He has impeccable tastes, be it clothes, food, artefacts, travel or the art of living. His villa in Colvale, Goa is a magnificent heritage structure lovingly refurbished and maintained. He has many firsts to his credit like starting the trend of minimalistic fashion with more emphasis on innovative construction rather than Bling. He was the first Indian designer to show at the 1995 IGEDO Fashion Fair in Dusseldorf with Helena Christensen modelling his creations. In search of a bygone era, where elegance and refinement harmoniously permeated each moment of life.
Wendell Rodricks loves the good things of life and knows how to look after them whether it is apparel, jewellery, artefacts, homes and even books. Widely travelled, with a loyal following of the minimalistic look in Indian fashion but with that elegant touch of luxury that he bestows on every garment, Wendell’s take on the luxuries of life and what they mean to him goes beyond the price tag or the brand. Luxury for Wendell also means a painstakingly crafted item which could have taken months to create. Besides a perfect designer Wendell’s skill as a writer is renowned with his two books MODA GOA a great tome on the history of Goan fashion and The Green Room which is a wonderfully nostalgic trip down memory lane of Indian fashion with a marked biographical touch. Both books are “must have” additions to lovers of craft and fashion.
MEHER CASTELINO: How would you define luxury?
WENDELL RODRICKS: Luxury for me is an investment in the art of the artisan or an appreciation of rare items – be it water or air. Luxury in physical terms can be anything from a perfumed soap to a vacation.
WR: Not always. Luxury can be also a state of mind. A cooling coconut oil hair day is as luxurious as a spa massage. Breathing clean air, living with spring well water, a night sky with stars, a golden sunset is more luxurious than a Birkin bag.
MC: What according to you are the luxuries of life?
WR: Luxury is in the mind of the persona. The goal posts of luxury move from person to person. For some a walk in the woods is luxury compared to life in a bustling metro. For others the pleasure of sensual lingerie, a beautifully crafted ring or bag is the height of luxury.
MC: Has luxury become a status symbol?
WR: When it comes to a bag. Yes! Though many Indians are tiring of this novelty. This mini army of ladies with their sunglasses, bags and streaked hair are becoming caricatures of ridicule.
MC: Are people gauged by the luxury items around them?
WR: Sadly yes!
MC: Do you own luxury items and if so which ones?
WR: I have some objects of luxury but you would never know as I go for discrete and almost invisible branding. There is no need to say I am wearing Loboutin or Berluti shoes. The quality speaks for itself. As are the few jackets – I own are by Dior, Prada and Thierry Mugler. I don’t believe in buying a brand for the name. I respect the art and hand of the artisan. I value a fabric woven by Jaya Jaitley’s artisans or a cloak by Rajeev Sethi’s weavers, way above the French labels. My most extravagant and enjoyable luxury is the annual Silversea cruise we go on. The simplest luxury is a walk in my village.
MC: Is Luxury always value for money?
WR: Luxury is not about money. It is about artisan. That said I wore my Cartier Santos for twenty five years and it was the best value for money.
MC: Are some luxury items just overpriced so as to be able to fall into the luxury bracket?
WR: Certainly. Especially since many luxury items are made cheaply in the East and finally assembled in the West.
MC: Why is quality associated with luxury and vice versa?
WR: Luxury is not just about quality. It is about excellence. I tried to find the starting and ending stitches on my Cartier leather iPad case and could not find it. THAT is quality. The quality of our seams on a Wendell Rodricks garment makes the garment worth the tag. Eventually luxury is not perfection but excellence and the French are good at doing that because they strive for perfection via excellence.
WR: Yes! A miniature gold crafted Ganesh, a fine pair of lacquered wooden bangles, a Louis Vuitton money clip in fine leather or a Hermes leather covered perfume purse case are fine examples of luxury in a small item.
MC: What are the different categories of luxury according to you?
WR: There are two categories as far as I am concerned – branded and non-branded. It is for every person to decide what luxury is. I know women and men who do not own a single branded item yet turn out more exquisitely stylishly dressed than others who spend way too much on so called luxury branded items and somehow never make the style standard.
MC: Any other thoughts or arguments about luxury?
WR: Do not be seduced by advertising. A stone polished smooth by the Ganga River makes as luxurious a statement as a Baccarat crystal paper weight. I prefer the Ganga stone as it comes without the persuasiveness of advertising.
MC: Which is the most expensive garment you have designed and why is it expensive?
WR: The most expensive dresses I have done are wedding gowns. The cost is high as there are multiple fittings so that it fits perfectly. Besides there is time taken to make a toile (the first muslin), the embroidery and the perfect fit? We take only one or two gowns a year as they block a lot of studio time. The reason they are expensive is that we could produce around sixty to eighty garments in the same time. Hence the high price tags.