Manuel de Jesús García Cruz
Fashion Designer at Manolo Bouvier
I am a proud Puerto Rican fashion designer, living in St Louis with my husband. My background is in finance and I am currently working as a Certified Public Accountant. I have been involved in fashion for the past 8 years, am on the friends’ board for the Saint Louis Fashion Fund, and have created my own brand “Manolo Bouvier”. My training includes bespoke pattern drafting to a Savile Row standard. I have been producing one-of-a-kind garments for women who are comfortable with their power and sexuality, who lead and advocate for change. I am obsessed with fashion history and draw inspiration from the classic forms of Dior, Chanel and Alexander McQueen, but also include the vibrancy and free spirit from my upbringing on the Island. I consider fashion objects an ultimate form of art, one that enhances and adds meaning to the person who wears it. Thus I love working with artistic prints in collaboration with my husband, and often will develop unconventional, body flattering shapes. From a business perspective, I have been developing a line of prototype handbags for the past 3 years, combining artful, geometric constructions with esthetically pleasing and practical designs. Currently applying for a design patent, I am expecting the line to hit production in early 2024.
How did you get started in design?
I have been interested in arts all of my life, dabbling in painting, sculpting and performance arts. But it was only when I was introduced into the world of fashion design and garment making that I found my true creative outlet. I have been working in fashion design for about eight years since I decided to buy a sewing machine. This is when everything fell into place and I have never looked back or wanted to do anything else.
What career accomplishments are you most proud of?
While I have been lucky enough to have my work exhibited and -soon- auctioned for charity, the most fulfilling sentiment so far has come from making a garment for a special occasion of a friend of mine. It was for her daughter´s wedding and it combined my concepts of beauty with my friend´s unique aesthetic and color palette preferences. Seeing my dress leave the atelier and accompany her at a major life event, enhancing her presence and being embedded in her memories has made me very proud. In essence, this is what I hope my garments will be; vessels and companions to major life moments, whatever major means for someone.
Where do you find your inspiration?
My inspirations come from my childhood, the richness and history of my island, but also the unapologetic, daring femininity of my friends, family and great historical figures. At the same time, I have been influenced by the austerity and boldness of the great European fashion houses such as Dior, as well as the addictive, dark, dreamlike states of Alexander McQueen and the happy, laissez faire attitude of Studio 54. I love history of fashion and women’s empowerment and frequently get inspired by strong female characters for my new collections.
How do you deal with creative burnout?
Personally, creative burnout occurs when I try to manipulate the creative process. At the end I always come to the realization that the creative process can’t be forced. When it happens, I take a break and focus on something completely non-creative such as watching reality TV shows.
What piece of advice would you offer to fellow creatives?
What we do matters.
What is one book that all creatives should read?
Without having a single favorite book I would recommend, I love everything related to fashion history, anything that helps me understand how we got where we are. Trends do not happen in a vacuum, fashion evolves with the human civilization, adapts to its needs but also helps move it forward by listening to the winds of evolution and societal change. Fashion trends, sometimes, manifest the collective subconscious the same way art or poetry does, but to a much larger, more impactful scale. So, I enjoy any books on the major fashion disruptors, Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Alexander McQueen, among others. I am a very visual person so I own a large collection of photography books.
What is your favorite place in St. Louis?
I love being downtown in Saint Louis. At times I feel like I know everybody around and it reminds me of the small town energy I grew up with. The city is full of history and its architecture is stunning, it inspires me. To paraphrase Andy Warhol’s mom, it has “everything good, bad and in between”. And it´s never boring.