Ace fashion designer Wendell Rodricks was equally passionate about the environment

Published : February 15, 2020 12:45 IST

Wendell Rodricks. Photo: K. Murali Kumar

The pioneering fashion designer Wendell Rodricks, 59, passed away after a prolonged illness at his home in Colvale, North Goa, on February 12. While it is not clear as yet what illness he was suffering from, the designer died of a sudden heart attack. Friends close to him say Wendell Rodricks had not shown any signs of grave sickness, so his death came as a shock. Rodricks is survived by his partner Jerome Marrel.

Born in 1960 into a modest Goan Catholic family living in Mumbai, Wendell Rodricks was a self-made man who was passionate about Indian fabrics and in the clothes he designed. After a formal education in fashion design and technology, and following several stints in New York and Paris in the fashion world, Rodricks returned to India to become part of a group of designers who put India on the world’s fashion map. The designer worked for fashion houses such as Garden Vareli and Lakme before starting his own label. Rodricks was well-known for his resort line of clothes and for introducing modern silhouettes while keeping in mind that the wearer would be an Indian woman who belongs to a distinct culture. He once said in an interview, “I believe that fashion should be democratic. It cannot be only for the rich or the super slim… it should be for all.” Over the past two decades his company became one of India’s leading fashion houses.

After Rodricks moved to Goa in the early 2000s, he immersed himself into preserving Goan culture, which included its traditional costumes. At the time of his death, he was in the final stages of building a museum on Goan costumes. Rodricks had bought a 450-year-old Portuguese home called Casa Dona Maria in Colvale, which he restored to make into a centre called Moda Goa Museum. According to his friends, his passion for Goan culture was so deep that he had been collecting all manner of jewellery, shoes, clothing and so on, for more than 30 years.

Information from Moda Goa Museum says they will preserve indigenous cultural heritage through a collection of over 800 artefacts dating from the 7th century C.E. to the present. The exhibits include statues, objects, furniture, photographs and costumes, jewellery and accessories. There will also be a library and research facilities on the premises. The museum was a labour of love for Rodricks, say friends of the designer. In 2014, he was awarded the Padma Shri.

Rodricks was also a vociferous activist on protecting Goa’s fragile environment. In 2019, he fought a relentless battle to save 200-year-old trees from being axed to expand a national highway that is being built near Colvale. In spite of a spirited campaign that rallied Goans around the world, the trees were chopped by the contractors when Rodricks was travelling. A furious and upset Rodricks wrote to the Chief Minister but little could be done. Another pet cause was fighting for LGBTQ rights. Undeterred by labels, Rodricks threw his weight behind this sensitive issue for he believed the discrimination was a violation of human rights. He was often spotted at restaurants, festivals or just walking in Panjim. One of Goa’s leading lights has gone out. Hopefully, his legacy will live on.

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