Longform

Fashion Foul

When "Emily" first saw Anand Jon in October 2005, he was walking through the terminal at DFW Airport like a rock god: long mane of black hair, sultry eyes, billowing white shirt and attitude to burn.

Blond, blue-eyed, with the kind of fresh beauty that cannot be faked with makeup, the teenager wore a short skirt and high heels as the New York fashion designer had instructed. Her name and those of other alleged victims have been changed.

"Heeeyyy," the designer said, kissing her cheeks after Emily introduced herself. "You are even more gorgeous in person."

Emily, who graduated from high school in a Dallas suburb, was 17 and a college freshman. She'd been corresponding online with the Indian designer since the summer, after being contacted by one of his representatives, who found her page on models.com.

"I like your look," said "Mary C" from something called psiclops.com. "Maybe I can recommend you to some of our clients."

Emily had wanted to be a model even in elementary school. So Emily went to Psiclops, which appeared to be a modeling agency. After filling in her contact information, she received an instant message from Anand Jon, who identified himself as a top fashion designer.

"What makes you unique?" he asked.

As Emily answered by IM, she noticed the designer's questions got more personal.

"Who are you again?" Emily asked.

"Look me up, babe."

On his Web site Emily saw photos of a long-haired Indian man posing shirtless; a click away were runway shots of models wearing exotic designs. She searched his name and found hundreds of pictures of Anand Jon posing with film and fashion celebrities such as Paula Abdul, Michelle Rodriguez, Paris Hilton and Lydia Hearst.

And it wasn't just pictures. The designer had been featured on Oprah and as a judge for America's Next Top Model and had been proclaimed one of the top Asian movers and shakers by Newsweek magazine.

Anand Jon's clothing in Indian-influenced fabrics with elaborate beading and gold embroidery had been praised in magazines all over the world and was sold at exclusive stores. Now he was starting a line of jeans that would retail for hundreds of dollars. Anand Jon marketed himself as the hottest thing in fashion.

A few days later, Anand Jon contacted Emily by phone to let her know there was a casting for models in Dallas the next weekend. He was going to be there and thought she had the look that would be right for his jeans.

"I launched Paris Hilton's career," Anand Jon said. "You could be the next 'It Girl.'"

Emily called her parents. Neither of them supported Emily's desire to be a model and tried to talk her out of it. But they researched Anand Jon on the Internet and came away impressed.

After meeting Anand Jon at the airport, Emily and her father dropped him at the Magnolia Hotel downtown. The next morning, her father picked up the designer, and they met Emily and her mother for breakfast.

Anand Jon arrived with a five-inch binder stuffed with press clippings. The designer was warm, charming and much in demand, reading and sending text messages on his Sidekick phone throughout breakfast.

He assured them he would protect Emily. "I believe a woman's body is a temple," Anand Jon said. "I would never hurt a girl in any way. My grandmother, mother and sister are the most important people in my life."

By the end of breakfast, Emily's parents felt at ease. They didn't know that while her father was putting their name on the hostess list, the designer had given Emily a kiss on the mouth. So when Anand Jon said he wanted Emily to go back with him to the hotel for a fitting, they agreed.

Her parents returned to the hotel later that evening and found Emily eating cookies and milk with Anand Jon in the lobby. Emily seemed poised and calm.

It would be more than a year later—after she had gone to New York to work for Anand Jon and had toured India with his sister and Miss Universe—that a sobbing Emily would finally tell her parents what had happened that day.

In the suite, she claimed, Anand had her try on clothes, then attempted to kiss her. Emily resisted his physical advances. Anand got upset, insisting that she was too cold and reserved.

"I flew all the way down here to see you and you treat me like this?" the designer said. To be successful in the fashion business, he insisted, she needed to be more experimental and passionate, like his good friend Paris Hilton.

He returned to talking about the fashion industry: how she should dress, walk, talk and live when she became an "It Girl." Later the designer poured the teenager a glass of wine.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Glenna Whitley