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IN CONVERSATION WITH WENDELL RODRICKS

— JASMEEN DUGAL

Wendell Rodricks studied Fashion Designing in the US and France with his first collection earning him the title ‘Guru Of Minimalism’ and his next collection in 1995 pioneering the concept of ‘resort wear’ and ‘eco-friendly’ garments at a time she the words were not yet coined in India. Rodricks has the honour of being the first Indian designer to be invited to show at the world’s largest garment fair IGEDO in Germany, Dubai Fashion Week, Malaysia Fashion Week, the prestigious Paris Pret-a-Porter salon and the world’s biggest organic fair BioFach in Nuremberg, Germany. In 2007, the Confederation of Indian Industries invited the designer to showcase two fashion shows in Bryant Park, New York to celebrate the 60th year of India’s Independence. In 2010 Wendell revived the weaving of the traditional Goan Kunbi Sari, a two year project involving identifying and training weavers in the use of sari looms. In 2012 Rodricks turned author with Moda Goa — History and Style published and later that year his memoir, The Green Room, was published. In 2014, the designer was awarded India’s fourth highest civilian honour, the Padma Shri by The President of India, Pranab Mukherjee for Art — Fashion Design. In conversation with the designer on the eve of his much-awaited workshop at LACONIC 2019.

 

Wendell your remarkable success is probably down to the fact that you knew exactly what you wanted, never straying from your strong brand identity. At a time when Indian fashion was all about grandeur, you introduced the idea of minimalism and eco-friendly textiles. Do you feel Indian fashion has reached a stage where young aspiring designers would confidently go in this direction?

 

At a time when high fashion was bright silks with embroidery in the late 80’s, I introduced humble cottons in white on racks. It was revolutionary for its time and I had no idea that it set the tone for a younger generation of designers to follow suit. Today when I see labels like Rajesh Pratap Singh and Paro, I am grateful I took the big leap into minimalism.

 

What do you consider to be most important—commercial appeal or creative force—keeping in mind catwalk appeal and immediate retail readiness?

 

The most important creative force is Creativity itself. One must stay creative, on point and true to the DNA of our great Indian 6,000 legacy of clothing. We have a vast repertoire of heritage and culture to draw from which makes Indian Fashion such a power house in the world.

 

Wendell, after holding the reins for 28 years, you handed them over to Schulen, who is taking forward your design aesthetic beautifully. What inspired this decision and how does it feel today?

 

Schulen is doing a fabulous job taking forth the Wendell Rodricks label. She infuses energy and youth into the brand.  I had long since planned to give my label to a young designer. The plan was always to give the most talented designer and not a blood relative. No one is immortal and to keep a label alive one should allow the next generation to take over the legacy. All the big brands from Dior to Chanel have continued the lustre of their labels with a young designer at the helm. For a while, Balenciaga and Vionnet were forgotten… until they revived the label with fresh talent. I teach History of World Costume and know that this is the way forward. Besides, this move permits me to focus my Moda Goa Museum And Research Centre which opens this year. See www.modagoamuseum.org for the excitement that is in store.

 

The winds of change always blow when a new creative leader takes charge at a fashion house—what can we expect from your label?

 

I want the label to stay relevant and resonate with millennials.

 

Fashion continues to be characterised by radical shifts in the global economy, consumer behaviour and the fashion system itself. How should aspiring designers prepare themselves for the business of fashion?

 

Apart from focusing on creativity, my advice to aspiring designers is to leave the commercial aspect of the business to professionals who know business. A designer cannot be both creative an commercial.

 

Wendell how do you feel FDCR 's symposium this weekend- with interactive sessions between fashion icons and fashion students- will help impact the next generation of designers from Rajasthan?

 

What I appreciate about FDCR is that the main interaction is on the ‘dialogue’ of fashion between the design world and the Indian public. We can tell stories via the ramp. But it is not often that one gets to hear the industry truly ‘speak’. I am not doing a show at FDCR Laconic 2019. I am speaking. And the audience will leave with more knowledge than if they saw a fashion show. Each of the almost forty slides in my presentation is a huge learning curve. The public will see the glamour but learn the story behind the glitz of fashion.

 

Lastly what are you looking forward to in Jaipur?

 

I am looking forward to giving the public the best, most inspiring one-hour talk on fashion. They will not be disappointed.
 

Wendell Rodricks
Wendell Rodricks
 
02-MARCH-2019
 
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