In conversation with

Ana Santi

Editor-in-Chief Jigsaw

Ana-Santi-Jigsaw

Introduction

Introduction

Ana Santi is out of 28 women writers to contribute to Sonder & Tell’s book Comfort Zones, published by Jigsaw (order here)

Ana Santi is the Editor-in-Chief of Jigsaw and the reason why Comfort Zones, a collection of 28 essays and Sonder & Tell’s first book, has been possible. It was Ana who recognised that there was something in the idea of asking women writers to step out of their comfort zones and write something brave, vulnerable and new. It was Ana who pitched the concept to her team at Jigsaw, who has worked with us to turn the fashion brand into a publisher.

Primarily, the aim of the book is to raise money for Women for Women International, who help women in countries of conflict rebuild their lives – Jigsaw are covering costs for printing and designing the book which means 100% proceeds will go to the charity. But it has also given the fashion brand a completely new way to speak to their customers, through stories rather than clothes. “The Jigsaw customer is smart, funny, informed”, Ana stays, “Instinctively, we felt they would understand and love this book”. Read on for some of Ana’s favourite stories, and pre-order Comfort Zones here (out 30 April). 

Question and Answer

Why was publishing Comfort Zones the book such a brave step for Jigsaw? Have you ever done anything like this before?

It was brave for two reasons. Firstly, we’re a fashion brand not a publisher, so it wasn’t our natural area of expertise. Secondly, we’re in the business of selling clothes, but we haven’t made any money from this at all; we haven’t even covered our costs from sales of the book. We decided that if we were going to do this, we needed to do it properly; to give all the money to Women For Women International.

Why does the project make sense for the brand?

Before I joined Jigsaw, I was deputy editor of fashion trade magazine Drapers, and I remember interviewing the then CEO. My piece started with the sentence: “Everybody has a Jigsaw story”. And it’s true. I have one. The CEO had one. For a lot of Jigsaw customers, they have an anecdote, a personal experience about the brand that stands out for them. The Jigsaw customer is smart, funny, informed. Instinctively, we felt they would understand and love this book.

Comfort Zones The Book Sonder & Tell
Ana Santi Jigsaw Editor

Why did the concept appeal to you?

Give anyone who loves reading and writing the opportunity to publish a book AND write a piece of fiction, and they’ll jump on it. That’s purely from a personal (and selfish!) point of view. Professionally, it gave us a completely new way to speak to the Jigsaw customer.

What were some of your favourite pieces in the book?

I got goosebumps reading Lindsey Hilsum’s letter to Marie Colvin. It was personal – in content and style – so it gives the reader a different kind of insight into Lindsey. You’re used to seeing her on TV, reporting from war zones, not like this. I actually interviewed Lindsey a couple of years ago, as part of a feature on modern day women on the frontline, and she refused to be labelled heroic. I went ahead and did it anyway. I also loved Olivia Sudjic’s short story. I was editing it, but it became one of those moments where you lose yourself in a story, when you can’t work out how long it’s been since you started reading it. It was clever and funny.

How did you push out of your comfort zone with your piece "The List"?

I’m a journalist, and have been for more than 10 years, so I’m very comfortable with that way of writing. My husband is always amazed at how I can write anywhere – standing up on a packed train, at a children’s birthday party. So to write fiction was completely new to me. I wanted to see if I could do it. I hope I have! I also drew on a very personal experience to write my story.

“I do remember this: he told me that if I didn’t want to go to England I should take a piece of paper and draw two columns, one filled with reasons to stay, the other with reasons to go. Then he left, and I never saw him again.”

- The List, Comfort Zones

What stories did you grow up reading as a child?

Everything by Roald Dahl. My favourite is Danny, The Champion of the World. Later on, Judy Blume (“Are you there God, it’s me, Margaret” is still one of my favourite book titles). Less literary – but I devoured them – was the Sweet Valley High series.

What was the publication that made you want to be a journalist?

I don’t think there was one. I think what made me want to be a journalist was a love of reading and writing. I was always good at English at school. Together with French, it was my favourite subject. So I remember thinking – when I was a teenager – what could I do that combines the two? My answer was a journalist, working between London and Paris! I did live in Nantes for a year, but teaching English, not reporting.

What does your role as Editor-in-Chief at Jigsaw entail?

I’m responsible for our content strategy. Specifically, I look at how we can take an editorial approach to the business; I look for the stories that we can tell. And there are so many.

What are some projects/articles that you have worked on at Jigsaw that you are really proud of?

The seasonal Style & Truth magazine. I was surprised by how much freedom I was given. I assumed there would be all these brand guidelines to follow, that it would feel like a corporate look book, but it was as close as you could get to publishing an independent magazine within the parameters of a brand. I interviewed Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Vanessa Redgrave; playwrights, dancers and poets. In fact, we even lined one of our coats with a poem, written just for us by Inua Ellams.

How do you approach writing for Jigsaw vs writing for freelance work?

With freelance work, I can write outside of fashion. And by writing for different publications – The Times, The Guardian, Courier magazine – I can write for different readerships. I like the variety, to push my writing beyond what I’m comfortable with. You learn so much by being a journalist.

What are some of your favourite publications to read?

I have The Guardian and The Observer delivered to my house every weekend, and I spend the subsequent week (before the next lot arrives) reading them. I love newspapers and the ritual of reading print over a weekend breakfast.

What magazines do you read for pleasure?

The weekend, newspaper supplements. My favourites are all from The Guardian – Weekend Magazine, Feast, Review. I love The New Yorker for fiction and essays. And it never dates – I’m still reading copies from last year! I also like Riposte, The Gentlewoman and Vogue.

Who is a writer that you really admire and why?

I know it’s annoying not to name just one, but I can’t. I like writers who play with style and language, like Ali Smith. I did my dissertation at university on Zola, so I’ve read dozens of his books. I wish intellectuals like him were as respected and admired now as they were then. Franny & Zooey and Catch 22 are comfort reads – I’ve read both several times.

What books would you take to a desert island?

Au Bonheur des Dames, Emile Zola
Franny and Zooey, JD Salinger
Catch 22, Joseph Heller
On Beauty, Zadie Smith

Ana's Storylist

Books

  1. Comfort Zones by Sonder & Tell, Jigsaw
  2. On Beauty by Zadie Smith
  3. Au Bonheur des Dames by Emile Zola
  4. Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger
  5. Autumn by Ali Smith
  6. Any Human Heart by William Boyd
  7. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
  8. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
  9. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
  10. The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst

Magazines

  1. Guardian Weekend
  2. The New Yorker
  3. Riposte
  4. The Gentlewoman

Podcasts

  1. Desert Island Discs
  2. Slow Burn
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