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December 15, 2017

Designers And Their Protégés: Wendell Rodricks and Schulen Fernandes

Text by Saumya Sinha

While Rodricks is old-world and culture-orientated, Fernandes is more in sync with the times and they find that there’s enough room to communicate two sets of values and ideas

After reigning over ramps for over two decades, Wendell Rodricks formally announced the appointment of Schulen Fernandes as his successor in 2016. On her assuming the mantle, Rodricks says, “She knows my design DNA perhaps better than I know it myself. What I like best is that when I offer advice, she considers the pros and cons and does it her way anyway”.

Fernandes came to the designer as an intern, fresh from college in 1999. Internships last six to eight weeks yet she stayed on at the WR fashion house for four years. “Schulen came back to me four seasons ago and I knew from the second season that I had found a worthy successor. And I thought it would take eight seasons for me to develop her confidence!” shares the fashion savant.

Working together, they strive to do what is internationally new with no references to magazines. Rodricks admits that he has learnt a lot from her and often uses her ideas as a framework for his creations. It is no wonder then that the senior designer is all praises for Fernandes, “What I admire about her, in recent times, is how she handles the press and media with such confidence. I took years to string a few lines together about a collection. Schulen does it effortlessly, with style and panache, in a fluently articulate manner.”

While he is old-world and culture-orientated, she is more in sync with the times from the perspective of minimalistic fashion and there’s enough room to communicate two sets of values and ideas. “The Indian buyer understands the ‘less is more’ approach now better than ever before and Wendell is known as the guru of minimalism in India. Expanding our international presence is also on the agenda”, opines Fernandes, who has found a great mentor and friend in Rodricks. “And Wendell is always supportive and a call away, when I need advice. Yet at the same time he ends most conversations reminding me that I am now the boss and the decisions are entirely mine,” she says.

While Rodricks serves as a constant source of inspiration for Fernandes, the latter has in turn total faith in Rodricks for him to let her lead the way. “We never had an extensive design team. It has always been Wendell and the assistant designer. It was inspiring to see Wendell turn up every day at the studio and be involved with the designing of every single collection. From conceptualisation to sketching and also cutting the garment if need be. Those are things I was fortunate enough to learn very early on in my career and from the best in the Indian fashion industry,” she says. And Rodricks, when asked what his vision is for the brand, claims without a moment’s hesitation, “It is Schulen!”

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