‘He was a determined creator’

Anjali Jhangiani
Friday, 14 February 2020

City personalities remember veteran fashion designer Wendell Rodricks who passed away on Wednesday

The death of Wendell Rodricks came as a shock to everyone on Wednesday evening. Many from the fashion industry poured their heart out on social media and mourned the loss of the fashion designer. 

Born in 1960, Wendell was a man of many talents. After graduating with a diploma in catering, he joined the Royal Oman Police (ROP) Officers Club in Muscat in the early ‘80s. He made his debut into the fashion industry with a showcase in Mumbai featuring supermodel Mehr Jesia in 1989. The designer is credited to have helped model-turned-actors like Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma make their way in Bollywood. Four years ago, he retired from his label and decided to focus on his costume museum called the Moda Goa Museum, in Casa Dona Maria which is a 450-year-old traditional Goan villa in Colvale. 

The man had many feathers in his cap. Not only was he an ace designer, but he also cared for ethical and sustainable practices in the fashion industry. From working for the benefit of weavers to presenting a collection for plus-size women, encouraging the use of khadi to launching a helpline for the LGBTQ+ community, he always stepped forward to do his bit to give back to society. Wendell is survived by his husband Jerome Marrel and two puppies, Zoe and Zorba, that he adopted earlier this month. 

Friends from Pune share their fond memories of Wendell:

He was an icon who celebrated minimalism in fashion and genuineness in life. One of the very few Indian designers who wanted to leave a legacy behind and support regional Goan talent in every form. It’s shocking! Just 10 days back, I had a brief chat about the Moda Goa museum with him. It makes us realise how fragile life is. I am sure that friends, family and the industry will see through his vision of celebrating fashion and creativity by completing the Moda Goa museum and we will continue celebrating him through his works across literature and fashion. Truly, a gem who touched so many lives, has gone too soon. Prayers for his soul and condolences to the family.
— Shivang Dhruva, founder and director at FAD International Academy

Wendell passing over is a shock to many of us and it is a personal loss for me of a dear friend, mentor and well wisher. He was a visionary, whose body of work in Indian fashion has been monumental. He had equal passion for everything, whether it was making clothes, cooking, gardening, writing, travelling, discovering all that was to life and sharing it with all. He was an avid reader, writer, and also not the one to mince words. I adored his outspokenness in fashion as much as on life. He will continue to live with many of us through his clothes, his museum and his persona. A humble man who always wore his heart on his sleeve, Wendell was dear to scores of people.
— Rasika Wakalkar, founder, Rudraksh (multi-designer store)

He was one of the few most prominent designers whenever we referenced Indian designers as students. I always found interactions with him filled with wit and knowledge and always admired his commitment to where he came from. A torch bearer of change, his contribution to Indian fashion will always be vital. 
— Karishma Shahani Khan, fashion designer

Well, I met Wendell as a family friend back when I was still in school but still very interested in design and environment-friendly endeavours, of which both he was a pioneer. It was in ‘98 that he started collecting some brilliant artifacts for the Moda museum he had envisioned in Goa, a heartwarming tribute to the history of Goa! Then a few years later, he was able to revive the Goan kunbi sari. That was incredible how he got great names to proactively support heritage Indian clothing! I visited his store in Panjim about four years ago to see him not only celebrate fabric but also architecture! He had a knack of enjoying life’s finer things. 

And he’s been a great influence on some of my ideologies for my sustainable design label, Irisha Originals which I launched two years ago. What made me happiest was to join forces with Wendell and we did an editorial shoot with his clothing and my jewellery! For someone who had met him as a teenager, loved him for his maverick and witty ways and then to go on to having a professional alliance was such a beautiful journey! All through the years I knew him, he remained a whimsical but determined creator. Ever focused and ever fanciful. 
— Irisha Poonawalla, founder and CEO, Irisha Originals

I knew Wendell Rodricks for many years. Unlike most people who had interacted with him about fashion or about Goa, both subjects about which he was passionate, I talked  with him about food and friendship.
I was planning a coffee table book of regional Indian food a few years ago and had a marvellous day with him, Jerome and the dogs at their Colvale house cooking up Pork Assado and imbibing his favourite local brew Urak with lime. 
 
He was entering a phase of his life where his success as a designer was secondary to his new pet projects, the Moda Goa Museum and his perpetual fight trying to right the wrongs of what was going on around him in Goa. 
 
Jerome, his partner of many years was always by his side and I feel for him deeply. They were like two peas in a pod.
— Karen Anand, celebrity chef and entrepreneur

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