We are very grateful to have been able to sit down and chat with one of the worlds most creative and genuine courtiers simply known as Manuel. We visited his
(CSC) 1. Thanks for the visit in your shop! How have you been, and whatís new with you?
Everything is very much the same here you know, there are new outfits every day because we only make one of a kind. The only thing new is the new outfits that are coming out every single day from this place. Outside of that, thereís a party here, a party there; we go out and we meet the people we make the clothes for like Raul Malo. Thatís mainly what I do; you hope for that kind of event when youíre a star. I either go to their homes, their parties, or their shows. I love what I do here. Itís always nice to go out and broadcast a little bit so people donít forget you.
(CSC) 2. You were born in
Of course there are many of those! I was born in the times of fantasy when you really had to dream and not be handed things from your parents; it was hard work all the way. I mean ďhardĒ but ďfunĒ work all the way because you learned so many things. At the age of seven I learned how to sew and how to make pants and shirts. It was fun to just make my own clothes and then I started making clothes for other people and making some money from it. Then later on of course I developed into what you call the ďbig leaguesĒ where I used to make a lot of prom dresses for the girls that were students from different colleges everywhere and that brought me a lot of income; I used to make $1,700 every year. They loved it because all I did was different gowns for everyone.
(CSC) 3. Your eldest brother taught you how to sew at just 7 years old, what sparked your interest in sewing initially, and what did you learn from him?
I mainly learned the basics of how to sew a pair of pants. He told to me only a few years back, ďWhen I saw you being able to cut and sew a pair of pants in two/three hours that was the end of my career in the tailoring business, I just gave it up, and I had to do other things.Ē And that was it, he just sort of disappeared from there but I continued, it was a calling more than a dream for me. My brother just looked at me like ďHey why are you not doing anything? Help me sew some pants.Ē I looked at it as a challenge but I said ďOf course I will!Ē Iíve never left the sewing machine since that day. I was just hooked on it and it was fun all the way like I said. I was growing up, learning how to make my suits, how to do jewelry, letter work, saddles, belts, bags guitar straps of all kinds and what have you. With anything, if you get creative you can go places.
(CSC) 4. After working for several clothiers around
Well he kind of gave me free hand because what he had was something that was kind of inferior of what I wanted to do. So he let the reins in my hands and I took him to better places, thatís mainly what I did; at least Iíd like to think so.
(CSC) 5. With two exceptionally talented artistic minds, did you often find yourself disagreeing with each other?
Iím going to give you a little surprise; I never saw Nudie sewing anything or cut anything or designing anything honestly. Itís one of those things, he was a good boss, a great person but I never knew him really as a tailor; I donít want to take anything away from my ex father-in-law, especially now that heís passed. Itís just the most unbelievable thing that happened between him and I. He was the salesman, he was the brains for the business, and I was the production guy in the back doing all the stuff which is cool but I was so happy with that. Iím not a salesman or a businessman of any kind.
(CSC) 6. You eventually married Nudieís daughter Barbara, and shortly after had your eldest daughter
(CSC) 7. With all of the great knowledge and talent that you possess, what important values have you taught your son through the years?
Well he would be a fool if he didnít learn everything that I know but just like I did you know, learning many different things and in a very humble way I can tell you that everything I know, I learned it from somebody else. He has learned from me probably more than I can think of.
(CSC) 8. Why did you decide to base your business in Nashville, Tennessee rather than Los Angeles or New York City?
Well I was raising a family, I had a two and a half year old daughter and LA was getting a little way too hyper for me. Itís not about business you know what I do; itís about art what I do so I could do my art wherever I go. So I decided to come to Nashville because Iím very familiar with the area and Iím really familiar with the people. Itís not because the country artists buy my things but because I just wanted to be in a more quite place, a more peaceful place. I found that here in Tennessee and I love it. I donít think I want to move out of here at all. Although I love LA a lot and I developed my career out in California, itís a good place to visit for me now.
(CSC) 9. I understand youíve worked with entertainers of all kinds, what class specifically?
From the movie industry to the singing industry to the dancing industry and comedians, everybody but mainly I just want you to know that the private sector should never be left behind because I do sell a lot of beautiful pieces to the private sector. The wealthy people really see the importance of the pieces and looking nice in a special way and they buy really beautiful clothes.
(CSC) 10. With country music in mind specifically, where and how do you find the ideas to create such beautiful outfits for each individual personality?
Well thatís the secret, I think that I have a gift for that and thatís all I can tell you. The rhinestones and the embroidery donít belong not to only country music; I think it saw its birth in Pop music and Rock And Roll more than country music, but country music became traditional with this type of dress so now when they see the kids with the ripped jeans and big wobbly tennis shoes on the stage they are not taking it well. In fact I think that the red carpet has been stained with that kind of stuff. If I was running Nashville, people that were not properly or exceptionally dressed with a tie shouldnít be allowed.
(CSC) 11. As a designer, what is the most rewarding part for you seeing your work on the backs of countless music legends? Do you have a particular story youíd like to share about one of them?
The satisfaction would be for everybody, not only the entertainers. It is nice the super important people are there wearing them but Iím so used to making them for Kings and Queens, Actors, Lawyers, Writers and what have you. It is nice to see the clothes everywhere, I love that, it is one of my dreams that men should learn how to dress more than women do but that happens only in the animal kingdom I think; the lion, the tiger, all those animals are really, really elegant and the females less. Human beings I think it is the woman that dresses up and cleans up pretty cool. Men donít understand it that well yet. If it wasnít for the black people that really know how to wear clothes and how to wear them with colors, I doubt very much that men would be dressed the way they are dressed. Men dress competitively, but they are still very much behind the real trendsetters. In fact any fashionista could tell you that because they are elegant people, maybe because they have been put down in certain parts of the world. Italians really dress up and they look fantastic; both men and women. Itís beautiful!
(CSC) 12. Whatís an average day like for you from start to finish here in your studio?
Well it definitely has variations but basically things like being in a rush to cut a suit for somebody thatís going to be in a show somewhere, it could be business as usual but its not because we have to renew our ideas, we have to refresh and restart and things like that. After the one suit is done we go to the next piece and we make sure we finish it first. Thatís mainly the daily routine here. The process of thinking here is what takes time because we need the concept to make a suit, without the concept you just wonít know what to do, youíll be making rag stuff and I donít like to do that.
(CSC) 13. What are THREE things in life that motivate you?
Oh man. I can start with women in that respect (laughs), accomplishment in what I love to do, the accomplishments are important; theyíre good if not for me personally because Iím not a selfish person, for other generations that they see that its not difficult but when you have a dream or you need to do something you want to do, something you can do it; this is a good place to do it. This is the United States of America! If you want it you can have it because itís available.
(CSC) 14. Youíve created several beautiful religious icons on your outfitsÖ where do you find the inspiration for them?
Well you know I am not precisely a religious person but I am very spiritual so I like to use the emblems as I call them. I donít really see the difference between doing a plant, doing the cross, a scull, rose or flowers. I tell this to my students that come here to learn from different places of design, ďWe are not people that have bodies or eyes we have open mindsĒ and whatever comes from the imagination we put it on clothes with love and respect. The interpretation which is ours is that we have open minds but the interpretation of the public for a particular piece might be that it was taken sometime. We live in a country where we are scandalous, we can be unnoticed if we are just good and quiet but you may never have your name written anywhere.
(CSC) 15. You earned a degree in psychology at the University of Guadalajara. Have you put your studying to good use in the music business?
It helps me deal with the people; it helps me understand most of their needs and where there are complaints I can understand it, I can get it. You just have to let it go sometimes and roll because if you do that you have a better chance than just being controversial all the time. There are a lot of men that come here to be dressed and they bring their girlfriends and their wives and I think thatís wrong, and some wives and girlfriends that come here with their boyfriends and husbands and Iíll tell you that kind of stuff doesnít work. You have to let your personality really shine through your clothes, you have to have that respect for your designer; donít bring third or fourth opinions into the place. Just one on one and we can do wonders with that.
(CSC) 16. What do you want to be remembered for?
Not a bad guy. I think being remembered as a good fella is the greatest thing and the greatest accomplishment. I want to leave a legacy that way; something that maybe somebody else can use and for that I have done great efforts in building my institute of design which is going to be free classes for a lot of people but not competing with colleges because my students are going to be already seniors in college when they apply for the internship with me. This is going to be a big scale and its going to be worldwide which is something that I think will bring the state of Tennessee a lot of fame and its going to be a great place and very commercial. Weíre going to create a lot of new pieces, have new brains coming in, a great collaboration of all the students and sometimes we come with real winners. Itís going to be a fantastic thing to do!
(CSC) 17. Lastly, please tell us about your very special birthday benefit event taking place later this month, April 24th in College Grove, Tennessee!!
My birthday party will take place on April 24th at my home in College Grove, TN. My brother Marty Stuart will be playing along with Hilary Williams, LoCash cowboys, Leroy Powell, Mickie Free, Danny Salazar, Rosie Flores, and many more. Thereís going to be surprise guests who I can't mention just yet!! All are welcome. Tickets are $50 and benefit my non-profit, friends of Manuel. Friends of Manuel will fund my dream - a design institute for students all over the world that will be located in Nashville. Tickets may be purchased off our website, http://www.ManuelCouture.com
Please check out Manuel's official website here: http://manuelamericandesigns.com/madhome.html
Check out pictures from our interview with Manuel below: