When 20-year-old spanking new fashion design school graduate Schulen Fernandes plucked up the courage to approach style maven Wendell Rodricks with a request to join his team as an intern, she was buoyed up perhaps by the fact that she had won six awards at the PVP, SNDT college in Mumbai. “I realised my design sensibilities were an absolute match to his,” she avers.
A three-month internship turned into a beautiful four-year artistic journey under Wendell’s tutelage. And 18 years later, she’s still there with a few gaps in between when she’d struck out on her own. With an imprint of hers on the Wendell Rodricks label, how has the odyssey been? Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.
Schulen…what a pretty name!
“It’s something to do with learning in German. My mom fell in love with its unusual, musical cadence. I recently found out it’s also the name of a little town in Belgium. That’s definitely on my travel bucket list now,” Schulen shares.
Were you born to design?
I think so. Hand-sewing dresses for my doll from throwaway clothes at a young age were predictable early signs. In my teenage years I’d be glued to the fashion channels on TV. I especially loved watching the Grammy and Oscar award ceremonies. So much glamour! Such lovely outfits! It was but natural that I would take to couture in a big way.
What made you choose Wendell as your mentor?
We had a great panel of educators back then like Hemant Trivedi and of course, Wendell. I loved his minimally exquisite apparel. It’s been a great learning curve to work with someone who’s so hands-on. I’ve seen him cut garments when the master cutter couldn’t grasp the idea, sketch with a free hand, and plan shows, where he conceptualised everything from music to styling.
What have you added to his label?
Though our perceptions are pretty alike, I think I’ve brought a younger, more contemporary feel to the existing DNA. I’m a little more biased towards layered clean silhouettes and geometric forms, while Wendell loves fluid drapes. We usually work together on our bi-annual seasonal collection displayed at fashion weeks and other launches.
Other than Wendell, can you name some of your other inspirations?
I’m totally sold on Japanese designers like Issey Miyake. Their innovations are phenomenal! From the vintage designers, I’d root for Dior, YSL and Elsa Schiaparelli. I also love Rohit Bal’s collections inspired by Kashmir. There are so many of them that I admire!
Does the sari turn you on like it does Wendell?
Most certainly. In our Cubist Rose collection we had a pre-stitched sari with angular cubist pleats while in White Carpet, we showed a sari gown.
Anything for the woman without a perfect model figure?
We believe in celebrating the Indian woman’s beauty and more importantly, her curves! We don’t use harsh terms like large and extra large. Instead, we refer to the body types as Voluptuous and Voluptuous Goddess.
Can you reveal some famous names who’ve graced your label?
Lisa Ray, Helena Christensen, Malaika Arora, Rekha, Mallika Sherawat, Jaya Jaitley, Maria Goretti, Nandita Das and Tisca Chopra are some of the names I recall.
Lastly, do you wear your own clothes?
Let me tell you a funny story before I answer that question. It was a Christmas party a little over two decades ago. I’d bought this fab black-and-white jacket paired with a red mini, especially customised for me, or so I thought. Imagine my horror when I walked in and saw a much older lady wearing exactly the same ensemble! That’s when I swore I’d wear my own bespoke numbers, which I do till date.
And yes, I do wear my creations on most days. It’s the best way to discover their strengths and flaws! And great for business too. So many times people have liked what I’ve worn and placed an order for the same....