Keeping up with Manuel, the Rhinestone Rembrandt

Manuel on video


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Notes from Ole' Sarah!

On my first day of work at Manuel's anything that could go wrong on a first day did go wrong. I woke up early to ensure that I was not late... and the coffee maker exploded like a volcano full of lava-- coffee grinds everywhere. Then, I finally arrive at Manuel’s and can't find a parking spot, so I park in a Vanderbilt parking garage. When I eventually get inside the shop, I was 20 minutes late. Lalie greeted me and told me not to worry about how late I was and gave me a tour of the shop. When she was giving me a tutorial of how to rhinestone, I accidentally knocked an entire rack of scarves over and barely missed her head. By that point I was anxiously awaiting 5:30 to roll around so my frazzled first day would be over. To top it all off, when I got back to my car I had a $20 ticket because I had put my money for the parking garage in the wrong slot.

Thankfully, my first day was NOT a sign of things to come. The 3 months that followed that awful first day were the most fun I have ever had. I came to find that I actually looked forward to going to work everyday and was sad when 5:30 did roll around. At the end of my internship I had even considered cancelling my plans to attend SCAD (Savannah College of Arts and Design) so I could stay in Nashville and continue interning. I consider myself privileged and lucky that I got to work and form friendships with such amazing people. Everyone from Manuel's even put together a hipster packet and sent it to me when I first moved to Georgia because they knew how homesick I was and how much I loved stereotypes.

I am now living in Savannah, GA and anxiously awaiting graduation from SCAD. Words cannot express how much I miss my family at Manuel's. I try to visit everyone as often as possible, which unfortunately ends up being only once a year. I am excited to visit in April for Manuel's birthday and to be greeted with a hug and to hear the Man himself say "I have missed my boobies!"

Miss you all,

Sarah Swafford

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

All in a days work...

Here is one of our sweet new interns,
Marjorie from Vanderbilt modeling our newest bag design

it could be an oversized purse, an overnight or a carry on!
call us at 615 321 5444 to inquire or to order your very own
custom design!

also dont forget to follow us on twitter
(my assistants Lauren Wray and Lalie have a page as well)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Manuel in my Life... a reflection

photo by jenny petite

About three years ago I opened a door at a studio in Nashville not knowing quite what to expect. Nothing in the world could have prepped me for what I found! At 1922 Broadway there is much more than amazing clothing, sparkling stones, and a piece of history. There is also genius, love, and an old bordello full of the most creative and exciting people I have ever met. Manuel welcomes everybody with open arms- and well, when you have curves like mine, he opens them a little further! Only for hugs of course. He is an amazing mentor. Supportive, smart, witty, and kind. He had faith in me- which in turn allowed my creative juices to thrive.

As far as the rest of the crew is concerned, I can define Lalie as charismatic and intoxicating. An energetic neo pin-up with style and flare that never ceases to amaze and is out done by no one. Lauren Wray has spunk. Moxie, spirit, gumption- true southern grit. With her you always get an honest smile and a boost of freshness. Last but not least Morelia, Manuel's daughter. What can I say, she is the leading lady in her life- and I dare anyone to call her an "extra!" Morelia is quite simply- hilarious (Read Mo-ism # 437). She is full of life, wonder, and love.

The most important thing about this group is family. I was amazed to find a family within each of them. To this day I look to them for support, criticism, a shoulder to cry on, or a booty to dance with. No matter the circumstance or occasion each of them have been there for me. When I needed help with hand made buttonholes on a tailored jacket I made- they were there. When I had to find a dress to wear to my Grandpa's funeral, and didn't think I could face it alone- they were there. When I wanted to celebrate my 24th birthday- they were there (hives and all)! And when I was interviewing my 1st "big name" at a Lexus/Vogue fashion show full of nerves and doubt, I found comfort in seeing them in the front row next to the runway. With their hugs I gained my confidence to do my job and was able to shine. That's the glory in being a part of "Manuel Exclusive Clothier," you do not only learn about fashion, expert workmanship, textiles, and couture... you learn about life.

I feel honored to know that years ago I was able to open a new door in my life. And I feel privileged to understand that that door never has to be closed.

All my love and respect,

Since interning with Manuel, Sarah Reesman has worked abroad with designer Vivienne Westwood and is currently a writer and editor for Nashville SixFifteen Magazine. She may be contacted at

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Upcoming Event: A Fashion Affair

We're excited to be a part of an upcoming event, A Fashion Affair, presented by A Vintage Affair, which proceeds will benefit the wellbeing of woman and children of Williamson, Co., TN. Please log-on to their website for for information! Tickets are available online as well.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

So how much is a Manuel?

So how much is a MANUEL?

This is the most asked, debated, pounded, argued question...

And that answer is all based on the choice of fabrics, styles, details, embroidery & rhinestones! Not to mention, all Manuel designs are "one-of-a-kind" pieces: custom couture. Not one thing is ever duplicated!

A jacket with basic embroidery & rhinestones begin at $2500.00 + -- some have left with bills that are over $50,000.00 + (no joke).

So the sky's the limit!

Manuel suits begin at $3000.00, which include plain pants & jacket

Specialty pieces for example like a Gram Parsons influenced piece begins at $5000.00 + ($7500.00-$10,000.00 range)

Western shirts begin at $750.00 - $1250.00 +

We do carry a specialty limited-edition western style shirt for men & women for $250.00 ( call for details )

Pants plain begin at $600.00 +

Boots Plain $950.00+

Belts beginning $350.00 +

Guitar straps begin $750.00+

Clutches $95.00-$500.00+

Prices do vary and we suggest you pop into the showroom... he has been known to have some special prices on some items already made in the store. Keep in mind there are occasional secret sales on Wednesdays from 20%-30% off when we host a showcase...check in for details!

He creates images and is best known as a costume designer.


No Returns ~ No Exceptions! All custom orders are final sales!

Please e-mail for further details...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ratings vs. Rhinestones

Conan O’Brien looked smashing on the Tonight show and it was all because of a simple phone call. One afternoon, Conan’s assistant Deb called our studio in need of an amazing suit. I thought to myself, “Well you sure called the right place! Nashville’s rhinestone rembrandt is here to save the day!” As Deb described Conan’s physique, it was rather unique and created somewhat of a challenge when selecting the perfect fit for the show; however I knew I had one colorful piece to fit his personality. A mint, green ¾ length jacket embroidered with old school cars and rhinestone accents would definitely do the job. Although we were unable to provide him with a custom-made suit due to time constraints, the one-of -a-kind suit was definitely complimentary of Conan’s personality. As we finished up the details of the order, we discovered that the world is truly small. It turns out Deb, who worked for my favorite late night show host Conan O’Brien, ironically knew my grandfather who we all know as Nudie, the notorious North Hollywood tailor. Deb and I got Conan’s order squared away and everything was just great! As he was going to the Rockefeller Center in New York, Conan personally called me and expressed how thrilled he was to be wearing one of Manuel’s couture cowboy jacket. Everything was awesome! Today Manuel is considered one the premier fashion designers of all time. From the Rolling Stones to the Jackson 5, Manuel has provided fashion sense to a range of artists and has even been featured in the Smithsonian. Manuel continues to design his couture garments at his shop, Manuel Exclusive Clothier, in Nashville, TN. Team Conan!

May your Rhinestones always shine!


Rhinestone Honky Tonk Heiress

Manuel's suit for the unknown artist

I just came across a photo of one of my personal favorite Manuel designs of all time.
It is part of Marty Stuart's amazing collection that was shown at the Tennessee State Museum, a completely delightful exhibit entitled "sparkle and Twang" which has been traveling around the US for the last two years or so.

The incredible garment I am typing about is the lavender/grey toned one with an entire human skeleton embroidered and rhinestoned on the back of the jacket and legs of the pants.

Manuel did this as a dedication to all the artists and musicians that would never get the recognition they deserved for their time, talent and craft.
The very moment I laid eyes on this small piece of western wear history....I got chills.

This is the very suit that inspired Jack White (of The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather) to get his infamous bone suit tailored at our shop.
(suit featured in video to follow!)

Assistant Designer to MANUEL

Monday, January 11, 2010

Once Upon An Intern ---

As I anticipated school starting at the beginning of my junior year, I thought about how I was now at the halfway point of my high school experience. I had spent my freshmen and sophomore years learning how to manage my schedule between school and free time, and now, as an entering junior, I was ready to apply those skills, challenging myself with more labor-intensive AP classes. However, when it came to extra-curricular activities, I realized that most of the things I was involved in were clubs and organizations. One of my biggest time commitments was to cheerleading—a sport which had brought me to some of closest friends and most fond memories’, but, that being said, I knew that cheerleading was a temporary passion—once I left high school, I would be leaving cheerleading too. Therefore, I wanted to find something to get involved in that could be a little more permanent and contribute a little more to my future.

In expressing these concerns to one of my teachers, she suggested to me that I look to get involved in the fashion industry, in which she knew I held serious interest, and informed me that there was a designer worked a few blocks away from the school. Wasting no time, I searched the address of the studio and decided to spend that day’s free period harnessing what would be my new dream internship. I walked straight up to the stairs, knocked on the door, asked if internships were offered, and if so, how I could get one. I was greeted by the both popular and famous Morelia Cuevas, daughter of the legendary designer Manuel, who told me that although interns usually were required to be at least 21, I should set up an interview and try my luck anyway. Two weeks later, I became both the newest and youngest intern at Manuel Couture American Designs.

Though at the time I began I didn’t know much about clothing-construction or Manuel himself, I quickly learned. Immediately, I was thrust into the operation, and spent my first day putting thousands of rhinestones on a shirt for country-music singer Marty Stuart and listening to Manuel tell stories about memories of his good friend “John”. By the end of the first month of my internship, I had answered not a single telephone nor gone to get a single cup of coffee—I had, however, learned how to apply rhinestones, weave leather, sew a hem by-hand, and create typical western-wear arrow embroideries. I also learned that the infamous “John” I had now heard so many stories about was in fact both Manuel’s dear friend and the Man-in-Black himself, Johnny Cash.

Now, as a senior, I’ve spent nearly a year and a half interning with Manuel. Of all the knowledge I’ve gained about both production of clothing as well as the business of fashion in general, I feel that the most valuable knowledge I’ve gained is what I’ve learned about myself. I’ve realized that no one else can achieve my goals for me, and that if I want something for myself it is up to me alone to seek it out and attain it…and, of course, put a few rhinestones on it.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Intern in the House

Happy New Year everybody! This is Holly, I'm one of the new interns at Manuel Exclusive Clothier. I'm a freshman at O'More College of Design and I'm loving every second of my college experience - and my experience here with Manuel! I've been learning lots of new things, like how to make arrows, piped pockets, and hem pants. They've also had me on clutch duty, making tons of super-cute clutch purses (which everyone should come check out). We're all getting back to work and school and getting over the stress of the holidays. Hope every one has a wonderful new year!

~ Holly