Since this is Wendell Rodricks' second book this year, his first being Moda Goa: History and Style — a costume encyclopaedia on Goan fashion, one has certain expectations from The Green Room. The cover picture with Malaika Arora in Rodricks’ famed mussel top shot by Farrokh Chothia is an iconic image in the industry.
Shot in Rodricks’ green room in Goa, it perfectly captures the excitement and exhibitionism a fashion show is all about. So when you start the book with Rodricks talking of his birth and his ancestry, you feel a bit cheated. This is more of a biography of Wendell’s life than a real insider’s eye to the inner goings on of one of fashion. But as you read the book you realise it is actually more of a love story. The book is about Rodricks’ love story with fashion and his partner for almost 30 years — Jerome Marrel. While you are taken through this love story you have a ringside seat to really understand how the fashion in India became an industry. It is very clever and subtle. From the catering college to a steady job in Oman, to Rodricks finally realising design was his true calling, you see how fashion was never considered an option as a career in the 1980s. Rodricks’ mother’s reaction to his announcement that he wanted to study fashion abroad (saying he would end up as a tailor) shows how fashion has grown in the last 30 years.
It also talks of a different time in fashion where some sort of camaraderie existed. The author speaks of photographers like Farrokh Chotia, Denzil Sequeria, writer Mehr Castelino, models Malaika Arora and Lisa Ray as well as fellow designer Hemant Trivedi with great fondness. If you are expecting a heady doze of sex, drugs and rock and roll in this book, think again. There is lots of glamour — thanks to the fashion shows, parties and travelling, but no real scandal. That truly was how the industry was, everyone had one goal — to turn fashion into an industry. Of course there is a hint of politics in the book but you will notice it gets stronger in the second half of the book. For any rookie fashion journalist trying to understand the politics in fashion weeks, this book is a must read. “Fashion Week venues are like Kingdoms... Designers are quick to fall in with hierarchy and recognise which level of the kingdom they belong to. Everyone must worship the rulers — or lose out.” Everyone in the fashion industry would agree how to aptly put this.
This book is also an ode to Rodricks and Marrel’s love story. It is about how a Goan and a French man seamlessly melted their cultures and passions together. Says Rodricks, “Even today, when I hear Jerome say my name, I fall under a spell.” In a way this book does a lot for ‘Gay Pride’ and shows how in the fashion industry (thankfully) these aspects are not fussed about.
It really is about a beautiful bond of two men who were clearly destined to be together. It is one of the most quietly romantic stories one has ever read.
As far as writing style goes, Rodricks has been one of the fashion industry’s more prolific writers — he has been a columnist for Femina and regular contributor to both Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue and his style is always chatty and easy. It is almost as if Rodricks is in your living room telling you his life story. It is a great book to travel with or to finish over a weekend.