“Fashion is one of the richest forms of self expression,” says Nicole Muhammad, designer and founder of Sew Elevated. “It serves as a way to communicate to the world who we are without having to say a word.”  

Unveiling the Narratives: The Canvas Showcases Five Interim CFDA Members and Their Captivating Collections

“Fashion is one of the richest forms of self expression,” says Nicole Muhammad, designer and founder of Sew Elevated. “It serves as a way to communicate to the world who we are without having to say a word.”  

Earlier this year, The Canvas welcomed Nicole and four other Interim CFDA Members to our flagship location at Westfield World Trade Center. On January 26, our NYC community joined us at a ‘Sip and Shop’ launch event to meet and celebrate MARRISA WILSON New York, Sew Elevated, Patrick Cupid, thesalting and Melke while exploring their collections at The Canvas. 

Just one year prior, The Council of Fashion Designers of America, Inc. (CFDA) introduced a new tier of (interim) membership for designers who have been in business for under five years and demonstrate great talent and promise. With the goal of providing increased visibility and an additional revenue stream for the emerging talent, The Canvas partnered with the CFDA to provide a physical space for their collections to be showcased and sold. Following the night of the launch, we asked the five designers for a peek into their worlds - everything from challenges they face to thoughts on how fashion will shape the future.



“If you are always challenging yourself to try something new, there is never a dull moment in the design process,” explains Marrisa Wilson from MARRISA WILSON New York. Marrisa’s brand is built around the philosophy that all women should be able to effortlessly express their unique personalities, and never sacrifice style for comfort. “What you wear each day is the image that you are portraying outwardly to the world. You can use clothes to express the mood you’re in, or to match your personality, or to reflect the specific goals you set on any given day. There’s total freedom there, a blank canvas for you to fill every time you go into your closet in the morning and are able to put together an outfit that captures exactly what you want it to that day.”    

When asked what her canvas was (or from where she draws inspiration), she led us through her creative process. “Music always has a really big influence on my work. I usually start a new season by creating the right playlist. It’s a fun way to set the vibe for the season and, once I’ve found the right musical style and tone for what I want to create, it allows me to think less in the design process and just follow my creative instincts. Once I have that soundtrack ready, I’ll then be able to hand paint and render all the prints in my collection. So I’ll always start the design process with a really expressive print story and expand and explore from there.”  

The storytelling element appeared to be a common thread amongst the designers. Patrick Cupid shares his personal story through his eponymous ready-to-wear brand - with pieces representing classic and enduring styles that speak of the present yet remain timeless. 


“With every collection I express my triumphs, my hurts, my love and my ideas,” he says. “It’s a major part of who I am.” The brand largely focuses on individual expression and is not about fitting in or earning social validation. However, Patrick recognizes that personal style extends beyond the self.  “Fashion is part of what makes up a society. It incorporates our ideals, traditions, culture, and way of life. We require clothing to exist in society and what you wear speaks to who you are and your role within it.” 

Emma Gage, designer and founder of Melke has a similar take. “It’s the zeitgeist”, she states. “​​Historically, fashion has noted the crossing and joining of cultures as well as rebellion and a direct response to the way of life. Today is no different. It is a direct lens through which we can view the story of our times, socially, economically and politically.” 

Emma creates fun and quirky clothing aimed at pushing the boundaries of self-expression. She presents an unhinged and mischievous take on the fashion industry, challenging the status quo and creating energetic pieces with a focus on sustainability. “It’s a make it or break it industry. I believe that we will be able to shape the future of sustainability with the use of innovative eco-friendly materials using waste to create new materials. There is a lot of potential with materials in regards to recycling and recreating and I think that is our best way to shape the future.”



Nicole Muhammad is another creator who uses thoughtfully-sourced materials for Sew Elevated, her line of contemporary garments made to empower confident, sophisticated women who want to distinguish themselves and express their bold personalities. 

“Beyond the glitz and glam, there is much to be done by all members of our industry,” says Nicole. “Fashion will always play a role in our lives on the micro and macro levels by the sheer magnitude of its size and reach across the globe. Current statistics indicate that our industry is valued at 1.7 trillion dollars. It provides employment to people across the globe and has the ability to reach people from all walks of life. It is our responsibility to do all that we can to ensure that this expansive industry makes increasingly positive footprints in the world.”   

Nicole embodies the notion that perseverance prevails. “It is a constant journey of learning, patience and persistence,” she tells us. “Coming from another background and career made the learning curve that much steeper. However, I sought the necessary training, education, mentorship and resources to provide me with the tools to not only design, but also to begin building a fashion brand. Having a strong support network in this industry is crucial, as nothing can be done alone.”  



This very statement helps tell the story of thesalting, a brand conceived out of a shared bonding experience. Designer and founder Michael Ward and his business partner and husband Manel Garcia Espejo take pride in having a brand that unites a wide variety of people. “thesalting is strictly unisex,” Michael says. “We were excited to create a collection of pieces that ideally can be worn by all. We find excitement in that concept, paired with seeking an audience that appreciates well-crafted clothing.”

thesalting also speaks to sustainable production practices. “Our brand is wholly crafted and made in America. Finding appropriate factories with a beautiful hand and understanding of our collection was a challenge. And we are so happy with our production today.” Together, Michael and Manel navigate entrepreneurship with curiosity and authentic refinement. “It is completely inspiring owning your own business - making our own creative decisions and essentially creating our own language. My husband and I follow a strict rule: we would wear each piece created. So basically, we are our own canvas.”

Each brand will continue to be available for purchase at The Canvas Westfield World Trade Center through March 31, 2023. With their dynamic and spirited collections, MARRISA WILSON New York, Sew Elevated, Patrick Cupid, thesalting and Melke just may reinspire you to communicate through clothing - and paint your own canvas.

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