Probably one of the most famous names around, Wendell Rodricks is considered as one of the top 10 designers India has ever produced. After taking the bachelors degree in Catering he switched to designing. Winner of prestigious Padma Shri, Rodricks openly declares himself to be a gay. He also actively participates in various social activities.
Fashion designing is a form of art, it’s creation; and every artist whether it be a singer, a painter, a musician or a designer, always has an inspiration behind his/her art. What is the inspiration behind your creation?
The inspiration is based on a strong emotion. If something visual, aural, thought provoking moves me, that begins the spine of the collection. From Shiva temples to Brazilian Bossa Nova music, the Dalai Lamas thoughts on reincarnation to a Goan breeze, Yogic Calm to a shlokha, the Turkish Harem to an imaginary 16th-century voyage from Goa to China…. I have done varied collections. In all of them, I have kept minimalism, eco-friendly, Indian geometry and Goa as the cornerstones of the collection.
It is said, “fashion is a torrent in which none can swim because it changes every second.” How do you keep up such a capricious stream?
It’s easy. I don’t follow fashion. Fashion is defined as ‘what large groups of people follow at any given point in time’. I believe in style. Personal style. Style that grows evolves and represents a state of mind. I don’t follow fashion. It is for the ‘junta’ who have no sense of personal style.
There are many colleges like NIFT, NID etc. which offer courses for fashion designing and management, how do you see these institutions? Do you really believe that designing can be ‘taught’?
Fashion designing is not just about clothes. One must learn Art, Art History, Fashion History…the periphery of which fashion revolves around. Fashion is a reflection of the times. We need to study fashion basics and then evolve, invent, create a new fashion language. Internationally new. Not copy paste.
Do you take students for the internship? If yes, what is the procedure and pre-requisite to be selected for your internship program? What kind of work do you expect from students and fresh graduates who want to work for you?
We don’t take interns nor assistants. They pollute my philosophy. I have seen assistants ruin a designer brand. You look at a collection and think to yourself “It looks new but it did not come out of the designer’s mind. It came from the varied, collective minds of assistants”. I keep my philosophy as an altar of purity.
You are not one of those guys who confine themselves to their work. You have involved yourself with education in fashion, promotion of Indian textiles, environment protection when you spoke against IRFW, rights of LGBT, in your recent book you talked about Poskem among many other things. How do you get time to be involved in such things and yet be dedicated to your work? Does your social involvement help you in your work?
I am extremely disciplined. Having worked for the hotel industry and a police force, I know that if one manages time, one can squeeze a lot in a day and yet have the time to relax and enjoy life. When I do anything, I keep the focus. I refuse to answer a cell call if I am interacting with someone. I put my cell on at dawn and off at sunset. I don’t waste time on thinking of unnecessary thoughts. My mind is clear and alert at all times. Above all, I don’t let people abuse my time. Everyone wants a piece of you. I don’t let them burden me with their problems, needs, ambitions.
Simone Tata told me when I turned forty. “Keep Saturday mornings for charity”. I have followed her advice and it helps heal many hearts; especially mine.
When you started your work in India, fashion was all about pomp and show; you gave it a new direction with your simple and serene designs, it was a big risk but it played off well for you. Do you think that there is still room a paradigm shift of that kind in the industry?
I wish there is a paradigm shift. I look at the majority of Indian fashion and it is vulgar. Almost Arabic vulgar. We have a 6000-year-old legacy of weaves, textiles, dyeing, printing and all we want to look like are pseudo Maharajahs and Maharanis. Bollywood does not help. Even a Kerala or Bengal wedding has turned into a Karan Johar version of a Punjabi wedding. What hurts and irks is that we have a plethora of garments, dyeing, weaving, embroidery, etc in every one of our 30 states. We should creatively explore that emporia. The West has only seven items for women: a blouse, skirt, trouser, jacket, dress and evening gown. And each season they recycle those seven garments. Hemlines go up and down. Silhouettes are inflated or reduced. Prints and embroideries are copy pasted from other cultures. The culture stealing is preposterous. One year the flavour is China, the next Peru, India, Japan, Africa, whatever. We, in India, have a hundred fold more than their seven staples. I hope we never go the way of the Chinese, Japanese and so many ethnic countries who have abandoned their clothing to embrace dull, boring Western clothing. Many Eastern countries wear their ethnic clothing only for ceremonies. Step out of a Tokyo metro and all you see is a sea of grey, black, brown and navy blue. It is depressing.
India is where the colour, sunshine, and happiness is. Let the world follow us and show them what real style is about.
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