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Wendell Rodricks, the pioneer of Indian resortwear, dies in Goa

  • Wendell Rodricks was instrumental in planning the first ever Lakme India Fashion Week (LFW) in 2000 and guiding it in its formative years
  • Wendell Rodricks is survived by his partner Jerome Marrel

Wendell Rodricks
Wendell Rodricks (Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint)

The visionary Indian designer, Wendell Rodricks, 59, known as the pioneer of resortwear in the country, passed away on Wednesday in his Goa home.

“If Indian fashion had different schools of thought and design, there was clearly a Wendell Rodricks school of thought. For me he will always be the designer who ushered in less is more, the deconstructed silhouettes, the natural fabrics… (he told me once) that he made a garment out of pineapple fibre and coconut fibre," says Priya Tanna, editor-in-chief, Vogue India.

Wendell Rodricks was instrumental in planning the first ever Lakme India Fashion Week (LFW) in 2000 and guiding it in its formative years. The twentieth edition of LFW is ongoing in Mumbai.

“There were many firsts that can be attributed to Wendell but for me the most important attribute is that he was a lifelong student," adds Tanna.

In 2014, Wendell Rodricks was awarded the Padma Shri for a collection called Visionnaire showcasing outfits with Braille scripts giving details of colour and material. He was known for several innovations and rediscoveries including the revival of the indigenous Goan kunbi drape.

“Wendell Rodricks imagined design as well as he could create it. He could feel textures and textiles as intimately as he could style and stitch them. He was an author and writer of insight, a documenter of art, textiles and aesthetic. His promptness in creating content was enviable. He stood for gay rights long before we struggled for the right vocabulary. What I valued most was his outspokenness. Indian fashion will miss Wendell’s stark spark," says Shefalee Vasudev, editor, Voice of Fashion.

Delhi-based designer Anupama Dayal, a protégé, says he was “selfless enough to put himself back to see younger designers come through." Model Lisa Ray adds, “Having Wendell as a friend, supporter and mentor since I was a teenager has shaped not merely my aesthetic sense but the ability to model his spirit of generosity, of bonhomie and unconditional love and support. He will live on through his work, his vision, his passionate mentor ship."

For the past several years, Rodricks had been working on his passion project—the Moda Goa Museum. Based in the beautiful village of Colvale, Goa, the space, which was all set to open to the public in May 2020, was touted as the first costume museum in the country. Housed within the Casa Dona Maria, a heritage building, the museum was envisioned as a tribute to the textile legacy of Goa. As of now, 15 galleries have been planned to house a collection of over 800 artefacts, spanning the 7th century AD to the 21st century, including statues, objects, furniture, photos, costumes and accessories. The vision was to evoke personal stories behind the clothing, accessories, embroidery and print material.

The idea of such a space came to Rodricks after a request from the late cartoonist Mario Miranda to explore the history of the traditional pano bhaju costume (a nine-yard sari worn with a heavily-embroidered, jacket-like blouse). The designer began researching the costume history of Goa, collecting textiles, clothes and accessories.

Reacting to the news, Union Cabinet Minister for Textiles and Women & Child Development, Smriti Z Irani tweeted: “Shocked to hear about the untimely demise of Wendell Rodricks, one of India’s most renowned designers. My heartfelt condolences to his loved ones. May his soul rest in peace."

He is survived by his partner Gerome Marrel.

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