Sanjana Jon believes in “fashion with a heart”. Her recent show at the Coimbatore Fashion Week (CFW) was about speaking out against female infanticide.


A documentary that showed thousands of foetuses floating in a river in Rajasthan left a powerful impact on her, says Sanjana. “Many of my shows are themed on Shakti, the female spirit, to represent woman empowerment.”


The New York-based fashion designer is also a fierce animal lover, and lives with 40 stray puppies in her house, who she fondly calls her “babies.” A few minutes into our conversation, she drifts from cocktail gowns to the inhuman approach of those who want to kill the strays. Her other fashion shows have embraced the cause of AIDS Awareness, Cancer Awareness, Anti-terrorism and crusades against cruelty to animals.


Sanjana refuses to use leather. “People who speak about protecting cows must bring down the leather manufacturing industries, instead of attacking people for their food choices,” she says. “I want my outfits to be environment-friendly. I am a big fan of khadi.” She is currently working on a line of khadi yoga wear. She also uses Ahimsa silk in her creations.


Sanjana’s shows are lively, star-studded affairs with musicians, DJs and film stars like Salman Khan, Suhasini Maniratnam and Siddharth. Says Vijay Yesudas (Yesudas’ son) and show-stopper at CFW, “As a celebrity, I feel happy to be a part of a cause like this. I have a daughter. And, I cannot believe the girl child is still being killed.”


Sanjana debuted at the Cannes Film Festival and was declared “International Rising Star” at the Vancouver Fashion Week. She has bridal collections, designs for teens and tweens and a lingerie line, as well. “I also design for college kids because they are the most style-conscious of all age groups.”


Sanjana does not think fashion is niche. “Fashion is a certain approach. You can find it even in the smallest villages, where people sport hair cuts of Rajinikanth and Salman Khan.” Before the photo-shoot, Sanjana asks, “Should I wear the dawani? I am a big fan of Rajini. I love the bright colours of Tamil Nadu.”


She calls her fashion, “wearable creativity”. She tries to stay true to the value system of the place where she shows her collection.


What is the point in owning a very chic attire, when you cannot walk in your neighbourhood wearing it? she asks. It is also important to understand one’s body type while choosing outfits. “You can’t blindly wear your favourite actress’s attire. You need to be able to flaunt your assets and cover your flaws.” Her line at The Residency featured flowing cuts, half-saris and cholis.


Recently, she organised the Sanjana Jon Creative Tihar Show with inmates of the Tihar jail; a constructive creative training programme for the inmates.


She is currently working on a Pride of India show, featuring more than 500 models to promote the traditional and cultural wear of every Indian state.


For Sanjana social activism and fashion are not two different things. “For me, fashion is a means to an end. I promote a cause at my show not just for the sake of it, but because I believe in it.”


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