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Willi Smith

Instructional Resource

Willi Smith (1958-1987)

Willi Smith was an African American fashion designer whose street wear line known as WilliWear was and experiment of democracy in fashion. WilliWear designs were known to be bold, blurring the lines between high and low culture, and his work often involved collaborations with other artists and designers. The openly gay designer's career was cut short when he died in 1987 from complications from HIV/AIDS.

This collection is a representation of the 2020 exhibition Willi Smith: Street Couture at the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, which features over 200 pieces from Smith’s work and career and his numerous collaborations with artists, dancers, choreographers, graphic designers, architects, and more. The works on view include video, sketches, patterns, photographs, and garments.