Jon came of age as a self- described party boy in Miami in the 1990s. That celebrity-studded culture, where he met and befriended the late designer Gianni Versace, helped inspire and shape his career in fashion. “Miami was hot then, it was like SoHo, so you got to know everyone fast, and I just became a part of it,” he says. The South Indian-born, Parsons-trained Jon launched his first line at New York Fashion Week in 1999 and has gone on to dress the likes of Paris Hilton (who has modeled many of his clothes on the runway), Janet Jackson and Bruce Springsteen. His sexy, intricately beaded gowns have been sold at upscale department stores like Bergdorf Goodman and Henri Bendel.
Beginning this spring, Jon, 30, is bringing his elaborately styled clothing into the mainstream. His new denim line, Jeanisis, priced from $180 to $340, will be sold in boutiques like Atrium in New York and On Sunset in Los Angeles. Like his other designs, the jeans are a clear reflection of his Indian heritage (he lived there till he was 16). They are embroidered and hand-painted with symbols of snakes, flowers and eagles–some of which are boldly positioned near the crotch. “There is a humor, but also a sexuality to it,” says Jon. “It’s something that we haven’t seen before, and that’s why we love it,” says Angilina Everett, owner of Kush, one of the Los Angeles shops that will carry the new line. Unlike many of the low-slung denim lines so popular today, his run a bit higher at the waist and are more flattering to women with curves. That’s why he’s expecting them to appeal to women in their 20s, 30s and 40s. “A lot of designers design clothes that only look good on certain Hollywood shapes,” says Shauna Stein of On Sunset. “But he designs clothing that could go on a variety of body shapes.”
This spring, Jon will also be stepping out from behind his sewing machine and going before the camera. He’s starring in a reality TV show that he’s developed for VH1 with his friend and “Lost” star Michelle Rodriguez, in which cameras will shoot his daily life as a designer and socialite. He’s also taking a stab at acting, portraying a bad-boy Indian fashion designer in an upcoming lm by “Bend It Like Beckham” director Gurinder Chadha.
His latest plans go along with his desire to transcend fashion. Versace, he says, was an inspiration because he was “more of a cultural phenomenon than a designer.” Ideally, Jon would like to make an impact beyond the catwalk and the red carpet. “I know ultimately I’m just a glorified tailor,” he says. “But as in any profession, if you’re a gloried tailor with a purpose, then the sky’s the limit.”