• Charmaine Crasto

Finest footing in fashion: Wendell Rodricks


Fashion designer Wendell Rodricks ( 1960-2020)

A social activist, environmentalist, writer as well as an advocate for the LGBTQ community, Wendell Rodricks has many accolades to his name. However, the one that triumphs them all is, ‘Wendell Rodricks the fashion designer’.

A Mumbai boy, Rodricks was born into a Catholic Goan family. One might think that a renowned fashion designer like Wendell Rodricks probably jumped straight into fashion. However, it was a long climb to the peak of his choice as he first picked up a graduate diploma in catering, followed by a job as an assistant director of the Royal Oman Police Officers Club in the city of Muscat. Displeased by where his life was heading, as fashion was his true ecstasy, Rodricks did not wait any further and kick started his iconic journey into the world of fashion by utilizing his savings to fund his study in fashion in Los Angeles and Paris. His studies paved a path for his professional career that soon followed as he picked up internships in Lisbon and New York in the early 2000s that were critical in shaping his future endeavors in the world of fashion.

In Paris, with his first portfolio in hand and a head full of innovative ideas, Wendell was all set to unleash his flair, only to be advised by a superior to put ‘your country in your clothes’. Wendell did not let this demoralize him, but rather turned this advice into his driving force which ultimately resulted in him having a flourishing career in the Indian fashion industry. Before launching his own label in 1989, Wendell started off his career by designing for Lakmé Cosmetics, Garden Vareli and DeBeers. Wendell's first fashion show under his own label was an ensemble of twelve pieces, with only six complete outfits and was held at the Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai. Post his first opening, success followed which ultimately resulted in Wendell having an unforgettable career in the field of fashion over the years to come. A design member of the Fashion Design Council of India, Wendell had made his mark and went on to be the first Indian designer to be invited to the world’s largest garment fair, IGEDO as well as the first Indian designer to open the Dubai Fashion week 2001 and was also invited to present at the Paris Pret a Porter salon in 2007.

Eco-friendly fashion and resort wear were the trademarks of Wendell's fashion career. However, it was his revival of the traditional Goan Kunbi sari that pushed him up a notch as he persuaded great influencers such as Sonia Gandhi, Pratibha Patil and Priyanka Gandhi to endorse the campaign, resulting in an increased profit to the traditional weavers. Also an active and influential patron of the Khadi movement, Wendell took it to the world stage by promoting it at the largest organic fair in Germany.

Throughout his career, Wendell has worked with numerous big names in Bollywood, such as Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma, Malaika Arora , Lisa Ray and so on and also paid tribute to actress Rekha, commemorating her 60th birthday at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week . However, even after an ongoing successful career in fashion, Wendell in 2016, announced his retirement from his fashion label, in order to concentrate on a museum of Goan fashion he had in the works.

Villa Casa Dona Maria, now the Moda Goa Museum by Wendell Rodricks

The Moda Goa Museum and Research Centre being constructed on the estate of ‘Casa Dona Maria’, a 450-year-old house in Colvale, will be the first ever fashion museum in the state of Goa. The museum is said to exhibit over 800 pieces, carefully created, curated and collected by Rodricks right from the 1990s. Some of the highlights of his collection are said to be Reita Faria’s bathing suit that won her the title of Miss World, an original pano bhaju and even a 7th century Buddhist monastery apsara found in a nearby field.

From being a columnist in the Goa Today, raising concerns over the environment and social issues to starting a helpline for the LGBTQ community, Wendell Rodricks stood firm over what he believed in and always expressed his desire to give back to society. Rodricks talents were limitless as he even tried his hand at writing journals of travel, art and food along with a few acting cameos. He also has three books to his name, one of which is his autobiography, titled The Green Room. All in all, Wendell Rodricks lived a life to remember, even being conferred upon the fourth-highest Indian civilian award, the Padma Shri in 2014 for his extraordinary run in shaping Indian fashion.

Although the death of India’s fashion icon in early 2020 came as a sudden blow to the fashion fraternity as well as the rest of the country, the name Wendell Rodricks will live on forever. Jovial, level headed, earthy and an ingenious visionary, Wendell Rodricks will always go down as a greatly admired son of the soil.

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