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  • Writer's pictureCountry Stars Central

Manuel Interview

(CSC) 1. Thanks for the visit in your shop! How have you been, and what’s 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, there’s a party here, a party there; we go out and we meet the people we make the clothes for like Raul Malo. That’s mainly what I do; you hope for that kind of event when you’re a star. I either go to their homes, their parties, or their shows. I love what I do here. It’s always nice to go out and broadcast a little bit so people don’t forget you.


(CSC) 2. You were born in Coalcoman, Mexico, the fifth of twelve children, growing up as a young man what was daily life like? Any special memories you cherish most?



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 “hard” but “fun” 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 “big leagues” 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, “When 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.” 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 “Hey why are you not doing anything? Help me sew some pants.” I looked at it as a challenge but I said “Of course I will!” I’ve 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 Los Angeles, you landed a job working for Nudie in 1960. What were some of the highlights working with him?



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, that’s mainly what I did; at least I’d like to think so.


(CSC) 5. With two exceptionally talented artistic minds, did you often find yourself disagreeing with each other?



I’m going to give you a little surprise; I never saw Nudie sewing anything or cut anything or designing anything honestly. It’s one of those things, he was a good boss, a great person but I never knew him really as a tailor; I don’t want to take anything away from my ex-father-in-law, especially now that he’s passed. It’s 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. I’m not a salesman or a businessman of any kind.


(CSC) 6. You eventually married Nudie’s daughter Barbara, and shortly after had your eldest daughter Morelia. Did you ever imagine her to follow your footsteps?



My daughter Morelia is more into business and having a business of her own; she likes artistic things like from the movies; she wants to start somewhere else not necessarily my shop versus my son who wants stay in my business with me. My baby girl Jesse is in New York studying at NYU becoming a brain up there. (Laughs) She’s just being a great student and advancing with her studies...she’ll eventually graduate from there. She is my baby girl and she is twenty-two years old now. My son, he was born between spools of fabric and needles and threads, so he couldn’t escape that; I think that’s what he likes, well he says that’s what he likes to do. He’s proven that he can do that, so I applaud what he’s doing, I like what he’s doing! I am very happy with him.


(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 didn’t 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. It’s not about business you know what I do; it’s about art what I do so I could do my art wherever I go. So, I decided to come to Nashville because I’m very familiar with the area and I’m really familiar with the people. It’s not because the country artists buy my things but because I just wanted to be in a more quiet place, a more peaceful place. I found that here in Tennessee and I love it. I don’t think I want to move out of here at all. Although I love LA a lot and I developed my career out in California, it’s a good place to visit for me now. 


(CSC) 9. I understand you’ve 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, that’s the secret, I think that I have a gift for that and that’s all I can tell you. The rhinestones and the embroidery don’t 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 shouldn’t 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 you’d 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 I’m 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 don’t understand it that well yet. If it wasn’t 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. It’s beautiful!


(CSC) 12. What’s 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 that’s 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. That’s 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 won’t know what to do, you’ll be making rag stuff and I don’t 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; they’re good if not for me personally because I’m 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 it’s available.


(CSC) 14. You’ve created several beautiful religious icons on your outfits… 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 don’t 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, “We are not people that have bodies or eyes we have open minds” 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 that’s wrong, and some wives and girlfriends that come here with their boyfriends and husbands and I’ll tell you that kind of stuff doesn’t work. You have to let your personality really shine through your clothes, you have to have that respect for your designer; don’t 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. We’re 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. It’s 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. There’s 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, 


Please check out Manuel's official website here:



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