A cut apart from the rest

A cut apart from the rest

There is an air of unconventionality about fashion designer, author and activist Wendell Rodricks. The Goan in him unwraps itself and springs forth as he starts to speak and you are not surprised how Goa has emerged on the international fashion map.
The Padma Shri-winning designer was in the city recently to participate in the discussion on his book 'Poskem: Goans In The Shadows', organised by Pratibha Khaitan Foundation and Kalam in collaboration with Taj West End and Ehsas.

Becoming an author was not in his original plans, but neither was turning a designer. His career in fact began in hotel management. But that was not for long. His creativity was raring to come out through multiple channels. Wendell studied Fashion Designing in New York and Paris from 1986 to 1988. He came out with his label two years later.
"My parents were migrants to Bombay and I used to come to Goa for holiday," he recollects. "After the 1992 Bombay riots, I wanted to come back to Goa.'' He returned to the sunshine state and rewrote fashion.
"When I entered the industry, Indian fashion was about brightly coloured silks, zari and heavy embroidery. I put my minimalist statement on racks in linen and cotton."
The designs didn't sell. But times they were changing. Soon, his first collection from Goa earned him the title 'Guru of Minimalism'.
"The media had by then started calling me the 'Guru of Minimalism'," he says. Indian geometry was finding a pride a place in his shelves and so did whites. "I started the concept of
'resort wear' and 'eco-friendly' garments at a time when the words were not yet coined in India," he says.
Through Wendell's hands came out the first ever designer police uniform -- for the Goa State Police. Adding to the many firsts that he had in his repertoire, he revived the weaving of the Goan Kunbi sari.
Goa has became synonymous with his designs, and to a large extent, with him. "It was not planned," he says.
"In Paris, when I went around with my first portfolio in hand for a job, a lady at a store said, 'why can't I see your country in your clothes?' That was the turning point,'' he says.
"Every designer can do something for their state and bring the country on the international platform. Nobody can do Calcutta better than Sabyasachi and Kashmir better than Rohit Bal, the way I did for Goa," he says.
Back in his home state, he was also keeping his eyes open to its culture, traditions and the people. He turned author with 'Moda Goa History and Style' and his memoir, 'The Green Room'.
His third book, 'Poskem' brought out to the world a less talked about dark Goan tradition of poskim. The poskim were taken in by wealthy families to be raised alongside their own, as their companions. However, the poskim had no right to inheritance, despite often taking on the family name, and were more often domestic help. "It is a book of fiction based on facts. I had heard the word 'poskim' as a child and presumed it to mean a servant. It was my mother who told me the truth. The 'poskim' had no right to inheritance," he informs
"When I moved to Goa in 1993, I met a 'poskem' named Rosa who was my neighbour. At her funeral, I stood beside her coffin and promised her that I would write about 'poskem','' he recollects. "I woke up at four every morning and wrote 2,000 words a day".

"My dear departed friend Mario Miranda added illustrations to it. We are the last generation of Goans to witness the 'poskim'," he says.
Wendell is now busy with Moda Goa Museum, his personal home that he along with his partner has turned into a museum for fashion. He is sourcing antiques and pieces of history for it. "It will document and display the history of Goan costumes based on my book 'Moda Goa'. It is going to be a world class museum. For the museum, donations are being given by individuals from their personal inheritance. Some are bought from auctions. The donated object will stay for posterity in the families' name," he says.
Wendell's personal style is minimalistic and life, disciplined. "My grandfather was an Armyman and I learnt discipline from a young age. I live in a small village in Goa. I wake up every morning at 5 and I'm off to bed by 9. I go for a walk and mass in my village church. I don't read newspapers or watch television much. I find it depressing. I am also not a page-three person," he says.

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