The cause of death has not yet been revealed.
Known for his focus on minimalist design, Rodricks was outspoken and experimental with design. Undeterred by social norms, he also was a gay rights activist, and married Jerome Marrel in a civil ceremony in Paris in 2002. He wrote several books, including his autobiography, “The Green Room,” published in 2012.
“The fashion fraternity lost a legend today,” the Fashion Design Council of India noted in a tweet Wednesday evening, regretting “the sudden and untimely demise of one of the country’s iconic designer, Wendell Rodricks.”
Having won recognition for his creations, Rodricks was awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India, in 2014, and the Chevalier de I’Ordre des Arts et Lettres (Knight of the order of arts and letters) in 2015.
The designer showed that minimalism could work in India, a market where bling and heavy embroidery predominates. “I must say it was an uphill battle,” he once told WWD. “After I showed my third season I said that if it doesn’t work I will go back to Paris. But it worked, it clicked. Then after moving to Goa in 1993, the first collection I sent from Goa was such a big hit because it was eco-friendly, it had minimalism, and it had resort. I gave those things to India before the words were coined. I was always battling the customers who always asked for embroidery.
“That really interesting part about spirituality and minimalism, which attracted foreigners to India, was not translated into fashion or into any design sensibility,” he added. “I’m glad I did it, translated that aesthetic. I saw what was available in the market, and each time I went overseas, whether it was the Paris fair or the Salon or whether it was in Nuremberg, the biggest eco-friendly fair in the world, I think people came for that aesthetic. They wanted this other India, this very spiritual, very calm, very yogic India which is what my clothes are about.”
Rodricks launched his label in 1989, and in 2016, he handed over the design reins to his prodigy, Schulen Fernandes, making a dramatic statement of change at Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai.
“We don’t want the label to die when the designer goes,” he said. “I see my philosophy growing in my own head, but I’m very keen to hand over. I don’t want to be a dead brand. I would like the name and legacy to continue, and that I have time for other things that are close to my heart. I want to open a fashion institute in Goa, a fashion museum, I have been collecting for more than 10 years. I would really like to give my time for that rather than plain fashion.”
The museum is scheduled to open this summer, a museum of Goan fashion in the 450-year-old house in Colvale, Casa Dona Maria, in which he earlier lived.
Although he had a clarity of vision, and as organizers of Lakme Fashion Week noted, “a unique signature style of blending ancient Indian geometry with Goa’s relaxed style.” Rodricks was not competing for global retail space.
“I don’t care if Indian fashion goes global. Indian fashion is in a good space. We have a population of a billion and more to service. Why should we go out to prove that we can go out and remake a jacket that the West wants to remake every season?”
His funeral is set for Thursday afternoon in Goa.