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

In A Goa Glam State Of Mind…

Rubina A Khan reviews the North and South of Goa and the beaches in between “in a glam state of mind…”

It’s the last few days of 2016 and everyone’s talking about New Year’s Eve parties and where they’ll be ushering in the first sunrise of 2017. But it’s Goa with its warm sun, salty sea and shaken and stirred patterns in the sand, where the beach-erati are at this holiday season, bidding 2016 adieu with a beachy bang. Goa fulfills the three most sought–after F’s of life – fun, food and fashion in a manner most susegad (living and enjoying life to the fullest with a relaxed attitude). And there’s no celebratory time quite like Christmas and New Year’s to be in Goa to make it a fiesta to remember. Here are the top five reasons to hit Goa, apart from its innumerable beach parties and music scene, from the North to its South to the beaches in between, making it an unrivaled party destination in India, every year, all year round:

GLAMOUROUS FUN: The opening of the first W hotel in India earlier this month, the W Goa in Vagator in North Goa, has flipped the olde Goan susegad mood board into a glamorously sassy one. W Goa is spread across 25 acres of luxuriant greens along the Arabian Sea, with unparalleled views of swaying coconut palms and the idyllic Vagator Beach shore from its elevated Rock Pool. The Goan red laterite stone is dominant in the hotel’s contemporary architectural style with installation artist, Subodh Kerkar’s art works from his Indigo and Chilli series occupying places of pride in the hotel’s design métier.

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Installation artist, Subdoh Kerkar’s art from his Indigo series

But it’s the W that shines bright like a gleaming diamond, at the entrance of the hotel, embodying its edgy and fashionable spirit that sets the tone of the heady times ahead.

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The glamorous entrance of the W Goa

The Kitchen Table, an all-day diner overlooking the pool, serves the best Goan thali ever! The Bamboo Charcoal Prawn Tempura with Mango and Wasabi, a signature dish of Chef Tanveer Kwatra, Director of Cuisine, W Goa at Spice Traders, the hotel’s Pan-Asian restaurant is just exquisite, as is the Baked Singapore Chilli Crab and the Tuna Truffle Tostadas with Caviar.

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Baked Singapore Chilli Crab at Spice Traders

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Bamboo Charcoal Prawn Tempura with Mango and Wasabi

The food at W Goa is exemplary in its distinctive tastes, flavours, finesse and technique and is poised to become a culinary haute spot in Goa very soon. The neon-hued WeeKids, a kids club, a first for the W globally, is immensely popular, almost as much as the music and DJ line-up at the Rock Pool bar. And what’s a little glamour without some Bollywood thrown in? Bollywood superstar, Salman Khan and his family, were one of the very first guests’ in residence during the W Goa’s inaugural run in India. So, if you ever wanted to sleep in the same bed as Khan (without him in it, of course!) well, now you can in the W villa!

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Amit Bhosale, owner W Goa and Salman Khan

EPICUREAN TRAILS: The culinary scene in Goa is as incredibly diverse as its people, not to mention addictive. There’s no dearth of restaurants and bars in Goa, with world cuisine available right from a beach shack to a luxury hotel. The coolest places to hang out and actually eat in, rather than just be seen in, are undeniably Thalassa Greek Taverna (Greek / Mediterranean) on Small Vagator and Gunpowder The Peninsular Kitchen (South Indian) in Assagao. Eating here is akin to a food pilgrimage in Goa. Thalassa is always bustling with people, enjoying their Lamb Gyros, Feta Moussakas and Risotto Prawns, taking in the spectacular views from the restaurant, at any given time of the day or night. The blue and white Greek village environs add to the charm of Thalassa that entices you to eat (a lot!), laugh and shop without a care in the world. Gunpowder’s cuisine ranges from flavours from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa and even some parts of Maharashtra. From Syrian Christian Beef, Kerala Mutton Curry and Andhra Prawns to their famous fluffy Egg Appams to a South Indian must, a steaming plate of idlis with gunpowder, it’s like a little bit of India on a very big, rotating plate. You might just run into Twinkle Khanna riding in on her yellow scooter here as it is one of her favourite restaurants in Goa.

FASHION: Fashion in Goa is refreshingly personal. It’s you and your vibe, but a new outfit on New Years Eve is de rigeur, wherever you might be in the world. Fashion designer Malini Ramani’s vibrant store in Calangute can help you get your Goa glam on with everything resort – from shimmering off shoulder dresses to feather flirt tops to sundresses to sequined shorts and bikinis. So whether you’re going to a sundowner at the W Goa or a fireworks and bonfire NYE party on the beach, or just taking a selfie with a cow on the streets, you’ll find something that works, and dazzles on you. Bold-hued outfits line the racks in Ramani’s store, with a large black and white embellished artwork by her on the wall, that balances the color play, reflective of the designer’s definitive sense of style, that is loved and worn by Bollywood beauty Deepika Padukone, who makes her Hollywood debut in XXX: Return of Xander Cage with Vin Diesel in the new year.

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Malini Ramani’s store in Calangute | Photo: Rubina A Khan

RELAX: What’s a holiday without a round of golf ala Rory Mcllroy on the Double T 9-hole golf course on the beautiful greens of the Lalit Golf and Spa Resort in South Goa or some good old soccer on the beach? Spread over 85 acres, the Baroque-Portuguese styled resort has an imposing hand-painted tile mosaic of Sao Rafael, the first Portuguese ship that landed in Goa, steered by Vasco De Gama to add to its cultural charm. With sweeping views of the Sahyadri mountain range, along the confluence of the Talpone river, the Lalit’s manicured grounds are ideal to commune with yourself. If sport is your idea of a relaxing holiday with the family with your kids running wild, then the Lalit has everything from Lawn Tennis to Table Tennis, Squash, Volley Ball, Badminton, Cycling, Zorbing, Parasailing, Archery, Air Rifle Shooting to fuel your athletic side. And if you love spas, then Rejuve at the Lalit is an added must to your itinerary!

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DETOX: The pursuit of a vibrant and energized spirit is on everyone’s mind for the new year and the Detox Detour at the Alila Diwa Goa set amidst luxuriant rice plantations and mango, banyan and peepul trees, along Gonsua Beach in Majorda, South Goa offers just that. Just the idea of a detox detour is so appealing that it does not take any persuasion to check right in, straight into the serene and soothing environs of Spa Alila. Specially designed as 3,5,7,10 and 14 night packages right from a body composition analysis to holistic and ayurvedic treatments to nutritionally balanced meals, the Detox Detour at the Alila works at correcting imbalances and health deteriorations due to the stresses of modern living and enhancing your optimal wellness. After all the hedonistic partying and food indulgences during the holidays, Spa Alila’s bespoke treatments infuse elements of Ayurveda, yoga, massage, fitness, hypnotherapy, pranic healing and nutrition to nourish and cleanse your mind, body and soul so you can take on 2017’s exciting new adventures with renewed fervor.

There’s a little bit of Goa for everyone, and in everyone’s heart, and the glamorous new Goa is where it is all really at!

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on December 29, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016

W Goa, The First W Hotel In India Opens In Vagator Today

The first W hotel in India, the W Goa opened today, the 12th of December 2016, turning up the glam on the idyllic landscape of Vagator in Goa with it’s dazzle-me-baby vibe.

Here’s the W Goa in pictures:

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A bedazzling W at the entrance of W Goa

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A very W bedroom!

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Backyard | W Goa

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Amit Bhosale, MD ABIL and owner W Goa

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Poolside chillin’

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The sun sets on the Arabian Sea and Vagator Beach

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Baked Singapore Chilli Crab at Spice Traders | W Goa

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Fantastic Sea Front Villa | W Goa

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Woobar | W Goa

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Tuna Truffle Tostada at Spice Traders | W Goa

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A very W Welcome Desk

Getty Images

©Rubina A Khan 2016