‘Master of Minimalism' is how people refer to Wendell Rodricks. Refusing to shift base from his ancestral village of Colvale in Goa, Rodricks has drawn in a loyal clientele that is willing to go the extra mile should the need arise.
When we meet him at Taj Palace Hotel, the designer is scheduled to showcase his ‘Eye Candy' collection later that evening. Supposed to evoke images of a visit to a candy shop, while also pandering to eye candy's metaphoric meaning, the collection is a departure from the designer's signature white-dominated palette.
“I think India got out of recession even better than most countries and I felt the need for colour. When we were handing out the clothes this afternoon it was quite hilarious because even the backstage manager was like ‘Oh, we've got colour and that too so much of it!'”
So what one gets are colours like bright yellow, bright red, orange, rani pink and turquoise blue, sobered down with a bit of brown and grey.
“I decided to call the line ‘Eye Candy' because it's a word that has been battered around for quite a bit but never used on a collection. And plus, for me, the word ‘candy' in itself is so sensual, delicious and melt-in-the-mouth. It has got a food connotation. And I wanted to bring all that into the clothing; make it delicious, make it taste like ripe fruit,” Rodricks explains.
The conversation, naturally veers to food, which for him has not just been a passion but profession too, being as he was in the hotel management industry for six years before turning to fashion design. A graduate of Bombay Catering College, Wendell Rodricks calls himself a “great foodie”.
“I think one of the reasons I could go to clothes so easily was it was just like going from dressing salads to dressing women. It was a very easy transition. It is the same ingredients you're dealing with. You're dealing with a sensual feel, various mixtures of texture, presentation. It's like fashion,” he elaborates.
A good chef!
At a reunion two weeks ago, his catering college batch-mates were treated to an exotic menu that included smoked salmon samosas and figs topped with blue cheese and baked in pastry. “People were like ‘How did you even think of it!'… I'm a good chef,” he smiles.
Home-cooked food is another obsession. “I think, if somebody told me ‘Come to my house and have dal-chawal, I'll get really excited, as I think home-cooked is where the pleasure is, where the natural flavours are, where the ethnicity of food is. Whether you're eating at a home in France, Italy, Australia or India, I think the best definition of the word ‘cuisine' comes from natural home-cooked food,” he says.
While his travels have led him far and wide, the most memorable restaurant experience was eating at a restaurant of Alain Chapel, credited as one of the founders of Nouvelle cuisine. “I remember a menu made completely out of truffles — from starters to dessert,” recalls Rodricks. A restaurant experience, he says, is like going to opera, “watching fantasy and luxury unveil itself.”
Wendell Rodricks' yearly calendar is packed. While the Van Heusen Men's Fashion Week starts tomorrow, the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week happens next month.
‘Tango Argentina' is the theme of his collection at the men's week, inspired by the places he visited during a two-month South American cruise earlier this year.
“Two countries that impressed me very much were Chile and Argentina. Buenos Aires completely surprised me because it was so romantic, so much like Paris; the buildings, the boulevards, the people, very good-looking people,” reveals Rodricks.
The men's show happens to be the designer's first all-men's show. “I'm extremely nervous, more nervous than youngsters who've just joined the industry would be at their first show,” he lets out.
The line combines the macho spirit of the Gaucho cowboys with the feminine dance moves of the tango. While they have “run away from the Wendell Rodricks dictate”, something of the core philosophy remains. Part of that are the draped shirts, which, according to Rodricks, form one of the high points of the collection. “We did our fittings the day before in Goa, and my assistant, who is a girl, said the collection is very desirable for the men but is also very easy to translate in women's wear and take elements from it and put it in women's wear. So we're looking forward to doing that,” says the designer.