Clothes-Minded – Fashion Deconstruction

When I took Ronald Kolodzie’s fashion-drawing class last spring at the Southwest School of Art and Craft, it didn’t take me nine weeks to realize I couldn’t draw. I kept going back every Thursday for the stories. Kolodzie, a San Antonio native, graduated from the prestigious Parsons School of Design before spending three decades as a fashion and costume designer in New York City. He worked at Oscar de la Renta, went to school with Calvin Klein, and  Janice Dickenson and Jerry Hall modeled in his shows.


What are you working on now?

Redoing the interior of the Crockett Hotel downtown. We’re working through the bedrooms floor by floor, and the lobby will be done last. The original rooms were very dark, with heavy drapes and matching bedspreads, all in what passed for “Southwest” in the ’70s and ’80s — that Arizona flame stitch. That’s been replaced with white wooden shutters in all the windows and fresh, modern colors. The Crockett retains its 1905 minimalism, so all I wanted to do was enhance and emphasize these great architectural lines.

You’re also known for events and set designs — what’s led you away from fashion recently?

It’s been a natural evolution for me. Even when I was a fashion designer in New York, I had an eclectic group of friends interested in multiple aspects of design. When someone asks me for advice on their home or a restaurant or hotel, I think it’s more that I have an aesthetic sensibility; my whole career has been about both design and art. But I’d never say I was an interior designer. As for event planning, a friend of mine from New York, another San Antonio native, does great events up there and just kind of roped me in. Every project morphs into something else.

Tell us a bit about your time in New York.

I was a designer in New York for 30 years. I always characterize my experience there as a great deal of luck and extraordinary circumstances, because I met so many talented people in all fields of art and design. We were doing things that seem normal now, but were really innovative at the time, like backing our runway shows with rock music, and using our friends and local personalities as models.

You’re from San Antonio. How did you make it to New York from here?

I was born and raised here, went to Central Catholic, worked at the Alamo for a few years as an historian — I really love the history of this city and what’s going on downtown. I had always drawn, always been interested in women’s clothes. By the time I was in high school, I knew about Parsons. San Antonio had a really well-developed, very close-knit arts community even then. I came back because it was the right time. I wanted to be close to my family, and I’d always been interested in running a design business in this city.

What do you think of San Antonio’s fashion community?

I think there’s a real attempt to develop one. I’ve spoken at lots of classes at the University of the Incarnate Word, at Jefferson (High School). I think the bigger issue is that San Antonio is a very casual place, style-wise. In New York, a walking city, everyone is on display all the time. People love dressing up. It’s not like that here. Maybe because of the weather, or that we’re in our cars so much. But I think that is changing. The great growth in galleries and restaurants and other community venues lately is helping us develop more of a “scene.” I love seeing someone out, usually at an art event, who is taking some fashion chances.

I can’t wait to see the new Crockett, but I hope there are some new fashion projects in the works for you.

Sure. You know I teach at the Southwest School of Art and Craft, and I’m thinking of developing a class there that would actually result in a clothing exhibition. The first part would be a collection I’ve been planning for a while, focusing on art integrity in clothing, and the second would be a collaborative project with local artists involving found clothing, found decorations. 

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