Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004





In Fashion…The Wendell Rodricks saga

Wendell Rodricks, the designer from Goa, is now the hot news. For the right and the wrong reason. Let me take, the wrong reason, first. The media has been abuzz with his “clash” with veteran New Delhi based stylist Tarun Tahiliani. Rodricks is seething with anger: Tahiliani is supposed to have hosted his show during the recent Lakme India Fashion Week in Mumbai exactly at the same time when Rodricks himself was presenting his collections. Rodricks said the capital’s designers invariably looked down upon their Mumbai counterparts.

Rodricks’ words to the media were tinged with bitterness. “We are friends. I expected better understanding from Tarun…It was unfair on his part to have had the show at the same time as mine. I would never have done it. In fact, I was called to do a big show during the recent Wills India Fashion Week in New Delhi. I refused, because I had no intention of hijacking the Fashion Week”.

Now, I have not spoken to Tahiliani, and I am sure he must have had HIS reason for organising his exhibition when he did.

But, sadly, industries such as fashion have had always seen this kind of unhealthy competition. Or, call it rivalry, if you must. Fashion, in spite of its aura and halo, colour and glitz, can be a lonely world, where there really are no friends, at least professionally. Each one is self-centred and self-absorbed with a vision that does not extend an inch beyond one’s own interests and profits.

Be that as it may, I am sure that Rodricks, despite this Tahiliani-induced eclipse of his show, must be happy, because he has been chosen by the Paris Pret-a-Porter, one of the most renowned events in the world, to display his Winter 2007/2008 designs. This fashion week begins on February 1 2007.

I am told that the French Fashion Federation saw his work during the Lakme gala, where Rodricks showed his Les Vamps collection, based on his home State, Goa’s, occult tradition.

Although Rodricks had been to Paris three years ago with his creations, the coming February fair will be in a totally different league. His collections will be seen alongside those from some of the greatest names in the world of style, Chanel, Dior, Armani and Cavalli among others. Imagine rubbing shoulders with fashion creators such as Karl Lagerfeld or Tom Ford or John Galliano !

Rodricks has promised to exhibit his Paris dresses in Goa soon after he returns. For his fans, of course.

What could Paris expect from Rodricks? A fair idea can be had from his last Les Vamps Autumn-Winter 2007-2008 collections that he flaunted in Mumbai. His designs go beyond the veils of dark secrets to reveal an ethereal, mysterious set of garments. Like spirits and exorcists, who are almost always beautiful women, Rodricks’ clothes in vaporous white, midnight black, dusk grey and blood red are a tribute to Goa’s other world. Emerging from dark Goan manors, swooping on bat wings, gliding over fields and floating on sea waves, these are what the Western world would call Vampires. ‘Les Vamps’- a shortened form for Les Vampires -- is about loveliness, secrecy, fear and, above all, trend, shape and fad, all ideal for the woman of today who can exude many emotions with consummate ease. She can be coy and innocent, fierce and vampish all within an hour – much like the hauntingly changing images of Goa’s ghosts, spirits and ‘vampires’.

Goa’s supernatural world is deeply ingrained in human psyche, in design and décor. Perhaps, this is a result of the region’s pagan past that for many thousands of years blended myth, religion and race. Today, the average Goan has learnt to live with this force, and occult is an integral part of his existence.

Rodricks has drawn his inspiration from this spirit: his signature is in many ways unique. It mixes Indian geometry and the laidback Goan attitude to throw up daringly different designs. He uses natural Indian fabrics to create a silhouette that is layered, draped and fluid. Rodricks loves to experiment with unorthodox colour combinations and exotic fibre weaves. But in the end, his dresses appear startlingly simple.

They have always been so, since he established his label in 1990 after training in Los Angeles and Paris. Influenced by Tibetan culture, tribal symbols of Shiva and Vishnu, the harems of Istanbul and the tattoos of the Lambadi tribes, Rodricks nurtured a dream that became a design, unique to Wendell. And Wendell alone.

(Webposted January 9 2007)