It’s a sad day for the fashion world. Wendell Rodricks, one of the most prolific and admired Indian designers of modern times, passed away aged 59. He died at his Colvale residence in Goa on Wednesday.
Throughout his life, Rodricks created many iconic fashion moments. His pieces conveyed a certain fluidity, blurring the lines between hard and soft, masculine and feminine. Rodricks, who was openly gay himself, also showed his support for the LGBTQ community at his fashion shows, celebrating the idea that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes — no matter the gender.
In 2017, he gave Mona Varonica Campbell, India’s first plus size transgender model, her big break as she walked the ramp for the ace designer at the Lakme Fashion Week. Campbell, formerly known as Adapala Mohan Naidu, said she owes a debt of gratitude to Rodrick’s indelible contribution to the world of fashion.
In a brief interaction with us, Campbell revealed that her “fashion daddy”, as she lovingly called Rodricks, believed in her when no one else did and helped her step out of her comfort zone.
“This is really shocking. Right day before yesterday, we had a long conversation on WhatsApp. He was the only one who always stood beside me when I had no one around in the industry. I have a bunch of good memories with him. He was super attached to me and constantly stayed in touch. He even planed to write a book on my life,” shared Mona, who has been listed among the top three most successful trans women in the world.
Recalling her debut at the Lakme Fashion Week three years ago, Mona said, “After my debut at his fashion show, he met my mom and dad and we had a breakfast together. He told them how proud he was of me and asked my parents to keep supporting me. And till date, my parents have supported me throughout. He once invited me as a special guest on one of his fashion shows. It was such a special moment in my life. He always gave me priority and respected my choices. He was the only one who really supported LGBTQ community and stood by the entire community without any fear. I wouldn’t have got the tag of a supermodel had he not supported me.”
She added, “It’s super hard for me. The other day he told me, “I’m happy that you’re busy and doing fabulous work. He is beyond anyone to me. May his soul rest in peace.”
Campbell also took to Instagram to pay a heartfelt tribute to Rodricks for being “one of the most instrumental persons in my life for whatever I am today.” She shared a series of pictures of them alongside an emotional note.
Rodricks was also a part of the khadi movement, and even promoted it at the world’s largest organic fair, BioFach at Nuremberg in Germany in 2011. In 2014, he was awarded India’s fourth highest civilian honour, the Padma Shri. He was also honoured by the All India Konkani Parishad and conferred the distinction of Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters (Chevalier de l’Ordre National des Arts et Lettres) by The Ministry of Culture and Communication of France.