Fashion Designer
Goa, India

Personally I think a formal education is essential. But those that have been in a studio for a lengthy period, learn on the job and develop ‘technique’ over other areas of expertise. A professional starting out in fashion should do an internship and hold a job under an established designer for a minimum two years. Unless one wants to burn up finances and learn the hard way through costly mistakes.

Wendell is a Goan at heart and “by design” – infusing the resort/beach style into his creations is a trademark of the fashion designer who is also a social activist with a strong belief in an Indian identity. Creator of the first ever designer police uniform in 1996 for the Goa State Police, Wendell went onto design the path-breaking Visionnaire collection, a design series that used Braille on clothes to help the visually challenged. In 2010, Wendell revived the weaving of the Goan Kunbi sari, a slowly dying handicraft, and showcased it at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week. In 2014, Wendell was awarded the Padmashri, the fourth highest civilian honour.

If you had to draft an elevator pitch for your profession, what would it be?

Fashion is for everyone. No matter how unfashionable a person claims to be, fashion touches them…or they would be walking around naked. Since the invention of the loom to the present technologies that are applied to clothing, fashion is a celebration for everyone on the planet…from royal kings to tribals in feathers.

What are the new trends you notice that are changing the complexion of your profession?

We are at a very interesting stage in Indian fashion. The next decade will decide whether Indian fashion stays a notch above world fashion or blends into what I call the ‘blanding of fashion.’ It is increasingly boring to see the same street clothes everywhere. Which is why continuing to wear our 6000 year old clothing legacy is so vital for India.


No matter how unfashionable a person claims to be, fashion touches them…or they would be walking around naked.

Wendell2Show me the money! How do you see this profession faring 20 years down the line?

People wear more clothes today compared to two decades ago. Two decades ago we went to the tailor for a birthday, family wedding or religious festival. Today clothes are bought weekly. Most people own many sunglasses compared to the old days when one pair sufficed for a lifetime. People keep feeding into the vanity gene natural in everyone. In the next two decades, there will be more to choose from. More clothing and accessories to buy. The market will explode by 2035.

What do you do when you are stuck with a problem?

Solve it as best as one can without upsetting too many people or their lives. Very often the problem is not mine. It comes to me. But I have learnt to make those presenting the problem to me, solve it themselves. For example a tailor telling me the machine needle is broken is passing the buck. I ask him to find out the three best choices available. So he will find the cheap Chinese needle that lasts for a shorter period compared to a Japanese or German needle that will cost more. I then ask him which he thinks is best. Problem solved!

What sort of formal education is an absolute essential for your profession? Also, could you share with us the kind of internship or experience that would be helpful for a young person considering this line of work?

Personally I think a formal education is essential. But those that have been in a studio for a lengthy period, learn on the job and develop ‘technique’ over other areas of expertise. A professional starting out in fashion should do an internship and hold a job under an established designer for a minimum two years. Unless one wants to burn up finances and learn the hard way through costly mistakes.


In fashion one has to walk the line of being constantly creative, marketing one’s product and ensuring that sales produce adequate profits.

Model1When we’re in school, we’re told cheating is bad – ‘Don’t talk to each other, don’t discuss.’ And then as we come out of it, we begin to realize that there’s something called “collaborative thinking” and it’s not bad! What’s your opinion?

This is a debatable question. A lot depends on the situation. If a designer has decided to get eyeballs with a scandalous gown, I would call it strategy. We need to work closely with the industry and respect the people we work with. The more one delegates, the more one has the time to control the larger picture. In fashion one has to walk the line of being constantly creative, marketing one’s product and ensuring that sales produce adequate profits.

Did you ever want to change the world?

Heavens no! My father taught me that you can change yourself but one cannot change others. When I can’t change a situation that I have no control over, I simply leave it and move on.

Describe a typical (business-as-usual) day and an atypical (screw-up-fairy-lives-here) day at work.

I have an unusual agenda. I allow more free time than working time. But when I work, I give it full focus. I wake up early…as early as 4.30am some days, go for a walk and Mass in my village church. Post breakfast I look at emails, posts on social media and sketches for the studio. By 10.30am I am creatively done for the day. I then indulge in whatever gets my fancy till lunch – reading, music, playing with the pets and cooking. Post lunch I do admin-related stuff upto sunset. I stop working before the sun sets, go on my boat some days or to the beach on others. Or simply walk in the hills in my village. I dine early and on some days sleep early at 8.30 or 9pm.

I do not believe in atypical days. I make them all work in a fun, fulfilling way.

Model2How do you overcome roadblocks in your profession?

I take it in my stride and learn from experience. One of the lessons I have learnt from roadblocks is to scrutinize them before, during and after the occurrence. This results in a ‘list of things to do’ for each employee. Most important is to update those lists when further roadblocks appear for the same situation but with different parameters.

What are the pitfalls of your profession and how do you mitigate them? Did you have any fears when you were just starting out about this line of work, and were any of them justified?

When you are a pioneer in your work, it can be scary. There is no icon to turn to for advice. You are all alone. But that gives you a pioneer’s advantage, which is a precious rite of passage. When I started out, I said to myself I was going to enjoy this job which is a passion. I did not ever think about making money or getting famous. I simply enjoyed every moment. When things went wrong, I would look at the brighter side imagining that it could be worse. So no point moaning and groaning. Just get over it and climb that mountain.

What would your advice be to a young person at the start of his or her career and confused about pursuing passion versus being pragmatic?

Fashion needs a bit of both. Like most professions. If you can’t do both, be like me and drag the partner to do the pragmatic bits. 😉

What is the kind of supplementary informal learning that will give you that edge on this job?

I learnt a lot when I interned in two museums in 2000. Since then that has become my mantra to take short sabbaticals…to learn and improve my art and craft. Believe me if I can juggle balls as designer, teacher, writer, environmental activist and social worker…anyone can!

If you could do some time-travelling and go back to meet yourself at 17, 25, 35, what would you say to your selves then?

Nothing. I went with the flow. And will do it the same again at any age.

Photo Credits: Farrokh Chothia, Rafique Sayed
Interview conducted by Pooja Pande.