Willi Smith Research Paper

662 Words3 Pages
Willi Smith by Megan O’Keefe

Willi Smith was born in Philadelphia,Pennsylvania and studied commercial art at Mastbaum Technical High School and attended Philadelphia College of Art for Fashion illustration . He moved to New York City to go to Parsons the new school for design, the art and design college of the new school. In 1967, Smith quit Parsons to have a career designing on his own. In 1969, he designed a label for digits, a sportswear company. In 1973, Smith, with his sister Toukie Smith, founded their own clothing company that soon failed. Smith continued to design and in 1976, he went into business with Laurie Mallet and called the company "WilliWear Limited."He designed the wedding dress worn by Mary Jane Watson when she married
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Smith also designed the uniforms for the workers on Christo's 1985 wrapping of the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris and clothes for Spike Lee's film School Daze. Smith worked with many other designers and artists during his time at WilliWear including Antthony Mark Hankins, James Mischka, Julia Santos-Solomon, Jon Coffelt, John Bartlett and Andre Walker, among many others. Smith partnered with Jhane Barnes on some of his earlier shows. Smith was the costume designer for Secret Pastures, which premiered at Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival, one of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company's first major works.On April 16, 1987, Smith was admitted to Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City after contracting shigella and pneumonia while on a fabric buying trip to India in February 1987. He died of pneumonia complicated by shigella the following day at the age of 39. According to Smith's lawyer Edward Hayes, Smith's death was AIDS related. Smith did not know that he had got the disease and did not see any symptoms.After he was hospitalized the tests revealed that he is HIV positive. Laurie Mallet, Smith's business partner, later said that while the designer was always "fragile" and often too sick to work,…show more content…
When asked if Smith had any idea that he had AIDS, Mallet said that Smith never told this to her, but she felt "maybe he had some idea, some feeling."Smith's funeral was held on April 20 at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel in Manhattan, after which his remains were cremated. On May 1, 1987, a memorial service was held for Smith at his alma mater, Parsons The New School for Design.Smith was openly gay, has a panel in the original Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. Smith is also lamented in a poem "Speak: A Poem for the Millennium March", by Keith Boykin, read by its author for the Millennium March on Washington for Equality on April 29, 2000.While Smith's company, WilliWear Limited, was very successful, the company had experienced creative, quality and merchandise problems in the year before his death. In an effort to fix these problems, Smith's business partner Laurie Mallet hired a new staff and brought in additional designers in an effort to appeal to a more educated statistics. After Smith's death, Mallet vowed to continue the line. In late 1987 and 1988, she opened WilliWear stores in in Paris and New York City.A London location was opened before Smith's death which proved to be very successful. However, Mallett struggled to maintain the success the
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