Wendell Rodricks (28 May 1960 – 12 February 2020) was an Indian fashion designer and author based in the Indian state of Goa. He was also an activist for social causes, the environment, and gay rights. In 2014, the Government of India conferred upon him its fourth-highest civilian award, the Padma Shri.
Rodricks at the launch of his book Poskem: Goans In The Shadows in Mumbai in 2017
|Born||28 May 1960|
|Died||12 February 2020(aged 59)|
Jerome Marrel (m. 2002)
Rodricks was born on 28 May 1960 into a Goan Catholic family. He grew up in Mumbai and attended St. Michael's High School in Mahim. After completing school, he took a graduate diploma in catering. After this, he joined as Assistant Director of the Royal Oman Police (ROP) Officers Club in the city of Muscat in 1982. However, he did not pursue these professions but moved to fashion designing. He began by using his savings to study fashion in Los Angeles and Paris. In the early 2000s, he completed internships at the National Museum of Costume and Fashion in Lisbon (on the conservation of pre-21st century garments) and the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York City (on modern garments, under the museum's director, Valerie Steele).
Rodricks began his career in fashion by designing for Garden Vareli, Lakmé Cosmetics and DeBeers. When in Paris with his first portfolio in hand, he was advised to put "your country in your clothes". He launched his own label in 1989 with his first show held at the Regal Room of the Oberoi Hotel, Mumbai. His first collection consisted of twelve ensembles, with model Mehr Jesia. Out of these, only six were complete outfits. He did not have enough funds for supplying all models with shoes or bottoms for their organza tunics. Henceforth, Rodricks' work involved a wide range of fashion, from lecturing on world costume history (at SNDT Women's University) to fashion journalism and styling for international advertising campaigns. He was the first Indian designer to be invited to IGEDO (the world's largest garment fair) in 1995; the first Indian designer to open the Dubai Fashion Week in 2001; and was invited to present at the Paris Fashion Week Pret a Porter salon in 2007. He was a fellow design member of the Fashion Design Council of India.
Rodricks was known for pioneering the idea of resort wear and for advocating eco-friendly fashion. In 2010, he revived the traditional Goan attire of the kunbi sari. He convinced Pratibha Patil, Priyanka Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi to be its patrons, thus increasing the cost from a meagre Rs. 700 to more than Rs. 7000, for the benefit of the weavers. He was also a part of the khadi movement, and even promoted it at the world's largest organic fair, BioFach, at Nuremberg, Germany, in 2011 when he was invited there. In 2017, he presented a collection for plus-size women at the Lakme Fashion Week in 2017.
Rodricks dressed many over the decades. When his close friend Lisa Ray decided to get married in 2012, she chose a gown designed by him. In 2014, he paid tribute to actress Rekha at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WIFW), on the occasion of her 60th birthday. Rodricks helped Deepika Padukone, who had been modelling with him for roughly two years then, grab her role in Om Shanti Om by recommending her to Malaika Arora, who in turn recommended her to Farah Khan in 2007. He also helped Anushka Sharma, launching her as a model in his 2007 Les Vamps Show at the Lakme Fashion Week and encouraged her to move to Mumbai when she was just 18 years old.
In 2016, he announced his retirement from his label, to concentrate on his museum. He handed over creative control to his student, Schulen Fernandes, who first worked with him in 1999.
In 1998, Mario Miranda requested Rodricks to write a chapter on the history of the Pano Bhaju, a traditional outfit worn to perform the mando in Goa. This inspired Rodricks to research it in detail. He interned in Lisbon and New York City, learned the Portuguese language to be able to read relevant documents, and finally traced its history to the Silk route. He finally published the results of his years of research on Goa's costumes in his first book, Moda Goa: History and Style, in 2012.
In 2017, he released Poskem: Goans in the Shadows. It is a work of fiction about poskem, the adopted children of well-off Goan families, who are never treated with respect, and in some cases are even victims of abuse. The book features illustrations by Mario Miranda.
|Year of Publication||Name||Notes||Reference|
|2012||Moda Goa: History and Style||Goan Fashion|||
|2012||The Green Room||Autobiography|||
|2017||Poskem: Goans in the Shadows|||
From 1993 on Rodricks resided in a 450-year old house in Colvale, named "Casa Dona Maria". In 2016, he and his husband moved to a smaller house nearby to convert the larger one into a museum of Goan fashion, Named the "Moda Goa Museum and Research Centre". The museum is now slated to open to the public in March 2020. Rodricks worked on collecting exhibits for it since 1998, when he began his research into Goa's costumes and clothing. He had since collected 800 exhibits, ranging from an original pano bhaju, to Reita Faria's bathing suit (which won her the title of Miss World in 1966), to an apsara found in a nearby field dating to a Buddhist monastery from the 7th century.
Rodricks wrote a column in the Goa-based monthly Goa Today, where he often raised issues of social concerns and the environment. In the mid-2000s, he began a mailing list with Margaret Mascarenhas, urging citizens to report cases of lack of waste management. He spoke out against the IRFW (India Resort Fashion Week) in 2012 stating that it "damages the environment". In 2018, he started a helpline for the LGBTQ community with the help of Ruby Almeida, the co-chair of Global Network of Rainbow Catholics. In 2019, he petitioned against the demolition of a 100-year old church in Colvale, Goa. He had previously closed one of his boutiques in a resort owned by a mine owner, in protest of the illegal mining in Goa. He also unsuccessfully campaigned against the cutting down of six mango trees to make a highway in Colvale, citing that they were more than 200 years old.
Rodricks died on 12 February 2020 at his home in Goa at the age of 59. On 13 February, the Goa Police announced that they were still investigating the cause of his death, although it was allegedly reported that he had been suffering from a prolonged illness. A close friend of his reported that he had died due to heart failure during an afternoon nap. His funeral was held on 13 February at the St Francis of Assisi Church, Colvale, Goa.
In December 2016, Rodricks displayed his collection of the history of Goan costumes at the Serendipity Arts Festival. However, Goa University's professor and head of the history department Dr. Pratima Kamat pointed out historical inaccuracies in the text displayed alongside the exhibits.
In 2018, Rodricks accused Payal Khandwala, whom he had previously mentored, of copying his technique of pleating the fabric.
Rodricks was homosexual and married Jerome Marrel in a civil ceremony in Paris in 2002, to the initial displeasure of his family. He met Marrel in Oman through a friend who set them up while Rodricks was working there for the Royal Oman Police (ROP) Officers Club in 1983. Rodricks credited Marrel for his success as a fashion designer, in his autobiography, The Green Room. They both loved travelling and had visited over 150 countries together.
Rodricks was a Roman Catholic. He was the godfather of Arhaan Khan, the son of the film-maker Arbaaz Khan and his ex-wife Malaika Arora. Rodricks played a large role in forming the career of Arora and remained close to her and her family.
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- "Wendell Rodricks accuses Payal Khandwala of plagiarism: Here's what both of them have to say". Hindustan Times. 10 March 2018. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
- "'They expected me to be this terrible monster...who'd try to grab them'". Telegraph India. 14 October 2007. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
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- Olivera, Roshni (12 December 2002). "Bandra church stymies Salman's godfather ambition". The Times of India. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
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