Never meet your idols they say. Well, we did. On a sunny summer Sunday, we chatted with Sanjana Rishi on fashion, the need for sustainability and what becoming a mother has changed for her - and we’re only more in awe of her, if anything! A corporate lawyer turned social media influencer, Sanjana is one who walks the talk - an influencer with a purpose. (Of course, all this while baby Amira played dress up in Miko Lolo and was highly entertained with Daler Mehndi songs!)
Miko Lolo : How did your relationship with sustainable fashion begin?
Sanjana : When I was training to become an attorney I worked with the UN, and that’s when I really learned about and researched the human impact of climate change on indigenous and local communities. From there, I began thinking more critically about what I could do on an individual level to try and alleviate our collective carbon footprint and realized that one of my biggest passions, fashion, was a product of one of the most wasteful industries. When the pandemic hit, I spent even more time reading and researching the impact of fashion and the importance of India’s textile heritage.
This is an imperialist legacy that continues to today: fast fashion continues to exploit workers and growers in developing countries to create profit in the developed ones. The more I learned about the colonial context of fast fashion and fashion in general, the more I felt I needed to support local and ethical brands. 2 years ago, I committed to using my platform to advocate for sustainably, ethically and locally made clothing and accessories.
What does sustainability, and more specifically sustainable fashion mean to you? Is it as complicated difficult to adopt as people tend to believe?
To me, in India, sustainable fashion is as much about labour, artisans and craft revival as it is about fabric choice. Providing sustainable livelihoods is critical. In India, shopping sustainably is actually incredibly easy to adopt: textile craft is a part of our culture and we’ve been producing sustainably and by hand since antiquity.
You have a great presence on Instagram, and are considered one of the leading spokespeople for sustainability in fashion in India today. Is being an influencer something you stumbled into, or was it something you were always moving towards?
A little bit of both. I think I went viral for my choice of wedding attire which is how I built my following initially, but I don’t want to downplay the work and intention I put in to my platform. I had started talking about sustainability even before that, and I’m fortunate it resonated with so many people.
Amira wears the Pobble Unisex Onesie.
As an influencer with a purpose, what is your process while choosing to work with a brand?
I try to spend a lot of time getting to know a brand before I work with them. I like to get to know their processes but also their mission as a brand.
Has becoming a mom changed your relationship with yourself? Is this something you’ve thought about?
Do you ever feel sceptical or worry about putting too much of Amira on social media? Does the family ever raise concerns?
I definitely worry. Family concerns and societal norms aside, it’s not like she can give or refuse consent at this age so it’s up to me to make decisions for her. I’m still figuring it out as I go along, but I know she brings joy to so many people.
Amira is in the Dawn Floater Onesie.
Having a blue tick on instagram comes with its fair share of unwanted attention. You’ve always responded to your trolls with sass. Why do you find it important to call these trolls out?
I will never tell other people that deal with vitriol to respond a certain way—there’s no right way to go about it. I think you should deal with negative comments and trolling in whatever way serves you. It makes me feel better to call them out, and this is the reason why I do it. Sharing it also helps people understand what women with an opinion have to deal with.
What had 16 year old Sanjana planned for life to be like?
16 year old Sanjana had hoped she would have it all, and honestly she would be pretty proud of me today.
Tell us the top 3 life lessons you’ve learnt from your Amuma and Dadda, to pass on to Amira.
From Dadda I have learned resilience: even at 95, nothing keeps him off his feet for too long. This resilience in turn imbibes longevity into everything he does and touches: He reuses and repairs EVERYTHING he owns, clothing included! From Amuma I have learned to find humour in everything in life. From both I have learned the importance of staying active, healthy and self-sufficient, even in old age.
You’re throwing a fancy dress party. What would the theme be?
Come in your best Drag
What would be at the top of the playlist?
60s and 70s Bollywood Disco
Which fictional character would you invite?