CMA Awards: 'Rhinestone Rembrandt' designs for some of Nashville's biggest stars

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVD) -- While Music City gears up for the 52nd Annual CMA Awards, celebrity designer Manuel Cuevas is preparing for a busy day.

"Sewing bottoms and dresses and putting up buttons, emergency things so they can look beautiful and really it's a privilege," Cuevas said. "It's what I like."

Although he doesn't like to name names, Cuevas said we'll likely see some of his designs on the red carpet.

At the age of 86, Cuevas still designs clothes for some of country music's biggest stars out of his studio in Nashville - Manuel Couture American Designs.

Some of his signature rhinestone jackets are on the racks in his studio and Little Richard's original jacket is displayed there.

Cuevas is known as the man who put Johnny Cash in black. He said it started after he sent Cash, who was his friend, nine suits.

"He gets on the phone, says, 'Brother I got the suits.' I says ,'Ya.' He says, 'How come they're all black?' I said, 'But they're nine different suits.' He says, 'Ya.' What do you think? He says, 'No they look fantastic.'"

Cuevas said he let the idea rest. Then, Cash called him a few days later, asking for two outfits a week for the rest of the year.

"He says, 'By the way, the color is no longer in question.' I says, 'There you go brother.'"

Often called the Rhinestone Rembrandt, Cuevas is also credited for Elvis' white jumpsuits.

"The idea between Col. Parker and me was he wanted to be liked as kind of an iconic person," Cuevas said. "I had done the gold lamé suit at Nudie's and now we were getting ready for Las Vegas."

Cuevas said he gets to know his clients and what'll suit their personalities. He said that's what makes his designs stand out, helping create the images of some artists.

"I make clothes for the individual," he said, and he added that he never makes two of the same items.

The prices for Cuevas' jackets start at $3,500 and go up from there. He said he rents jackets to up-and-coming artists struggling to make it in the music industry.

Cuevas said he moved to Los Angeles in the 1950s and eventually worked with stars such as Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and James Dean. In the music industry, he's dressed countless stars such as the Beatles and Rolling Stones.

Born in Mexico, Cuevas said his heritage inspires some of his designs.

"It does because I have it inside of me," Cuevas said.
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