From the mellow and relaxed streets of New Orleans to the fast-paced hustle of New York, designer Brennan Manuel has not only created a lifestyle brand of clothing but a lifestyle itself with his line, “6AM.”
Manuel said his career in fashion began in high school, working mostly in streetwear, around the time when FUBU was at its peak popularity. He also created his own line of T-shirts called “Shot Callaz.”
Though this was a significant step in his designing, Manuel said acquiring an education in fashion design wasn’t something people often talked about because New Orleans lacked an established fashion scene in the early 2000s.
Fast fashion brands like H&M didn’t really exist at the time, so Manuel said he thought selling a new, distinctive T-shirt seemed like a great way to break into the industry.
In college, he moved to custom creation of shirts and jeans using various fabrics and an airbrush to embellish each piece to an individualized result. But after college, he decided to go to Tulane University Law School.
“I’ve always known I wanted to have my own business, but to learn how to protect what you created was something you had to go to school for,” Manuel said.
While in law school, Manuel came to the conclusion that he should be putting all of his time and effort into what he actually wanted to do with his life, and fashion once again became his priority.
He took a leave of absence from law school to take sewing courses in Tulane’s costume department, and he saw that menswear was changing in such a drastic way. Soon after, he decided to break into fashion.
It was at this point when the idea of moving to New York came to his attention, and he started looking into all of the possibilities that living in the epicenter of American fashion could offer.
Manuel applied and was accepted into the menswear program at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, an international program that only accepts 40 new students a year, he said.
In his first year of the two-year program, he learned how to pattern, create garments and, most importantly, translate his designs to a computer using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. However, Manuel had to leave the program early to finish his last semester of law school at Tulane, or he would have to
He finished his last semester in 2010, received his law degree and immediately moved on with fashion. After two appearances at New Orleans Fashion Week and one at Southern Design Week, 6AM Clothing was born as an embodiment of everything Manuel came to learn from living and working in New York as well as New Orleans.
“6AM is a lifestyle brand created to outfit those individuals who through hard work and perseverance become masters of their own destiny,” Manuel said.
According to the 6AM website’s mission statement, “These tastemakers are up early to grind and getting in late because they know the hustle doesn’t stop. These purveyors of cool stay hungry and stay humble. They know that the road to success is paved with mistakes that will lead to greatness. They will lay their heads on luxury and their lives will be high-end, because they earned it.”
This is the 6AM ethos, which can be applied to not only clothes but to any kind of creative outlet or project, Manuel said. The line’s tagline, “Grind Over Glamour,” helps to more simply convey the 6AM mentality.
Manuel said he prefers to maintain a more minimalist, simplistic approach in design, using rich colors such as black, gray, navy, beige, white or any color less primary and more mature. Instead of using a bright red, a dark maroon helps to communicate what 6AM stands for as a brand.
He enjoys using color in his work, but he said he doesn’t need them to be aggressive, and using deeper colors creates a conversation instead of just catching someone’s attention from far away.
“I’m creative, but I also know that you need structure,” Manuel said.
Part of this structure comes in a small notebook he carries with him every day, where he records his day-to-day, almost minute-to-minute personal accomplishments. Manuel said the notebook allows him to constantly self-evaluate and see a physical representation of growth as a designer.
Manuel works alongside his brother Zac, whose film company is an integral part of the 6AM brand, and the two are working on various video projects including the pilot video for the clothing brand. He said Zac became involved with the line because he was simply attracted to the mentality
“You don’t have to be into fashion to get 6AM,” Manuel said. “Because it’s an ethos. It’s a state of mind. It’s a lifestyle.”
You can reach Michael Tarver on Twitter @michael_T16.