Seattle headquartered luxury department store chain Nordstrom seems to have refused to withdraw “Brahmin” leather bags despite Hindu protest, which stressed that “associating luxury handbags made of cow leather with ‘Brahmin’ was very inappropriate”
In an email to distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, who spearheaded the protest, Nordstrom Corporate Communications wrote: Our understanding is while the spelling of this brand’s name is the same, the meaning of the word “Brahmin” is different and is meant to communicate their Massachusetts heritage and commitment to high quality, hand crafted products.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, had said that cow, the seat of many deities, was sacred and had long been venerated in Hinduism. Priesthood had been traditionally assigned to brahmins in Hinduism; and inscribing “Brahmin” on a designer handbag made from a killed cow was quite out-of-line and was painful to the Hindu sentiments.
“Leading fashion retailer” publicly traded Nordstrom, whose “ambition is to make meaningful, positive contributions in the communities” and which claims “responsibility to create a sense of welcoming and belonging for all”; should not be in the business of religious appropriation, sacrilege, mocking serious spiritual practices and ridiculing entire communities; Rajan Zed noted.
Zed had also urged Erik B. Nordstrom and Brad D. Smith, CEO and Board Chairman respectively of Nordstrom, to offer a formal apology. Inappropriate usage of Hindu traditions, concepts, deities, icons, practices and symbols for commercial or other agenda was not okay as it hurt the devotees, Zed added,
Hinduism was the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.2 billion adherents and a rich philosophical thought and it should not be taken frivolously. Practices/concepts/traditions of any faith, larger or smaller, should not be ridiculed at; Rajan Zed had stated.
Founded in 1982, Brahmin Handbags stated “All of our products are made with genuine cowhide leather, unless otherwise stated”. Explaining its name on its website, it described Brahmin as a New England “term used to describe someone who is cultured and of the most discerning taste”. But Zed pointed out that “New England Brahmin” term was reportedly coined in 1860, while “Brahmin” found mention in Rig-Veda, world’s oldest extant scripture which some scholars dated around 1,500 BCE.
Nordstrom, founded 1901, which claims “incredible eye for what’s next in fashion”; offers “compelling clothing, shoes and accessories for men, women and kids”. It sells products in its 357 stores and on online platforms.