‘A heady feeling’ is how Wendell Rodricks described Section 377 decriminalisation

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Outside of fashion, Rodricks was an activist and a novel thinker.

Ace fashion designer Wendell Rodricks passed away at his residence in Goa yesterday, much to the shock and bereavement of his friends and colleagues in the fashion world and in Bollywood. The 59-year-old Padma Shri awardee -- who was hailed as the son of Goa -- leaves behind an inimitable legacy, one that is dotted with all the causes -- fashion and beyond -- that he championed in his lifetime.

Among other things, discrimination against the LGBTQ community was an issue that he was most vocal about. When the draconian Section 377 was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2018, a column written by Rodricks in the Mumbai Mirror read: September 6, midday. At the stroke of noon, the Supreme Court of India gave us freedom, and it is indeed a heady feeling. After decades of writing on Section 377 and speaking on endless TV and radio debates, freedom from criminality is finally here."

"People often asked me why I was so keen to see justice done since this judgment would not change my life much; I have been living as an openly gay man for quite some time. But this is not about me. All these years, the only focus of my battle with Section 377 was that future generations of Indians should get dignity, equal rights, and not look at themselves as criminals," he had written.

Outside of fashion, Rodricks was an activist and a novel thinker. He showcased his first collection in the 1990s, and got the title of 'Guru of Minimalism'. He is also credited to have pioneered the concept of 'resort wear' in India, back when it was not popular. Throughout his long career, Rodricks pushed for sustainability and eco-friendly fashion.

He was a prolific and gifted writer, too, having written numerous pieces on travel, food, and of course, fashion. It is believed that through his columns in the monthly magazine Goa Today, Rodricks raised the issues of fashion and environmental damages. In January 2012, Rodricks wrote his first book, Moda Goa – History and Style. In August 2012, his memoir, The Green Room, was published, wherein he wrote about how his love for Goa gradually made him a “reluctant activist”.

In an interview with The Times of India, Rodricks had said that it was "terrorising" to be a homosexual person in the 70s and 80s, and that when he came out in 2002 on national television, he did it to show the "younger generation that it was possible to have a long love life and celebrate it, rather than hiding in the closet".

Two years ago, he had started a helpline for the LGBTQ community, along with Ruby Almeida, the co-chair of Rainbow Catholics India -- a non-judgemental space for the community. The initiative had even received the blessing of Cardinal Oswald Gracias of the Archdiocese of Bombay.

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Rodricks leaves behind his partner Jerome Marrel, whom he married in 2012, in Paris.