Wendell Rodricks who passed away at his Goa home wore many hats, and with distinction
The man who brought resort wear to India cared about everything from socio-political issues to LGBTQI+ affairs to design space and Bollywood interference in fashion and never minced words while airing his opinion
The first time I met Wendell Rodricks was a little over a decade ago, when I was a rookie fashion critic with a then leading broadsheet. And he was THE Wendell Rodricks, a big deal, "sir" to young designers who tapped on his shoulder for a quick crash course in pattern cutting, feedback on their collections, and then for a few laughs.
He indulged all of them with his magnificent mind. I was one of them.
He placed honesty, mixed with a wicked sense of humour, above all else; he was the first to send a message when he liked my reviews, and the first to pull me up for "succumbing to the system".
In 2009, when I was working on a story questioning the credibility of multiple fashion weeks in the country, he told me, and insisted that I put it on record: "I don't want to idealise or sound stupid, but fashion weeks are about the naach-gaana. It's a circus of money, egos and Page 3 pandering."
Be it socio-political, LGBTQI+ affairs, design space or Bollywood interference in fashion… he had an opinion, and never minced words in expressing them, albeit eloquently. He upset fragile fashion people right and left, making as much of an art of the cutting aside as the perfectly cut gown. He judged and knew he would be judged himself, but he didn't care. Rather, he welcomed it with a loud chuckle and a clever repartee.
Right from the beginning of his illustrious career, he never employed a publicist. He was his best PR. As the social media game upped its momentum, Wendell was a voice you could not ignore. From sharing his mother's prawn curry recipe, his trips with husband Jerome Marrel to faraway places, to posting images of his pets Freddy, Zoe and Zorba, and throwbacks to his blockbuster collections, his Instagram page is possibly the best version of a Wikipedia page, in pictures, that he has left behind.
"He brought resort wear to India, and that is his biggest contribution to our industry," feels James Ferreira.
"What is this?" was the customer feedback when Wendell introduced his resort collection in 1993 in Mumbai. "Back then, Maharaja-inspired dressing and Bollywood bling dominated the fashionscape. Selling cotton in a high-end boutique was unheard of," he had told me.
Three remarkable decades down, his relentless investigation into asymmetrical shapes and Indian geometric cuts will continue to astound through cleverly cut unstructured sarongs, lavishly louche kaftans, daring and dreamlike sari gowns. At once affording him the title of the first Indian resort wear designer.
Wendell's was a curious mind. It was the late Mario Miranda, 18 years ago, who first got him interested about Goan clothing from the point of view of function and tradition. In 2012, his explorations took shape of Moda Goa, a book that traced the role of dress. In December 2018, Wendell's ancestral home in Goa's Colvale village that he has shared with Marrel, his partner for 24 years, took on a new identity — The Moda Goa Museum. It was his dream to make it a home to Goa's oldest clothing, artefacts and accessories traditions. The museum was scheduled to open on March 28.
"Getting into fashion, back in 1986, I quit my high-paying job in hotel management to study fashion," he had said, "It was the best decision."
Thank you, Wendell. Hope you approve of this piece.
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