In Style

Written by Annie Beckmann
Photography by Chris Joseph Taylor
March 20, 2012
A fashion and style Q&A with Sonora Jha, PhD, associate professor of journalism and mass communication and chair of the communication department.

Who instilled in you your fashion sense?
The city of Bombay. It’s the business and film capital of India. That city is a perfect blend of East and West, which gave me an appreciation for “mix and match.” With a major influence of British India, the city has stunning Victorian architecture, which instilled in me a love for classic aesthetics. And it has a funky, frenetic pace, which influences the fact that I can never, ever spend too much time putting my clothes together. Even now, I make sure I get dressed in under 15 minutes a day.

What is your most cherished item of clothing?
A tweed coat I designed and got tailored in Bombay a few years ago. It's gray with red wool piping and a red wool belt. It has a classic European cut and it looks great over a sweater dress and black boots. I feel wonderful every time I wear it because it brought out a fashion creativity in me and was tailored by a men’s tailor using Indian tweed and wool. It involved me going through the markets of Bombay, looking for the perfect fabric. All these quirky journeys and yet it looked right at home when I wore it in the streets of New York City.

Where do you shop for clothes and accessories?
I don't enjoy “going” shopping and find very little time to do it, so I do most of my shopping online (I have just discovered a delightful online store called My online shopping is all over the place. But, locally in Seattle, I stray into thrift stores and always get drawn into Banana Republic, although I don't always find the perfect clothes there. I do always find some great accessories at Nordstrom Rack, such as a lovely polka-dotted umbrella that gives me much joy in the rain. I still do most of my shopping for Western clothes and jewelry in Bombay (the city, not the store). My mother and sister (she's in the fashion industry) have a good finger on the city's fashion pulse and I like “vacation shopping.”

When did you develop your signature style?
I resist having a signature style. I wouldn’t say I am a rebel or quirky or anything of the sort, but part of the idea of style is to let it grow as you grow as a person. I don't like when people look like they stepped out of a store window that I can identify. What did you bring to this? So, year after year, I develop “into” a style that throws opposites together—lace with tweed, silk with leather, jewelry with jeans.

How would you describe your look?
If I want to be pretentious, I’d call it, “intellectual chic.” But, in my humbler moments, I will say that I am just a sponge, gathering up aesthetics from wherever I have been, whether it's the streets of my hometown or what I see in a magazine at the dentist's office or in the window of Forever 21 in downtown Seattle.

Compiled by Annie Beckmann
Communication Chair and Associate Professor Sonora Jha, PhD, gets fashion inspiration from places far away and close to home.