02 April, 2021

After causing quite a stir on the internet for wearing a humble pantsuit to her wedding, Sanjana Rishi, a former corporate lawyer turned ethical fashion advocate talks to us about why it is important to look at the bigger picture when it comes to sustainability. And oh boy, does she have some tips for us!

Sanjana is wearing Guldasta cocktail sari & blouse.

“The sari is timeless eleganza. I felt like a maharani ready to spill all the tea.”

Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I'm Sanjana and I am a 30-year-old non-practicing lawyer-turned ethical fashion advocate and entrepreneur.

Where did your love for fashion stem from?
The way I dressed was always a little unique. I think I just wanted to express myself through my clothing choices from a young age. Which sounds cool and all now but back in the day my parents weren't exactly buying my "you're violating my right to free expression" argument over a miniskirt.

Sweet or savoury? 
Savoury, then sweet, then savoury, then sweet.

Sanjana is wearing Gulabo silk dress.

“The black dress is one of my favorite dresses ever. I love the detailing on the shoulder and the fact that I could wear this out as a gown or to the beach or to lunch. What can't a gorgeous maxi dress do?’’

What does it mean to lead a conscious lifestyle in 2021?
I think people miss the point of what a "conscious" lifestyle means in the first place and to be frank, I'm not sure there is any one definition of the term. To me, it starts with self-awareness and linking that to a greater awareness of the world around you. In other words, you have to try to understand all the forces at play, and their interconnectedness, to be more conscious about your consumption. And you have to keep evolving and adapting based on what you learn. This can be tiring, but the more you understand, e.g., the nuances of how a product is made, or where fabric is sourced from, or who is making an item, or what certification actually means, the more "conscious" you become. This in turn allows you to make decisions that are most likely to actually have a positive impact, and I suppose that is the aim of conscious living.

Give us some tips on how to lead a more conscious lifestyle.
Do your research and make informed decisions. I can't stress this enough. Some people may be more inclined to buy something that uplifts a local community, some might be more inclined to buy organic. You have to know what matters to you and whether what you're buying aligns with that.

What makes you smile the most?  
Dhruv, my husband. He's pretty funny.

When did you first dive into thrifting?
I think the first time I went to a thrift store was with my best friend Alexzi when I was 18 or 19. We went to Wasteland, which is a very well-known and trendy second-hand store in LA that at the time had the BEST collection of high waist Levi shorts, according to Alexzi. I was blown away by how unique each piece was and by the wonderfully low prices. From there, I just started to explore more vintage and secondhand stores, from the fancy designer resellers to Goodwill.

Sanjana is wearing Samantha midi dress.

‘’The clamp dyed dress feels so retro and I love the colors.’’

What is your favourite thrifted piece ever?
My favorite secondhand piece isn't thrifted, but an enforced hand-me-down! The sunglasses that my aunt gave me.

Secrets on how to bag the best thrift pieces?
Be on the lookout if you're using Instagram to shop and be patient, both on and offline, with the thrifting process. And trust your gut! If you love a piece and you think you can rock it, don't hesitate to go for the "different" looking statement pieces! They're always the most fun.

Do you ever feel conscious of how you dress or are being perceived on social media because of being from the legal field? We’ve seen female lawyers struggle with that in India. Or women in hierarchical workspaces generally struggle with not being taken seriously if they freely express themselves (whether via fashion or sharing views in general).
I don't actively practice now, so that helps. But I do believe that it is generally true, in and out of the workplace, that women are at risk of not being taken seriously if they express themselves in unconventional ways or make nontraditional decisions. But people are judgy. I'm sure that some people have judged me for leaving behind a great legal career in the US to return to India. Someone asked me if I moved back because I "didn't have what it takes."

Diamonds or pearls? 
Pearls because I'm not trying to lose the diamonds.

Your guilty pleasure?
I feel guilty about doing almost everything fun now. Apparently, the feeling of guilt is the only negative emotion that can actually enhance pleasure, but remorse can be crippling. I have to work on that.

Sanjana is wearing Thelma draped dress.

‘’What I love about this blue drape dress is how it combines a classic “western” silhouette with one of India’s most recognizable printing style: the handblock!’’

If you could raid someone's closet who would it be? 
I just spent the past week hacking through my own closet to clean and organize and it's almost upsetting just how much "stuff" I have that doesn't get the love it deserves. So I am not presently seeking to raid anyone's closet. Please let me know if you would like to do me a service and raid mine.

Our new collection 'Wonderwall' is about that one friend, your soul sister/brother, your JODI, basically your person. Someone whom you rely on for your greatest joys, lowest lows, and darkest secrets. Tell us who is your Wonderwall and why?

My Wonderwall and soulmate is Rangana Kotwal. There is no other single person that I can credit with my growth into the woman that I am today (sorry Mom!). It’s easy for people to see me now and think wow here goes a strong and confident woman, but I wasn’t always like that. I never thought I was beautiful or worthy of love until Rangana and her family came into my life in 2005 and loved me so hard it made me feel proud of who I am. She showed me what it means to be truly comfortable in your own skin and taught me that the only people that should matter are those that love you for who you are, quirks and all. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a total bully at times, but any desire I ever had for a big sister was fulfilled when Rangana came into my world.

What is inspiring your life right now? 
The opportunities of the future!

Photographer : Aditi Gupta