West Philadelphia native, Willi Smith was a pioneer in the fashion design industry. Smith designed comfortable, inexpensive, and colorful sportswear for men and women.
under his label “Willi Wear.”
Eventually moving to New York City, he drew inspiration from the street culture of the arts and downtown scene of New York. His enthusiasm for the city’s cultured was displayed in his designs so much so, that critics and supporters labeled his line, “Street couture.”
Smith’s apparel was sold in over 500 stores which led to gigs in costume design. He was granted the opportunity to design Mary Jane’s wedding dress in a Spider Man comic and was asked to wardrobe the cast for Spike Lee’s film School daze. Four years before his passing he won the Coty American Fashion Critics award.
It was with great disappointment that he died in 1987, at the age of 39.
“I knew . . . that I wanted to design my own clothes and not draw someone else’s,” – LA Times