An Interview with Manuel Cuevas (aka Designer of OPRY by Manual)
“Mostly fine tailored lines give the body a nice shape.” – Manuel Cuevas
Recently, I had a chance to meet with my good friend and clothier, Manuel Cuevas, or better known as Manny. His design work is known nationwide as having a sophisticated look, with a distinct cowboy flare. His knack for construction and fit is truly fascinating. He currently dresses great up-and-comers in the country music industry. His clothing has been sold in such high-end retailers as Barneys and Neiman Marcus. Even with Manny’s store opening in East Nashville, he is such an open hearted guy, he graciously granted Wilson Living some of his time, for an exclusive interview.
EB: Let’s start at the beginning…Tell us how you grew up. I know your father is a famous clothier to the stars….what was your childhood like?
MC: Born in 1972, I was raised in North Hollywood and the Toluca Lake area in Southern California. I started sewing at the age of six with Manuel’s employees watching over me, to take care that I didn’t stick my fingers with the needle. By age seven, I was doing it by myself and Manuel’s boot maker, Jose Mendes, tutored me in the crafts of leather working, tooling and boot stitching, and cutouts. Manuel also instructed me on the art of hat blocking. Every day after school, I would come to my dad’s shop and after finishing my chores I would work on my own creations: leather wallets, purses and other accessories… These were sold in Manuel’s shop and the sales money became my allowance. Manuel’s design ethic philosophy infl uenced me as a young man, which has helped me build my design trade and is a pillar to my ethics today.
EB: Name a few famous people who would come in and out of your dad’s shop, but seemed normal to you at the time.
MC: Ricky Nelson, Neil Young, The Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, Ray Price, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Porter Wagoner, Linda Ronstadt, Marlon Brando… Mostly everyone I had the opportunity to meet was normal; some of them just had big egos!
EB: Marlon Brando? That’s very cool. So did you ever want to be anything besides a clothing designer when you were small?
MC: I wanted to be everything from a lawyer, to a fireman, to a pilot.
EB: What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job?
MC: The designing and the joy of watching the consumer put their new duds on. To see the fulfillment that comes out from their inner soul is rewarding!!
EB: Tell me about your clothing line, Wear It Out…
MC: Wear It Out Manuel is about the American Heritage of independence, of self confidence, style and opulence inspired by the west… The Movies, Music, (Rock N Roll, Country, R & B) that is American culture. Clothes that make you feel GREAT!! I represent both of my cultures, Native Hispanic and American, and have been strongly influenced by them. I love the freedom and range of these two cultures and the ability to take them and redefine them with beautiful fabrics and finely tailored lines; also to incorporate colors and textures into our designs using embroidery and rhinestones.
EB: I know you’ve been to New York Fashion Week before…that’s when I first met you, waiting for a cab! Tell me about your first Fashion Week.
MC: My first Fashion Week was AMAZING!!! Gives me chills just to talk about it…. We showed in the largest tent in Bryant Park on a Friday. We were at full capacity and had to turn people away due to not having any more room. I was one of only a few to receive a standing ovation that day!
EB: Fill in the blank. The woman you are dressing is ____________.
MC: Independent, confident, and well grounded.
EB: Can you provide any tips for our readers when they choose what to wear?
MC: For the woman: Great shoes and a nice matching bag. Men: Nice shoes and a nice belt (always wear a belt).
EB: Predict what you see as being “in” over this next season?
MC: Fashion is like the world it revolves… every 10-15 years styles seem to re-enter the world of fashion over and over again. It’s starting to become a shorter time frame.
EB: Describe the perfect New Years Eve look for a woman…
MC: A black lace princess tulle dress with cap sleeves, a-line….styled with knee high stockings and cashmere gloves and some incredible black alligator 4-5 inch heels with simple silver earrings and a silver necklace.
EB: What is one item every woman must have in her closet?
MC: A great 3/4 length coat with driving zipper.
EB: When accessorizing, do you believe more is more?
MC: No, not at all.
EB: Speaking of accessories, I absolutely love your handcrafted, specially designed boots! They’re all so unique. Always.
MC: Thank you!! They are all planned out when designing and each pair has a story.
EB: I know you do a lot of custom work. What has been your most interesting request from a client?
EB: What color palate are you currently working for your new designs?
MC: I’m working with pastels… ranging from soft magenta’s to rusted pinks.
EB: How do you come up with your designs? Do you see them randomly in your mind first and then design, or do you take the time to sit down, and actually plan?
MC: Both ways…
EB: What shapes and sizes do you work with when it comes to design? Do you ever design for a plus-size?
MC: Mostly fine tailored lines to give the body a nice shape. I definitely do plus sizes on custom orders.
EB: If a woman would like you to design a look for her, how much lead time do you need?
MC: I would need 2-3 weeks for most designs.
EB: Tell me about your new store.
MC: I want people to come and feel welcome; to feel at home. Customer service is Number One.
EB:I noticed with your clothing line, you like a lot of flash…Are we going to continue seeing the rhinestones in this new store?
EB: What direction do you envision your business, and self, going into the next ten years?
MC: I will become an in-house manufacturer for limited high end boutiques with limited edition pieces that are accessible, classy, sexy, and sophisticated for the right people.
EB: Thanks for your time Manny!
If you would like to drop by Manuel’s new studio boutique, he is located at:
1001 Dickerson Pike Nashville, TN 37207