Sarees for a long time in history have been draped with pride as a sign of Indian identity for women. Today these nine yards are increasingly getting replaced by jeans and dresses, to the extent that they get pulled out only on occasions. To this trend, the country’s top designer, Sabyasachi Mukherjee delivered a stinging blow to young Indians.
"I think, if you tell me that you do not know how to wear a saree, I would say shame on you. It's a part of your culture, (you) need stand up for it," Mukherjee told Indian students at the Harvard India Conference.
On younger generations preferring western wear over traditional outfits, Mukherjee called it being out of sync with your roots. "Women and men are trying very hard to be something that they are not. Your clothing should be a part of who you are and connect you to your roots," he added.
Trying to the fight the regressive stigma surrounding a saree, Mukherjee said "It's a relationship of misunderstanding. It's easy to wear a saree. Wars have been fought in saree. Grandmothers have slept in sarees and woken up without any folds to it.”
It was not just Indian women’s clothing choices that he attacked but men too for killing traditional wears, "Indian women have kept alive the saree, but the dhoti is dead.”
While proclaiming that saree needs to be rejuvenated, he did talk about cultural appropriation, "I would be very honest with you. I think that cultural clothing should stay within the domain of a particular country, because when you take it out, it becomes a costume and then it does not remain sustainable.”
While Mukherjee’s words were greeted by loud applauses, it did not go without criticism back home. Comedian Tanmay Bhatt, for one, pointed out the behind Mukherjee may ask women to wear saree, but he sells them for an astounding amount.
Mukherjee’s words come at a time when premier luxury lines for saree in India are seeing a resuscitation with brands like Fab India and Good Earth making them trend by giving modern twists to traditional looks for the cosmopolitan Indian women.