one of Prida Design's beautiful, beaded gowns. Photo by Veronica Prida.
one of Prida Design's beautiful, beaded gowns. Photo by Veronica Prida.

Veronica Prida is one of the busiest women in San Antonio this time of year. As I walk into her colorful studio, filled with dresses, crowns and various beads, some bright and vibrant, others subdued and neutral, I see the excitement in her eyes. Fiesta 2014 approached quickly and swiftly, as it does every year. This is Prida’s time to not only shine, but thrive creatively.

For six years, Prida and her seven-person team have worked in creating and constructing the magnificent Order of the Alamo Coronation gowns. They have worked all year on creating intricately designed dresses and crowns for this year’s Coronation event that will unfold Wednesday, April 23 at The Majestic Theatre. Click here for tickets.

Veronica Prida, artisan. Photo by Al Rendon.
Veronica Prida, artisan. Photo by Al Rendon.

The tradition is more than 100 years old and is the showcase for some of he city’s most talented and creative designers and artists and their hard work over the past year. The dresses and long trains, crowns and themes remain a closely-held secret until the unveiling at Coronation. The event features a beautifully set stage, with a symphony orchestra conducted by Roger Melone, music director of the New Mexico Symphonic Chorus.

Visiting and residing Duchesses make a full-court debut at “The Court of Sovereign Legends.” Afterward, the Coronation presents Her Royal Highness the Princess and the Coronation of Her Gracious Majesty the Queen. It’s  a tradition steeped in history, social order, and formality. It’s spoofed annually at Cornyation, but for many families it is the signature San Antonio stage for the presentation or coming out party for South Texas debutantes, an occasion of great pomp and circumstance.

The Order of the Alamo was founded by San Antonio businessmen and leaders in 1909. The purpose of The Order is to celebrate Texas’ heroic struggle for independence from Mexico. The first Queen was chosen at Old Beethoven Hall that year.

Typically, the event is thought of as unusual and, to those unfamiliar, a little shallow, a conspicuous display of wealth by old money families who readily spend a six-figure sum on a daughter’s coming out party, including a dress that will be worn a single time. Prida vehemently disagrees.

“I can see how people can see that Coronation is just about gowns and looking pretty, but these young women are about to experience a new venture in their lives,” Prida said. “They are about to graduate and leave San Antonio for college. Some will take over family businesses, and some will enjoy their new cities. I have also seen these girls gain tremendous self-esteem and joy from participating in Coronation.”

(From left) Martha Sheesley, Leah Sheesley, Georgie Ferrell, Claire Cavender and Suzanne Cavender after the 2013 Coronation. Photo by Veronica Prida.
(From left) Martha Sheesley, Leah Sheesley, Georgie Ferrell, Claire Cavender and Suzanne Cavender after the 2013 Coronation. Photo by Veronica Prida.

The women who work at Prida Studios play different roles in the complex execution of a Fiesta gown. They include beaders, a seamstress, a sketch artist and crown maker. Prida enjoys giving students the opportunity to experience designing and fashion merchandising.

“I think they realize how much work goes into this business,” she said. “The interns all have various skills and specialties that we can use throughout the year. For example, Ali Wiesse, was a former intern of ours. She was here at the beginning of the year to help sketch.”

Many of the interns complete their experience at Prida Studios by creating something of their own, such as a line of handbags or jewelry.

Coronation is not the only project Prida has going on during Fiesta. Although this is her busiest time of year, she also has clients calling her throughout Fiesta to help with bridal gowns, furniture and Fiesta market bags. Many prospective clients stop into her studio, curious about the inviting, bright green and blue building in the Olmos Terrace neighborhood.

Prida Design's colorful and seasonal Fiesta bags. Photo by Veronica Prida.
Prida Design’s colorful and seasonal Fiesta bags. Photo by Veronica Prida.

Prida moved to San Antonio from Mexico City in 1981, and attended Incarnate Word College (now University of the Incarnate Word), where she studied fashion design. According to Prida, San Antonio was a very different city back then in regard to fashion and art.

“The city has definitely changed in a positive way since I first arrived,” Prida said. “Although it still has a long way to go in its development as a metropolis, there has always been a strong artistic presence in San Antonio.”

After graduation, Prida launched her eponymous clothing line that has received international recognition for her imaginative blend of Mexican indigenous and north-of-the-border influences. Later, she brought the same sensibility to her colorful furniture designs, which transport magical realism from literature to the salon.

Veronica Prída. Courtesy photo.
Veronica Prida. Courtesy photo.

Beyond her own artwork and design, Prida is engaged with using art as a medium for inner city youth to find a path forward in life. She is a board member of Say Sí, and has assisted in helping build Art in the ‘Hood and First Friday events.

Prida is married to Omar Rodríguez, an established artist in his own right. Rodríguez is a prolific painter, creating pieces that express mortality and the spiritual journey of humans. Self taught, Rodriguez’s work has drawn its own critical acclaim and community of enthusiastic collectors. He’s been featured in various exhibitions and academic collections.

As an escape from fashion, perhaps, Prida’s other artistic hobbies include architecture, interior and landscape design. Her dramatic and seasonal native landscaping designs at the couple’s Alamo Heights residence regularly attract passing traffic, as if the gardens were a tourist attraction. She also is an avid jewelry designer.

“After Fiesta, I’m excited to design jewelry again,” she said. “I have a few collages I’d like to work on. I’m ready for new things this summer; summer is about having fun and trying new things.”

First comes Fiesta.

*One of Prida Design’s beautiful, beaded gowns. Photo by Veronica Prida.

Related Stories:

San Antonio Symphony: A Fiesta Duchess in our Midst

Photo Gallery: Rey Feo Crowning and King Antonio Investiture Fiesta 2014

The Fiesta Arts Fair 2014: Fine Arts and Fun Times For All

Photo Gallery: The WEBB Party’s Grand Menagerie for Fiesta 2014

Fiesta Verde: Teaching Parade-goers to Leave It Like They Found It

Jackie Calvert is a freelance writer living in San Antonio. When she’s not writing, she’s tweeting or exploring the many facets of her city.