28 May 2024  |   05:41am IST

Leaving a living legacy for Goans

International fashion icon late Wendell Rodricks had a vision for Goa, to open India’s first Costume Museum in the State. On his 64th birth anniversary, his partner Jerome Marrell takes Herald Café through Wendell’s dream at Moda Goa Museum at his Colvale home Casa Dona Maria
Leaving a living legacy for Goans

I want to simply leave a house and a legacy for Goa. Living in Colvale has given me so much creative space. Through the museum, I am giving back in small measure what Goa gave me in large doses,” said late Wendell Rodricks, in an interview with Herald Café in 2014, when he was chalking out the initial plan for the now almost complete Moda Goa Museum.

Born on May 28, 1960, Wendell Rodricks studied Fashion Designing in the USA and France from 1986 to 1988. Wendell’s first collection from Goa earned him the title ‘Guru of Minimalism’ and his love for Goa was seen not only through his fashion collections but in different creative aspects. He also designed the Goa Police’s blue-white uniform, which was later donned by the traffic police personnel. 

In 2014, he designed the official jacket for the All India staff of Enforcement Directorate (ED).

In 2010, Wendell undertook a two year project reviving the weaving of the traditional Goan Kunbi Sari, involving identifying and training weavers in the use of sari looms. This unique Kunbi Sari, and other garments using the same weave, were showcased at Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week.

In 2012, Wendell made his debut as an author when he penned ‘Moda Goa – History and Style’ which was published by Harper Collins. This was where the idea of a museum germinated in the mind of Wendell as he researched for two decades about the museum. “Over the years, I have been collecting objects and there is enough to fill the museum. Goans have also been kind and donated to the collection. A 95-year-old lady gave me her wedding dress in pristine condition. Another lady sent boxes full of old dresses, hats and gloves. I have purchased gold ornaments. There will be very little from my collections. The major part will be to showcase the history of Goan Costumes,” said Wendell then.

Wendell’s memoir, ‘The Green Room’, was published by Rupa Raintree and launched at Lakme Fashion Week in 2012. In July 2017, Wendell’s fiction novel ‘Poskem – Goans in the Shadows’ was published by Om Books. In 2014, he was awarded the Padma Shri by The President of India, Pranab Mukherjee for Art (Fashion Design), India's fourth highest civilian honour and he was also 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. Among much anticipation, with the Museum work going on in full swing, Wendell passed away on February 2020 at his residence in Colvale, at the age of 59. His demise created a huge void in the fashion and literary world as well as among Goans who thought about Goa beyond themselves.

However, ably supported by a great team at Moda Goa Foundation, Wendell’s partner Jerome Marrel is working towards making Wendell’s dream a reality. Moda Goa Museum & Research Centre, Colvale will be India's first Costume Museum established by the Moda Goa Foundation. The foundation hopes for the museum to be an international museum and research centre that engages and serves the community through a strong local and regional identity

 Walking through the 18 well-planned galleries that will be set up in their first home in Colvale, Casa Dona Maria, a 450-year-old house that was previously owned by Olinda Braganza, Jerome shares how much Wendell cared about the aesthetics of the house. “When we bought the house, there was a big staircase going up to the top and the tower didn’t exist but it was just a balcony. When we went to Canada and met the ex-owners, they informed us that when they were young there was a tower. We asked for photos and going through their archives, they found the photos and the towers were recreated. We removed the staircase as we wanted fluidity of the movement of the building,” says Jerome, as he explains that the open space will be a Café that will feature Wendell’s recipes especially those which were mentioned in his last book, ‘Poskem’.  

Apart from the house, another wing of the property will be a library. “Wendell had more than 2000 books on fashion, costumes and cuttings. People can come and refer to the books, students can come and study, scholars can research for their papers,” adds Jerome.

Moda Goa Museum & Research Centre, recently held a preview of its building and an exhibition of a limited artefacts from its collection. The centrepiece of this exhibition was a stunning stainless-steel skirt, meticulously crafted in 2008 for Wendell Rodricks’ Tropical Island collection, which premiered at Lakme Fashion Week. This iconic garment, once donned by the elegant Jessie Randhawa, embodies Rodricks’ innovative vision and mastery of design. “In February, the stainless-steel skirt was on display at the Goa Open Arts Festival in Panjim. It is now here in this room and ultimately it will become a chandelier for the top floor of the museum,” explains Jerome.

The museum will be designed to inspire young designers and fashion enthusiasts to see the trend changing designs in Goan clothing. Dating back to the pre-Portuguese times, it took over two decades for Wendell to research for the book and two internships in museums in New York and Lisbon, to begin work on the museum. Each part of the galleries have interesting stories to tell through the introductions displayed in each room.

The first gallery will be dedicated to ‘Goan Hindu Gods’ and currently houses a six foot tall Lord Ganesha wooden idol. ‘International Influences’ will feature communities that have settled in Goa and their unique objects and costumes including the Greeks, Romans, Persians, Jews, Deccani Muslims, Buddhists, Jains and the Arabs. ‘Portuguese Beginnings’ will give a visual treat to the Renaissance fashions in black, deep red or brown worn by the first Portuguese settlers and how Goa became the birthplace of the Indo-Western garment. ‘Christian Art’ will feature the unique Christian artistic tradition with textiles, wood and metal. This gallery also has a grand church altar (circa 1750) which was rescued from the Mandrem church and has been part of this wall for over two decades as the heart of this beautiful former home.

‘Parsis in Goa’ will give a glimpse into the world of the Zoroastrian presence in Goa which is attributed to trade and the community blended in quietly. The noted wealthy Parsi luminary and later builder of Bombay, Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy took his first trip to China with the famous Goan Catholic Rogério de Faria of Chorão island to start the opium trade.

‘Tools of the Trade’ pays tribute to the Goan artisans working with thread and fabric with crochet circles, spindles and needles. ‘Prateek’s Art Space’ will display beautiful drawings created by a young boy Prateek while fighting a valiant battle with cancer. Drawings made by him were converted into silk tapestries woven in Kashmir. ‘Visual Gallery Of Textiles’ will be the only pan-Indian gallery in the museum. ‘Festivals of Goa’ will feature festivals through the costumes showcased in the documentary, the perpetual calendar, and visuals.

‘Rites Of Passage’ will symbolise the many unique customs in Goa through their specific costumes for family or private traditions. ‘Pano Bhaju Migration’ is a garment rich with history that entered the Goan costume lexicon. Called the Pano Bhaju, the ensemble was used by high class ladies in South Goa to do the traditional dance - Goan Mando. The Pano Bhaju is a fine example of east-west fusion.

‘Liberation Heroes’ is a tribute to the courageous men and women who defied, fought for and revolted against the coloniser to make Goa an Indian state. Barino Monteiro, defied the strict Portuguese dress codes and wore a self-designed 'tunica'. ‘Accessories’ will display the beauty of European fashion trends like vanity cases, hats and accessories that found their way into Goa. ‘Celebrations’ will showcase the Kunbi sari revived by Founding Trustee Wendell Rodricks. ‘The Colvale Gallery’ will offer a space for temporary exhibitions three times a year specifically for costume- based works.

‘The Goan Gold Gallery’ will have a dazzling display of over 180 pieces of jewellery that glorifies the fine artisanship of gold in Goa. Guarded by a vault door, this collection spans across centuries.

What does Jerome miss the most about Wendell? “Everything!” is his answer with an emotional smile. “Somebody shared with me the photos of the Colvale highway with the Mango trees when it was a beautiful village. When we were coming from Mumbai, if we crossed the trees, we would say, we can gone too far. He is missed by everyone,” concludes Jerome. The Moda Goa Museum & Research Centre, Colvale is expected to open in December 2024. 


Iddhar Udhar