If you have had any preconceived notions about the ditzy lives of the cogs in the fashion industry, now would be a good time to abandon them. Flamboyant designer Wendell Rodricks uses an effortlessly lyrical style of narration in his autobiography, The Green Room, to sketch not just a personal account, but also a veritable history of the Indian fashion scene.
Surprisingly candid, the openly gay designer charts the course of his destiny from his gauche school days in Mumbai to his accession to the celebrated position of one of India's avant garde designers and cultural ambassador in the international couture market.
The Green Room is often flippant and self-aggrandising, but is a valuable window to the competitive, ruthless and often fascinating inside world of models, designers, tailors, socialites, trainers, patrons, makeup and hair artistes and fashion houses to which the proletariat rarely have access to.
From the year 1965, when Wendell and his middle-class, Goan Catholic family inhabited a derelict community house in Mahim to his days in the hospitality industry in Oman, the book is wonderfully detailed. Wendell remembers every bottle of wine he has ever had, the side dishes he ordered at restaurants all over the world and the numerous holiday destinations. There is a gratuitous mention of all the people who helped shape his career - from his master cutter to the friends in the media.
It was during his stint at Oman that he met his future partner, a resourceful French man named Jerome Marrell. Jerome would remain his constant companion for the next many years to come. "What I learnt from Jerome was style. It was all about elegance and living in style every moment. The Limoges or Rosenthal are not reserved only for guests or a special occasion. A glass of water is served with a flower on the serving tray," Wendell writes.
With famous names casually mentioned throughout the book, The Green Room catalogues not just Wendell's rise to power and influence in the fashion circuit but also that of his contemporaries, including Rohit Bal, Hemant Trivedi and photographer Atul Kasbekar. The designer, who has draped Malaika Arora Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Mashu Sapre, writes about new trends, politics and business of fashion at a time when the industry was just beginning to boom.
Goa is a recurring theme throughout his narration as India's new and upcoming fashion capital and the designer devotes page after page to his family's origins in the beautiful state. The Green Room is an intriguing glimpse into the inside of the fashion world where the knots and stitches are carefully hidden in layers of friendship and intimacy.
If you ignore the sometimes-naive, self-congratulatory tone (which could be unintentional) it is a fantastic timeline of Indian fashion. The Green Room; Wendell Rodricks; Rain Tree; 354 pages; Rs 595
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