Fashion designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee on Wednesday penned an open letter to apologise for using the word "shame" for Indian women who don't know how to wear a sari, but said he is not apologetic about his intent.
At the Harvard India Conference last week, the Kolkata-based designer was asked about the reluctance among young Indian women to wear a sari.
He said: "I think, if you tell me that you do not know how to wear a sari, I would say shame on you. It's a part of your culture, (you) need to stand up for it."
This drew a lot of flak for the designer, who on Wednesday posted an Instagram letter to clarify his stance.
"Allow me to sincerely apologise for the words that I used while answering impromptu questions at a conference at Harvard. I am sorry that I used the word ‘shame' in reference to some women's inability to wear a sari. I truly regret that the way in which I tried to make a point about the sari enabled it to be interpreted as misogynistic, patriarchal, and non-inclusive - this was certainly not my intention," Mukherjee said.
He further provided a context to his words.
"A woman had asked me to comment on the cultural taboo of young women wearing saris because, as she said, society tells them that it ‘makes them look older. What is your suggestion', she asked, ‘for those young generations, to break that taboo and embrace the sari…'"
Mukherjee said it's a question he fields often.
"The ubiquity of such sentiments in our culture, evidenced by the fact that this question was posed to me at Harvard, of all places, was hard-hitting and triggered an unfortunate series of reactions on my part. Sometimes, when you are that invested in your craft, you become hypersensitive to the negativity surrounding that which you love."
Having worked with the sari for 16 years, he said he had "pent-up frustration" accrued for that segment of society which "constantly expresses disdain for this piece of Indian heritage".
"It is this frustration that I unfortunately generalized to Indian women in response to the question, when I now see that I should have framed it as a call to stop shaming the sari and whomever chooses to wear it. I am passionate about textiles and our heritage, and I am sorry that in the heat of that moment, I allowed this passion to be misplaced," he added.
Mukherjee also said "many women, young and old, are scared to have an outing in a sari because it is shrouded in so many layers of taboo and controversy, often citing inability to correctly drape a sari as an exit point".
"I once again apologise for the distress caused by the words I used, but not for the intent, which often takes a back seat when slammed by controversy. My intent was to call out those women who proudly proclaim that they don't wear saris and simultaneously shame others who wear saris by saying it makes them look older, backward, or culturally repressed."