Local Focus: Manuel

June 23, 2014

If you've ever watched this magnetic white haired artist enter a room, you understand what a legend looks like. Manuel has curated decades of industry recognition, impressive collaborations, and a nationally-recognized brand. I had the privilege of spending a Saturday afternoon in his studio and shop on lower Broadway with my sister, Cat Acree, and designer/photographer Denise Roxen of Roxenstone. Enjoy some of my favorite items from Manuel American Designs, a staple of Nashville’s history and a nationwide gem.

Learning to sew at the age of seven in Coalcomán, Mexico, Manuel had an affinity for color and cloth from the beginning. He moved to Los Angeles and began working under Sy Devore. Upon realizing his true love fell with costume design, Manuel gathered strength and years of experience designing at Nudie’s famed western store. Eventually, he opened his own shop in North Hollywood, but a desire to grow a relationship with the music industry brought Manuel to Nashville in 1989. Needless to say, we're so glad he did.

A Trademark of American Style.

If you read through Manuel’s past clients, you’ll quickly find the explanations for monumental moments in music history. Elvis Presley’s signature gold lamé suit, Johnny Cash’s trademark black look, the Hank Williams dynasty’s wardrobe, and The Rolling Stones and The Grateful Dead’s powerful emblems all came from Manuel. His legend has only continued. Presidents, athletes, dancers, 90 movie and 13 television show wardrobes, and new-age artists like Jack White have donned the glittering ensembles and represented this historical figure. Manuel has always dressed his clients based on what he or she needs, nothing from the contrary. He provides a look so unique and special, each costume has been an essential moment for the artist's career.

Photography by Denise Roxen.

Walking through the store, every corner is filled with something more fabulously embellished than the next. We found ourselves fawning over duster coats, fringe skirts, and Manuel’s 50 State Jackets, a 10-year-long project showcasing United States history. Pairing together and lusting over the beautiful colors, I realized these legendary pieces are absolutely transcendent into the modern fashion world. Every item is a knock-out and would serve well in an Americana-style closet. I'm already saving up for my own duster jacket!

Thank you so much to the Legend himself and the entire Manuel team, especially Corissa Benchley and Rachael Ragland, for welcoming us with open arms. Thank you to the remarkable Denise Roxen for photographing the shoot and risking her life in lower Broadway traffic for a great photo. Thank you to my sister for being seriously stunning and joining me for one of my favorite adventures yet. Be sure to follow Manuel on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest rhinestone updates.