10 April 2010

Manuel - 9 April 2010

The first time I photographed Manuel Arturo José Cuevas Martinez was about 4 years ago when I was working for a publication here in Nashville. His exhibit had just opened at the Frist Center and at several other museums. Now, several years later, I sit in the kitchen at his office-studio on Broadway not as a photographer but as a friend who just happens to have her camera. This man is a fashion legend and I have on my sweat pants (I was on my way to the gym...really). We start talking about James Dean as I just finished a biography on him, and Manuel said Giant was his first wardrobe job...how cool is that? Then we chat about Prince (the artist formally known as now known again as Prince) and Michael Jackson.

Manuel came to Los Angeles in the mid 1950's and later became head tailor and designer for Nudie of Nudie's Rodeo Tailors and designed for Roy Rogers among others. He has done clothing for everyone from Elvis (the famous gold jacket) to the Stones (did I mention I had on my sweats?). We go into one of his design rooms and there is a beautiful photo of his parents...

Esperanza and Jose' Guadalupe Cuevas...they were his true inspirations he says.
She was 13 when they married. There were 11 children, Manuel was the fifth. His older brother taught him to sew. He was raised in Mexico and attended the University of Guadalajara where he majored in psychology.

After working for the studios, Nathan Turk and for Nudie, Manuel left to open his own business in North Hollywood. He later moved to Nashville, TN in 1989. And here in Music City he has designed for the best of Country Music.

This fashion icon sits in front of me and what impresses me most is his romance of life.. He is charming, kind, and passionate. His lifes work is in the art he creates with his hands and in his heart. He is excited about a benefit he is having for his birthday to raise money for a non-for-profit organization he started, Friends of Manuel. The Friends of Manuel Foundation will financially support the Manuel Fashion Institute for the enrichment of the arts in the fashion and textiles industry.

As I get ready to leave, I try to hide my lack of fashion sense behind my camera bag, and Manuel, in his latino charm says "you look beautiful my dear, don't stay away so long".


Anonymous said...

Charming insights of a legend of fashion. As life goes by we all have opportunities to stop and smell the roses and that is a talent you seem to have.

Ellen Williams said...

Manuel has been a very close friend of mine for many years. One of my most cherished memories is the time I spent with him as he (and I) designed my wedding gown. It was fit for a princess. He is family to me. Thanks for writing this loving and honoring tribute to Manuel!

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