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Wendell Rodricks: The untold story of a fashion icon

Gulf News 2020-02-13 12:31:18

As the world still comes to grips with the sudden death of Indian designer Wendell Rodricks, many friends, acquaintances and strangers whose lives were briefly touched by the ‘guru of minimalism’ and whose activism is legendary in the fashion circles, mourned.

Stories are abound of journalists often being invited to his home in Goa for a meal or tea if Rodricks took a liking to them. Others, which are perhaps lesser known, is his open door policy that once provided a safe haven to his staff during the violent Mumbai riots of 1992, or his tireless efforts to help abandoned children in Goa.

Rodricks’ life in Oman

Even before his entry into the world of fashion in the 90s, the designer served as an Assistant Director of the Royal Oman Police (ROP) Officers Club in Muscat in 1982.

In an interview with The Hindu, Rodricks extensively spoke about life in the 80s in Oman.

“After completing graduation in hotel management, I got my first job as Assistant Director of the Royal Oman Police (ROP) Officers Club in Muscat in 1982. The perks included a Datsun sedan. I was 22 and had not even ridden a bike till then.”

He continued: “At the Officers Club, I had to regularly handle VVIPs. Impressed with my work, the Inspector General of Police gifted me a Suzuki tent top car. He told me the car’s profile suited a young man like me! I drove around in that white Suzuki for four years, exploring the beauty of the Sultanate of Oman. My most fascinating drives were to the magical deserts under starry nights. When I resigned from the job to pursue a course in fashion designing in Los Angeles, I could not take the car along.”

Finding a footing in fashion

Rodricks, whose Goan heritage is reflected in his designs, trained in Los Angeles and Paris, before he returned to India in 1988. After two years, and designing for companies like cosmetic giant Lakme, Rodricks established his own label in 1990.

At a time when fashion was still finding its footing in India, Rodricks had the honour of being the first designer from the country to be invited to show at the world’s largest garment fair IGEDO in Germany (1995), along with the inaugural Dubai Fashion Week (2001), according to his official bio.

However, few knew that Rodricks was instrumental in planning the first ever Lakme India Fashion Week in 2000 and guiding it in an advisory capacity during its formative years. It was also at LFW where he retired from the ramp in 2016 and handed over the reins to his prodigy, Schulen Fernandes.

His muse Malika Arora

If you pick up a copy of ‘The Green Room’, a vivacious Malika Arora looks back at you through a photo taken in the early years of her modelling career. In an interview with Gulf News earlier, Rodricks revealed he shared a close relationship with the star.

“Malaika Arora was my first and only muse, until I made all women [my] collective muse. I have a job to do and I’m obliged to please the public muse. My job is to make them look slimmer, taller and feel more beautiful — that’s all women want,” he said.

Following his death, Arora also shared an emotional message on Instagram.

“A master couturier and his muse ..... RIP our dearest Wendell Rodricks .... I first sat and cried, n then I sat alone n smiled n laughed, just thinking of all the beautiful, beautiful memories n moments we shared [sic].”

Although, Rodricks often flirted with Bollywood, it was Sonam Kapoor Ahuja whose fashion and sense of style impressed him.