David Abraham, Designer
Wendell belonged to the first generation of fashion designers who presented a fresh aesthetic of reductionist, minimal design. He had a consistent voice, which he held with such confidence, right through. Very few designers have been able to achieve such clarity. His designs were very evocative of Goa’s landscape — simple, light, breezy and with a sense of movement. His clothes reflected Goa’s terroir. Wendell was always proud of his roots and the environment in which he grew up. A lot of his work put the spotlight on Goa and he was a leader in that sense in reviving its textile traditions and costumes. You see people wearing his designs everywhere.
In 2000, in the first year of India Fashion Week, many designers were heavy on ornamentation. Wendell though stayed with his simple minimalist look. He was very conscious of the drape and the material and didn’t cover it up. At the time, we didn’t see such clean and minimal work. The possibilities in fashion were just being discovered. Magazine editors were curious and in newspapers, we provided the glamour. It was a frontier land and the first generation of designers were carving out a path in contemporary India. It was barely 50 years since independence, we were moving out of the socialist framework and fashion wasn’t a part of conversations then. Yet, each designer was experimenting in his or her own way and unlike today, fashion wasn’t this entrenched, institutionalised, affected construct.
Wendell, even till the end, was candid about what he believed in and spoke his mind. He was always respected for that, for his forthright attitude and his ability to not mince words.
Vivek Menezes, Founder, Goa Art and Literature Festival
Wendell was an impressive writer and I was moved and touched by how hard he worked to be a writer. If you look at other fashion designers, you would find them to be unidimensional, that they all do fashion, and if they do something else, it would be related to style. Wendell was a multi-faceted person and worked very hard to achieve excellence in those areas. This was very interesting about him. He had produced three books. I am a writer, a very hardworking writer, but I have not produced any book, so for his writing, I give him credit.
Waluscha De Sousa, Model and actor
I was introduced to the world of fashion by Wendell and in the best way possible. He discovered me at the age of 16 after he put out an advertisement on how he wanted to discover fresh talent from Goa, and never let go of my hand after that. It is owing to him that I modelled for the first Lakme Fashion Week in the country, starred in a Pepsi commercial with Shah Rukh Khan when I was 17, and was discovered as MTV’s Fresh Face. Everytime I went to Goa, I would visit him because he always loved to have people over and feed them. He helped me walk at my first fashion show and taught me how to walk, sit, how to talk and when to talk. With every fashion show of his, he ensured I opened or closed the show. I turned from being this shy girl to what I am today.
He did the costumes for my film Shab (2017) and even did a cameo in the film. He was a very loving person who did everything for free. He gave certain costumes and even accessories such as sunglasses and personal belongings to the actors, and asked them to keep them. He said he wanted the film to do really well. I had gone to his Goan home, which he was turning into Moda Goa Museum, India’s first museum of costumes, and he had taken me from room to room, and to the storeroom, telling me about the costumes he wanted to display. His passing away is saddening as he was planning to launch his dream project and how he wished Rekha to inaugurate it.
Wendy Zuzarte, Stand-up comic
Wendell taught me to love unconditionally and showed me how to never be judgemental about people you love. He made me relook at all my relationships. I would tease him that he is a brother from another mother. During his book launch for Poskem, I told him I would do a stand-up act. And it so happened that instead of launching his book, he launched me. When he took me to the Lakme Fashion Week, he introduced me to many other designers and kept telling them about my work. He changed me in the way he lived his life. I would always tell him, ‘You are the Wendell beneath my wings’.
Madhu Jain, Textile Conservationist
It’s a huge loss to the industry but Goa will really miss him. After Mario Miranda’s passing, Wendell’s death is another big loss for Goa. He was part of the tribe of eco-warriors in the fashion world — he brought so much attention on the Kunbi sari which everyone had forgotten about. He was passionate about environment and consequences of what’s happening in the world today. He wasn’t afraid to speak his mind, and didn’t know how to be diplomatic. We shared a lot of common threads. More than three decades ago, we were both part of the same store in Mumbai, called Glitterati. I was a shy, introvert person, new to the world of fashion, and would always watch Wendell from the corner of my eyes, as to how he had this knack of making anyone he spoke to comfortable. Lately, we would discuss a lot about what’s happening in the textile industry. If you don’t care, you can’t make a difference, and Wendell cared. He cared about animals, handlooms, and the environment. He was among the first batch of inclusive designers who nurtured new talent and were not scared of passing the baton to the next generation. Last year, we discussed alternate fibre and preservation of handlooms. I really wish he was around, because I can’t win the battle alone.
Anupama Dayal, Designer
Wendell was much senior to me but he was one of those rare seniors who cared about newcomers and how they were doing. He was part of the jury that selected me for the Lakme Fashion Week in 2006 and I still remember how he came over, gave me his feedback about my presentation, and then told me that it was my spirit that would take me far. In the years that went by, Wendell would always find a way to reach out — sometimes, it would be a phone call to tell me that a professional decision I was taking was just not right; sometimes, it would be a recipe out of the blue because he remembered a conversation we had about it a long time ago. He would advise, scold, offer suggestions and fill you up with his warmheartedness. We did a show together two years ago and you would imagine that for a senior designer like him, his own presentation and image would matter more. Instead, he was telling me how to put my best foot forward, calling up our choreographer Anu Ahuja and telling her how to pitch focus on me. It was an honour for me to share the ramp with him in the first place but this went beyond my wildest imagination. With Wendell, nothing was done in half-measure.
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