katherine dunham

The rhythm and soul of designer Marrisa Wilson

Designer Marissa Wilson sitting in a chair in front of a rack of clothes from her Spring/Summer 2023 collection

Guyanese-American designer Marrisa Wilson dreamed of working in fashion at a very young age. Now, it’s a reality.Christian Wright for Insider

The designer, who has collaborated with Levi’s and Gigi Burris, unites fashion, music, and art to create vibrant garments that encourage Black women to be their most confident selves.

In an intimate loft in Chelsea, Manhattan, funky guitar riffs from Roy Ayers’ 1970 hit “Pretty Brown Skin” glide through a set of speakers. Marrisa Wilson, the founder and creative director of womenswear brand Marrisa Wilson New York, grooves through the space with graceful urgency. She’s preparing to showcase her Fall/Winter 2023 collection, titled “Rhythmic,” at New York Fashion Week and plans on restyling the loft into a runway-worthy venue.

She’ll accomplish just that. In a week, the compact space will transform into a dynamic, immersive NYFW experience: Wilson’s very own canvas paintings will hang along a white brick wall; Hera, an all-female jazz band, will perform live music as models flaunting Wilson’s garments and Afro-centric hairstyles caper down the runway; and legendary model Pat Cleveland will make a surprise appearance and dance with Wilson to close the show.

But when I meet with Wilson, none of that has happened yet. She’s still making ready, and the loft is lined with racks of her unrevealed pieces boasting abstract prints and hand-painted fabrics.

Amid all of the planning, Wilson takes a moment to reflect. She’s come a long way since graduating from Marist College in 2015 — she majored in fashion design and double minored in fashion merchandising and product development — and studying fashion in Paris.

A woman plays the saxophone while a dancer dances down a runway.

At the beginning of Wilson’s Fall/Winter ’23 NYFW show, Chelsea Baratz of Hera sported one of Wilson’s looks while playing the saxophone. Meanwhile, model Lauren Forge danced down the runway in

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  • June 12, 2023