Veteran designer Wendell Rodricks has carried the sartorial legacy of Goa to a new level by documenting it in "Moda Goa" - a first-of-its kind pictorial and illustrative fashion chronicle of the state. He says Goa was the cradle of Indo-Western couture.
"Goa was the birthplace of Indo-Western garments," Rodricks told IANS in an interview. The book, "Moda Goa" (HarperCollins-India), which he describes as his tribute to his state, takes a look at the factors that shaped Goa's distinct garment style.
"The Portuguese, who were the first colonisers in 1510, brought with them Western clothes. We took some 80 garments traditional to the Portuguese Malacca Strait - where the Portuguese had married the Chinese," he said.
"The Mughals came after the Portuguese...The Tughlaq and the Khilji rulers visited Goa."
Besides the Portuguese and the Mughal clothes, Goan fashion was influenced by Persian embroidery and Buddhist drapes, Rodricks said.
"They all came together to create the traditional garments of Goa at different points of time. However, many of these garments were found too revealing at the time of the Goa Inquisition when almost all Goans were forced to become Catholics," Rodricks said, narrating the history of Goan fashion.
History says the Goa Inquisition set up in 1560 by the Portuguese brought to trial more than 16,000 new Christians - mostly Hindu and Islamic converts - roughly over a 300-year period. It also punished those who violated the ban on Hindu and Islamic religious rites or resisted attempts at conversion to Catholicism.
"They (Portuguese) began to impose a more modest way of dressing...the first major change was that they did not allow any Indian dress. People who wore loincloth and 'dhoti' were forced to wear suits and shoes," Rodricks said.
Some of the older residents of Goa whom the designer-writer interviewed said "native visitors on their way to Panjim in their traditional carriages would stop by a small bridge - which was patrolled by Portuguese guards - and would change their clothes outside before they went to the capital city", Rodricks said.
"Once they left the city for their villages, they would change back to their native clothes outside Panjim," Rodricks said.
The crackdown on indigenous Goan dress went on till 1806 when the Inquisition was lifted, the designer said.
"However, it (the unofficial ban) continued well into the early part of the 20th century between 1850 to 1970. When we joined India in 1961, we had been a hybrid race for a good number of years...my mother still says it felt different after 450 years of Portuguese rule," Rodricks said.
"I love my sherwanis...and all my Indian clothes," the designer added with a touch of pride.
In the book, he starts off with the early Buddhist drapes that set the cut for later Hindu costumes and moves through opulent brocade coats of the Muslim Tughlaq rulers and Portuguese invaders, who had to improvise on their heavy Renaissance attires to suit the hot Konkan climate.
He documents the Western-style dresses of the newly converted Goan Catholics through illustrations by European travellers, photographs by lensman Mark Sequeira and leading fashion photographers.
"When I started my research 11 years ago, there was nothing on the history of clothes in Goa except some clothes in the Portuguese museum. Of the nine years I spent researching the book, I spent three years at the National Costume Museum at Lisbon in Portugal and at the Fashion Institute of Technology Museum in New York," Rodricks said.
The years that Rodricks spent abroad strengthen his view that he was "on the right track and doing something for the state," Rodricks said.
Rodricks said "putting together all that had been soul-searching to a point. I wanted to share all that I had learnt about clothes".
"I had begun to collect garments and very old jewellery. I went to Lisbon and New York to learn how to store and display old garments. My collection covered many periods...," Rodricks said.
"Fashion is the mirror of history," the designer said.Rodricks, who trained in New York and Paris, set up his label in 1990. In 1993, he moved to his ancestral village Colvale in Goa, creating collections inspired by Tibetan monasteries, tribal symbols of Shiva and Vishnu, a harem in Istanbul, tattoos of the Lambada tribe and the history of Goa.
His retail space, Wendell Rodricks Design Space in Panjim, is a niche fashion stop on the Goan map. "Moda Goa" is priced Rs.3,999.