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Style is greater than fashion

In the next Navhind Times workshop scheduled for December 1 at Dempo House, Panaji, creative head of

Wendell Rodricks (WR)  label, Schulen  Fernandes, will speak about the relevance of dressing right, establishing

your style, and investing in slow fashion. In conversation with NT BUZZ, Schulen  speaks about all things fashion

MARIA FERNANDES | NT

Post a degree in design from Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey Women’s University, Mumbai and a gig as design assistant under Wendell Rodricks for four years in Goa, Schulen Fernandes moved back to her home city of Mumbai to further pursue her fashion ambitions. Working as a designer, a buyer for Be: (Raymond) and a stylist for six years gave her a holistic insight, on the dynamics of both the creative and the commercial aspects of the trade. She finally returned to Wendell’s team five years ago and helms the brand as its creative head, since the last three years.

In August 2016, she presented her first collection ‘Trapezoid’ under the label at Lakmé Fashion Week. The collection was path-breaking in many ways, celebrating clothes that were age neutral, unisize, unisex, and also addressing the complete lack of a uniform sizing standard in India, specific solely to the unique Indian female form.

Her understanding of the brand’s DNA helps her retains the label’s affinity for minimalism, Goan ethos, sharp colour contrasts, structure and Indian geometric lines through her work which has been featured so far in over eight seasonal collections and innumerable designs. In the last three years she has managed to imprint the brand with her innovations and steered the label to explore new business paths giving it a fresh and contemporary look.

Q. From designer to buyer and then a stylist and finally back to designing, you have come full circle. What inspired you to become a fashion designer?

At the risk of sounding primitive, I’d have to say cable television. It brought global fashion into our homes like FTV and the drama series ‘The Bold and Beautiful’. I loved design from an early age, but these were a huge influence in driving my interest further. I also remember very distinctly, my Hindi educator in school wearing this pristine white blazer and skirt to match. In a sea of saris and standard work wear, I always noticed how stylishly put-together she was. I guess you are born in to a creative life. No amount of learning can earn you a keen design eye.

Q. Artists require inspiration which comes in many forms. What or who is the inspiration for your designs?

Everyday life inspires, if you observe with intent. Especially nature and travel. Travel exposes you to a new culture, local art, and traditional dressing, giving you so much to absorb. I am however a little more partial to geometric forms, so architecture and graphic elements do inspire me a lot. However, design can never be limited to any few aspects and that’s why it’s never a dull day at work in the creative world.

Q. The upcoming workshop itinerary includes dressing appropriately, choosing the right colours, fabrics and more. What is the objective of the workshop?

To give Goa my views and experience over the last 20 years in fashion, style and design. It will certainly help young talent get a better perspective on a future in fashion and give other fashion enthusiasts a direction to build a better wardrobe and personal style keeping in mind a few basic principles of dressing, instead of just sporting brands or trends popularised by media.

Q. People strive hard to project the right image and make a stellar impact. What role do clothes have in creating a good impression?

The first and most important impression comes through what you wear, a visual introduction of who you are. So it does top the list, followed by grooming and personality. It’s imperative that we pay keen attention to dressing appropriately, without obsessing over it or following trends blindly. Dressing right sets the tone for your day ahead. It can be a mood-changer from colour to style to fabric.

Q. What would you say is the difference between style and fashion?

Style is innately inherent to one’s personality, fashion on the other hand is how you dress that personality. Fashion is a statement of your style in the language of clothing, without speaking a word.

Q.When it comes to style, your dress sense says a lot. How does one make a style statement?

By being self-aware. As your personality evolves, you learn more about your flaws and positively identify ways to camouflage them while enhancing your best features. As you evolve, so does your style. Style comes from that confidence which in turn will help you experiment in fashion and eventually own your look.

Q. It is a tendency on part of shoppers to pick their favourite colours rather than their right colours. Comment.

It’s absolutely fine to pick favourite colours, as long as they work for you. Every time you get complimented for your look, it’s important to make a mental note. It could be a hairstyle, garment, or accessories. These things point you in the right direction, even if you absolutely lack a sense of interest on your own. Use this to build your style and wardrobe. Eventually you grow into the best look for yourself, even if it’s a limited palette of colour and design. There really are no rules in fashion.

Q. What according to you are some myths people have about fashion?

That fashion is firstly not relevant, that it is not for the common man or for plus sizes and the standard cliché of following trends just because they are popular.

Q. Unless you constantly keep your finger on the fashion trend pulse, it’s difficult to know just what is and what isn’t considered to be ‘in’ at any given time. What are some bloopers people inevitably make with regards clothes?

Pairing wrong proportions in clothing, not dressing right for their body type and worst of all, not dressing right for the weather. In a country like ours, particularly South India that experiences a perpetual summer, dressing for the weather is very crucial. The tendency to opt for polyester clothing absolutely horrifies me.

Q. The glamour industry seems to be finally warming up to women with curves. What are your thoughts on plus-size dressing?

It is a huge chunk of the fashion business that’s not well addressed sadly. Plus-size clothing is something, we at the Wendell Rodricks label have been designing for over 25 years now. We believe in celebrating the Indian woman’s beauty and more importantly, her curves! Our sizes on racks are petite, medium, voluptuous and very voluptuous as well as customising on further sizes.

And it most certainly doesn’t have to be boxy, boring or lacking colour. Thankfully the fashion industry is also championing the cause of taking pride in being body beautiful. I think it’s more about being fit and healthy and less about being categorised as a “size”.

Q. What is the shift in fabric that you have seen over time? What has changed?

The thought process has thankfully evolved. Sustainable fashion has put the spotlight back on our rich heritage of cotton and khadi and designers are now more than ever innovating with these fabrics. And all this is solely aiming to revive traditional textiles with modern design. This path has been fascinating for us as designers to explore and to creatively interpret our traditional crafts and own them with pride.

Q. The WR label has championed the cause of eco-friendly fashion since it launched, over two decades ago; putting it on international and national fashion week ramps. What do you think is its future?

The future of fashion is eco-clothing as well as how we recycle worn wear. We have to be mindful of what we consume and how it impacts the planet. Slow fashion along with eco-conscious clothing is the answer to the problems of the second most polluting industry globally, that is fashion.

If you are 16 years and above and would like to participate in the workshop, log on to navhindtimes.in/events and fill in the application form before November 25. For queries call on 6651104.

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