A BYRON BAY swimwear company has apologised to Hindus worldwide after it incorporated an image of Goddess Lakshmi on its swimwear and sparked widespread religious outrage.
What usually would have been a great honour for any Australia fashion designer ended in disaster for Lisa Burke, the creative mind behind swimwear label Lisa Blue.
During a runway show at Royal Australian Fashion Week in Sydney last week, a model donned a Lisa Blue bikini which featured the Hindu deity Goddess Lakshmi, who symbolises prosperity and beauty.
Visibly upset Indian activists of the right-wing Hindu organisation Shiv Sena were photographed waving images of the model wearing the design as they set an Australian flag on fire during a demonstration in India.
Following the outcry over the inappropriate use of the goddess the swimwear label yesterday released a statement apologising for the design.
“We would like to offer an apology to anyone we may have offended and advise that the image of Goddess Lakshmi will not appear on any piece of Lisa Blue swimwear for the new season, with a halt put on all production of the new range and pieces shown on the runway from last week removed,” the statement read.
“This range will never be available for sale in any stockists or retail outlets anywhere in the world. Lisa Blue has been born out of a love of conservation, spirituality and a respect for all people.
“At no time would we ever have intended that the brand would cause offence.
“The use of images of Goddess Lakshmi was not in any way a measure of calculated risk taking, simply it was a desire to celebrate different cultures and share that through our brand.”
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed was quoted in Sydney media saying the inappropriate use of Indian deities was offensive to devotees.
Byron Bay-based yoga instructor John Ogilvie studied Hinduism for 30 years.
“There is a lot of clothing like that in India with images of the Goddess Lakshmi,” he said.
“But the image of the goddess on the bikini bottom, Hindus would consider that very tasteless.
“As a sign of respect, the one-piece (swimwear design) falls into that category, but perhaps the swimwear bottom was a little bit too far.”
It is not the first time a Northern Rivers company has insulted an Indian custom. In 2005 the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi condemned the name of Ballina-based curry house Handi Ghandi and called the Indian-accented jingle the local business used, “very offensive.”