Wendell Rodricks On aLL Primero, His First Ever Runway Collection For Plus Sized Fashion Forwards

Wendell Rodricks is a cultural revivalist with a cause. Conferring the sole status of just a fashion designer to Rodricks, a Padma Shri winning Indian icon, would be a tad indecorous. His is a career of many fashion firsts – from exhibiting a sustainable collection, that’s du jour today, back in the 90s, to being an advisory voice and key player in the first edition of LFW (2000) to working with white cottons and linens to reviving the Goan Kunbi cotton sari weave to writing incisive books on fashion. Rodricks was the first Indian designer to open Dubai Fashion Week (2001) and today, he’s turned into a museologist, converting his private residence into the Moda Goa Museum for all things fashionable and cultural to the state. This Goaphile is doing it all, the aLL Primero collection for plus sizes this season being yet another first in his exemplary career.

Ahead of his August 19 showing at Lakme Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2017 in Mumbai, Rodricks spoke exclusively to Rubina A Khan | Gulf News tabloid! 

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Wendell Rodricks with his Creative Director, Schulen Fernandes

The aLL Primero show is the first of its kind in India for plus-sized people at LFW in Mumbai. Does the line adhere to the minimalistic métier of your label?
The aLL Primero Collection by Wendell Rodricks is the first Plus Size line to be shown in a Main Show Area at Fashion Week, bringing it to the public’s attention. The line is similar to our label in terms of minimalism. There is no embellishment, very little sparkle and the aesthetic is in harmony with the Wendell Rodricks philosophy of design. I believe in fashion democracy –  it is for everyone, no matter what age, colour or size. In fact, when we showed the sketches to some of our clients, they wanted to buy them in regular sizes too. I am confident of the Primero line doing very well at LFW and in the aLL Plus size stores. When I see the unnecessary drama and chaos in fashion, I’m amazed and amused. The sycophancy, paranoia and insecurity are surreal. For God’s sake, we are just glorified tailors, not Messiahs of a new religion!

How did you and your label’s creative director, Schulen Fernandes, go about setting up the aLL Primero line, which is in sharp contrast to the vibrant, geometric silhouettes of the AW17 Cubist Rose runway collection?
Primero was conceived entirely by Schulen. She has imbibed my method of working without a mood board as I find them restrictive and they “lift” old concepts and one tends to copy past eras, fabric treatments and colour combinations. I prefer keeping a clear mind.

What is the essence of you that Fernandes has brought into the aLL collection?
Schulen has my DNA very firmly in our collections. It is for this reason that I appointed her my successor. When the media and public look at the new collections, they can’t tell that there is a new person spearheading the collection. It looks like Wendell Rodricks all the way from colour to concept, styling and silhouette.

How does designing for plus sizes vary from a runway collection for slim and lithe bodies?
It’s easier to make runway clothes for regular models as they’re almost factory produced at 34-25-36. With Plus sizes, I love the challenge. People imagine that curvy is all there to Plus sizes, but that’s not true at all as there are hour-glass, apple, pear, carrot and rectangular shapes too. For the aLL show, we chose models that fit every one of these shapes so that voluptuous people can find clothes that suit their shape.

The Cubist Rose collection was loved instantaneously. Do you think Primero will hit a fashion frontier for plus-sized fashion forwards?
I’m certain she will score a hat trick with Primero. She did so with Trapezoid and Cubist Rose. Now it is time for the aLL Primero collection to shine and send out a vibrant, fashion statement. I’ve chosen the music, and the backdrop and I think curvy will be the next trend from LFW. This collection has a happy vibe, quite like the happy people that will wear them.

Will this collection break runway stereotypes in India and encourage more designers to design plus- sized fashion?
There are many myths that we will shatter with the aLL Primero collection. Whites, bright colours, colour blocking, neutrals… most people feel that Plus sizes should stay away from all this. Not at all! We made it a point not to include black in the collection. Black is boring and safe. When I first said ‘white’ for Plus sizes, people gagged. After the show they won’t be gagging, but applauding.

It sounds like you’re bringing voluptuous to the fashion fore with Primero, where skinny takes to the shadows…
Whoever said dogs like bones and men like flesh knew what they were talking about, and 60% of the world’s population of Plus size women will agree. This is a real show for real people and therein lies the strength of the collection. This is real, not virtual fashion fluff.

Who selected the models for the aLL Primero show and was there any training involved for their “runway strut”?
aLL and IMG Reliance had an audition where we chose 21 models from almost 300 entries. We chose them based on their confidence with their own bodies. They are a happy, excited lot. I loved them at first sight. Our choreographer Anu Ahuja, doesn’t want them to do a runway strut. At the fittings she told them, “At the end of it all, comfortable models are happy models”. I second that.

Have you ever had a muse?
Malaika Arora was my first and only muse, till I made all women a collective muse. I have a job to do and I’m obliged to please the public muse. My job is to make them look slimmer, taller and feel more beautiful – that’s all women want.

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Jerome Marrel and Wendell Rodricks at the Poskem book launch in Mumbai

You have the Moda Goa museum opening end 2018, you’re an impassioned traveler, author, you’re designing silverware, gourmet coffees and the Goa Police Band costume and you love food. How do you maintain your fit persona and sense of self with your diverse creative pursuits?
I am a creative spirit. I guess some people are just made this way. People ask me how I do so much all the time. It really is no effort. I am a Gemini and an expert at multi-tasking. But I am also extremely disciplined. After IHM, a career in hotel management in Mumbai and my sweat and blood years working with the Royal Oman Police, handling Sultans, Sheikhs, Presidents, Prime Ministers et al, I realized one can take on the world in a disciplined, restrained and orderly manner. I learnt discipline from a young age. Give me a 24-hour challenge and I will strive to deliver it in 12 hours. As for loving food, I am an epicurean for sure. Since I lived in Paris, I learnt to ‘indulge in limitation’. Do not believe that I eat everything I post on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. I taste, but don’t gorge, except for dark chocolate.

What achievements in your life are you most proud of and what do you love the most?
I don’t think about myself or my past glories at all. For that, there is google and my website, wendellrodricks.com to refresh my memory. There is much to do without thinking of one’s self and developing an unnecessary ego. I would like to learn Sanskrit and Latin. After aLL Primero, I will be focussing on Moda Goa Museum.  I live in a real world in a small village in Goa. Life in an ivory tower is just so not my vibe. Apart from my partner and my dogs, I love this journey called life. I am on a constant high with life and this big, beautiful world.

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on 17 August, 2017

©Rubina A Khan 2017

Jashn-E-Kaifi With Shabana Azmi At 25, Janki Kutir

Shabana Azmi celebrated the 98th birth anniversary of her late father, the legendary Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi, with an evening of music and poetry called Jashn-E-Kaifi at their family home, 25 Janki Kutir in Mumbai on the 14th of January 2017. Her brother, cinematographer Baba Azmi orchestrated the annual evening on a larger scale this year in a bid to bring back some of the cultural nostalgia of artistry that is not only reminiscent of their home, but an integral part of both, his and Shabana’s growing years – a home where legends like Begum Akhtar, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Guru Dutt, Chetan Anand, SD Burman, Madan Mohan, Balraj Sahni and MF Husain commingled with their parents Kaifi and Shaukat Azmi in a manner most concordant, in the pursuit of the arts. As she showed me around the house – her parent’s bedroom, her childhood room, resonant with memories of an era gone by, I was intrigued by the rich fabric of its familial history. As we walked around the house, every exposed brick seemed to whisper a couplet with the wafting aroma of tea brewing in the kitchen heightening its mystical, old-world aura. And then there was the music…

I heard Sonu Nigam, India’s most beloved singer and a fine musical talent – perform live – a big first for me. The stage was brought alive by raw musicians and singers as well as seasoned ones to an enthralled audience. I loved Javed Akhtar’s rendition of Kaifi Azmi’s poems which brought the house down, and understandably so. Some of Kaifi’s most famous written works in Indian cinema set to music are Tum Itna Jo Muskura Rahe Ho Kya Gham Hai Jo Chupa Rahe Ho (Arth 1982), Chalte Chalte Yunhi Koi Mil Gaya Tha (Pakeezah 1972), Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil Mere Kaam Ki Nahi (Heer Ranjha 1970) Waqt Ni Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam (Kaagaz Ke Phool 1959) Meri Aawaz Suno Pyar ka Raaz Suno (Naunihal 1967) Jhuki Jhuki Si Nazar (Arth 1982) and Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho (Hanste Zakham 1973). 

Here is Jashn-E-Kaifi in pictures:

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Jashn-E-Kaifi stage

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Sonu Nigam

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Javed Akhtar

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Shabana Azmi with her nephew, Viraj Vishwakarma

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Sukriti and Prakriti Kakar

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Kaifs Azmi’s favorite chair

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Shabana Azmi

©Rubina A Khan 2017

Twinkle Khanna Launches Her Second Book, The Legend Of Lakshmi Prasad

Rubina A Khan interviews the multifaceted author Twinkle Khanna for Gulf News:

Twinkle Khanna’s first book, Mrs Funnybones went into reprint over 25 times, and her second book, The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, published by Juggernaut Books has already gone into its second print run of another 50,000 copies in the first month of its launch! The book was released on Tuesday evening at the JW Marriott Juhu in Mumbai and had Shabana Azmi, Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt reading excerpts from the same, with Karan Johar in conversation with the author. Khanna has evidently got the business of funny right, not just in her bones, but also in the literary world, with her distinct voice being read and heard, and most importantly, loved. The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, currently at the number two spot on the Amazon India bestseller list, is a collection of stories that stem from inspired experiences in her life.

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Twinkle Khanna at the launch of her second book, The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad

“I was doing some research for a column when I chanced upon Arunachalam Muruganantham’s life, and his incredible work of making low-cost sanitary napkins for women. His story gripped me and that’s when I sat down, wrote the first few pages and sent them off to my editor to take a look. Then I began chasing Muruga and after innumerable, lengthy interviews, he agreed to let me fictionalize his story and that is how this book came into being. The other stories then followed, as they were all topics I had briefly touched upon through my columns and now, I could weave substantial tales around them,” says Khanna of the book’s existence.

The elemental difference in the narrative style between Mrs Funnybones and Lakshmi Prasad is that Khanna wrote the former in first person, in a “laugh-a-minute sort of narrative” and the latter in third person, “touching upon social issues in a light-hearted manner.” Khanna expands on her choice of publisher for Lakshmi Prasad, with a whimsy that is quintessentially her. “Chiki Sarkar was my editor and publisher at Penguin when I wrote Mrs Funnybones and so when she left to establish her own publishing house, Juggernaut Books, I just followed her like Mary’s little lamb.” She plays down her irreverent sense of wit, with a real, grounded sense of self. “My family is filled with oddballs and we all indulge in playful banter and pull each other’s legs. It’s not as much as them enjoying my company, as much it is for all us to just be together, making each other laugh. It has been a gratifying couple of years now since I wrote my first book. I bump into readers everywhere I go and I think the greatest compliment is that people have stopped asking me about anything else except my writing and I love that.”

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Karan Johar in conversation with Twinkle Khanna at the launch

A strong black coffee in the morning, followed by endless cups of green and peppermint tea throughout the day fuel the mother, wife, daughter, interior designer and writer in her. But it’s the coffee she had recently with Karan Johar on his show, Koffee With Karan Season 5, alongside her husband Akshay Kumar that’s got everyone talking. From her husband’s size (shoe-size!) to Johar’s preference of keeping his mike in a part of his anatomy that’s best left unseen and unwritten, gave viewers an almost uncensored version of her unabashedly humorous and mocking self. If there was any doubt in anyone’s mind that she was not the brain behind her writings, KWK dispelled it all with one clean and hilarious swipe on the show that left even Johar and the viewers stumped for words. “I don’t think a brain has been established inside my head; everyone has a brain and I just looked after mine pretty well by feeding it lots of books. I am really not concerned with how people, men as well as women, perceive me, whether I am sexier now that I seem to have a brain or otherwise.”

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Akshay Kumar and Ranbir Kapoor

Now that she’s a bestselling author, her words are platinum, especially to an aspiring writer. “I would tell anyone who wants to get published to read everything they can get their hands on and that they establish a routine of writing every single day. Literary agents look for something they call a ‘voice’ that’s distinctive, remarkable and defining and the best writers have one, and you can hear it echoing in your head when you read their work. A writer needs to have a distinctive style as well in order to make it easier for them to find a publisher for their works.”

When she’s not busy observing the world and writing on it, Khanna loves reading to her four-year-old daughter Nitara. “I read every single day to her. Nitara shares my love for reading and also has a curious mind like mine. She is fascinated by Julia Donaldson’s books at the moment,” says the glamorous mother of two.

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Ranbir Kapoor read an excerpt from the book

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on November 17, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016

Hinduja Sisters, Ambika And Satya, Collaborate On Their First Immersive Art Show – Hanami – Together

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Ambika Hinduja Macker

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Ambika and Satya Hinduja

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Satya and Ambika Hinduja 

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Ambika Hinduja Macker

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Satya Hinduja 

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Ambika and Satya Hinduja collaborate on their first immersive art show together

©Rubina A Khan 2016

An Evening Of Pandeymonium With Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar And Piyush Pandey!

Amitabh Bachchan launched Pandeymonium, a book  written by India’s most lauded, awarded and loved advertising creative, Piyush Pandey, on 14th October, 2015 in Mumbai amidst a large gathering of the city’s intelligentsia.

Amitabh Bachchan / Getty Images

Amitabh Bachchan

The conversations between Amitabh and Piyush about the world of advertising and how they worked together for eight long years on a campaign to make India Polio free or how they did their respective mothers’ shraadh in Sidhpur (the only place in India where one can do so) in Gujarat whilst filming the Gujarat Tourism campaign or how Piyush had to make Power Point presentations (his first and last!) for Amitabh for the Cadbury campaign or how Amitabh has stopped disclosing things to his wife Jaya as it is never good enough for her, made for an engaging and amusing insight into their world.

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Piyush Pandey, Amitabh Bachchan and Sachin Tendulkar

Sachin Tendulkar spoke about his experiences, working with Piyush as a 16-year-old boy who knew nothing about advertising or looking good, only cricket, in a vein most humorous. A delightful evening indeed, spent amidst the greatest Indian luminaries from the world of film, cricket and advertising.

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Sachin and Anjali Tendulkar with Piyush Pandey

All images are subject to copyright and can be purchased on Getty Images

©Rubina A Khan 2015

Raj Kapoor’s Daughter, Rima Jain’s Ganpati Aarti 2015

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The Ganesh idol at Rima Jain, daughter of the late filmmaker and actor, Raj Kapoor’s house.

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Rima Jain and Jaya Bachchan

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Rima Jain and Jaya Bachchan

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©Rubina A Khan 2015