An American Classic

Photos by Frank McMains

Who Knew Cut Out 2 Nikki Manuel discovered her true calling—a career in fashion design—during a family crisis. An attorney by profession, Manuel’s life changed dramatically when her mother had a stroke in early 2012. “It took a toll on everything I was doing,” Manuel recalls. “My mom was my wake-up call. In the midst of it all, she told me ‘You really need to just do exactly what you want to do. Pursue your dreams.’ ” And pursue them she did.Who Knew Cut Out 1

With her husband’s support, Manuel launched American Prep, a clothing line comprised of tailored classics. “I’ve always had an interest in fashion and design,” Manuel explains. “As a child, I always had a sketchpad in my hand.” Since her impressive showing at New Orleans Fashion Week in October, Manuel has been focused on manufacturing: specifically, ensuring that all of the clothing can be produced in the Gulf South. “It’s a juggling game,” she laughs. “But I couldn’t have dreamt it better. So far, it’s been an unbelievable experience.”