Anyone who has an interest in fashion and clothes has heard of Wendell Rodricks, the designer with international acclaim and fame. He is the winner of several international awards, including the Padma Shri in 2014. For Rodricks, fashion is passion. It’s also a journey that has seen him set several benchmarks. “When I came back from the US and France after wrapping up my studies, I returned with two very important lessons that helped me set the foundation for my label. The first was to be true to your DNA, putting your state or country into the clothes you design. The second was to be international from the onset. I never looked at myself as a designer who is designing only for India. I wanted to take my identity as an Indian and a Goan and be out there,” says the celebrated designer. When Rodricks started out there were only two aesthetics in the fashion industry. One was the ‘Maharaja’ style which still continues for the bridal market and the other was the ‘Bollywood’ kind of brightness. Rodricks took his inspiration from the third and lacking aesthetic that had nothing to do with visuals – this being a combination of yoga, ayurveda, Indian geometry and mathematics – it spoke to Indians and foreigners alike. That’s because he believed in creating a new philosophy or design statement that was not hanging on any of the racks. He gave the country minimalism, resort wear and eco-friendly wear at a time when the words were not even coined.
Fashion and Charity
But while Rodricks is an icon in the fashion world, he is also known for his connection with charity projects. How did that happen? Recalls Rodricks: “My friend Simone Tata, on the occasion of me turning 40, told me to give every Saturday to charity from 9 am to 12 noon. She emphasised that I do it not by merely signing a cheque but by actually engaging in charitable work. Because of that thought or philosophy I have been able to give the world the unique concept of the ‘Visionnaire’ collection. For the first time the visually challenged could read their clothes as I put Braille on clothing – something that had never been tried for, neither here or anywhere across the globe. I also recovered a forest over a span of seven to start the revival of the Goan ‘Kunbi’ sarees.” “I have worked for children and parents suffering with AIDS, especially focusing on teenagers and the physically challenged or those with different abilities. This has brought me a lot of respect and trust from the public. All my work has added to my brand value. I believe we cannot stay in our own little selfish worlds. I am a designer but I have done movies, written books, etc. We always need to keep pushing the envelope and explore more.” The Wendell Rodricks brand, in its bid to thus stretch its horizons, has collaborated with various brands, as for example, with Nestle’s Polo – a venture that resulted in Polo making a profit of Rs 10 crore. The brand also engaged with Devi, a Goan coffee brand.
Finding a Strategy
“Today when I think about the time when I started my career, I often reflect upon the strategy we devised to sell the plain trousers, shirts or dresses that were all made out of humble cotton. We were reviving ‘malka’ cotton and doing things nobody else was but the problem came with putting across our message. We strategized to only shoot in black and white and made it look like art. That is when the Germany garment fair came knocking at our doors. I was invited to Paris to showcase my clothes and it gave me the platform I need to show that my collection was a different lexicon and projected a unique ethos. I received the honour of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres,” he adds. The designer still does charity actively and three years ago gave out his house in Goa to be converted into a costume museum, the first of its kind in the country. The museum is set to open its doors in February 2020. He is also the first designer in India to give away his label to a successor who is not in the family. He was also the first designer to have his own web page. The Wendell Rodricks brand is now looking to license out to anyone who carries the same philosophy as them. They are exploring to associate with manufacturers of clean makeup, clean linen, organic cotton, sustainable cotton, and more. “In 1947, Christian Dior became famous because he brought out a new shape but in only two years he learnt the art of licensing and that’s what we are going to do today. We are going to put ourselves out there and we are open to sell anything which translates the Wendell Rodricks’ brand equity. We want to liaise with people and take this label forward,” Rodricks says. Retreat ‘N’ Style India (P) Ltd. is the company which owns and manages the Wendell Rodricks’ fashion label. It also provides fashion consultancy in India in all areas of style, including advertising styling, fashion choreography, uniform design, interior decor consultancy, and bridal. As part of the company policy, the Wendell Rodricks brand supports local Goan causes for art, artisans, education and social work.