu deity, given the sanctity of the cow for Hindus.
“We are deeply sorry to hear that our Ganesh bag has caused offence to the Hindu community,” said Lela Katsune, President of Judith Leiber Couture.
“Judith Leiber’s goal has always been to create unique pieces that respectfully celebrate art, individuals and cultures. However, now that we are aware that the leather lining in the Ganesh bag contradicts the Hindu belief system, effective immediately we will be ceasing production on this style with leather lining. Going forward, this style will be produced with a synthetic lining,” Katsune said.
The company has also offered customers who may have purchased the bag, which retails over 6,000 pounds (USD 8,268) in the UK, to replace the leather interior free of cost.
The Ganesha-styled handbag came to the attention of REACH (Race, Ethnicity And Culture Heritage) UK Chapter, a diaspora group with the stated aim of promoting and fostering a positive image of India.
“Does Harrods have a Hindu Problem, why is Harrods deliberately hurting Hindus by selling this. This is not ignorance, this is deliberate. Apologise & stop selling Ganesha leather bags immediately,” the group posted on social media recently, after the handbag was spotted on sale by the luxury department store Harrods in central London.
The store responded quickly by withdrawing the item and said: Thank you for bringing this to our attention, we have removed this from sale from our site.
Meanwhile, British Hindu groups reported receiving several complaints and branded it disrespectful to the community.
“We received complaints and sent it to the Harrods customer services. In the meantime, Nandini from REACH did a vociferous campaign and it was removed,” said Trupti Patel, president of the Hindu Forum of Britain.
“The Hindu Forum of Britain always takes care and raises awareness about misuse of our Gods and Goddesses and runs campaigns to remove offending articles like floor mats, toilet seats and many more,” she said.
Hindu Council UK also reported similar concerns and said the community feels disheartened that its traditions, faith and practice have repeatedly been used as ‘marketable and fashion products’ in the Western world.
“Hindu Gods and Goddesses are sacred to Hindus and they hold deep reverence to them. Hindus leave their shoes out before entering the temple; even at home when praying no shoes are allowed. Animal hides have no place in Hindu worship,” said Rajnish Kashyap, General Secretary and Director of Hindu Council UK.
“In today’s time, when diversity, inclusion and religious understanding is so important, our message to all is to reach out to faith representatives or organisations like ours and take advice. We are here to offer our advice and services for better understanding of Hinduism and its practice and rituals,” he added.