Today’s Black History tribute goes to Willi Smith (1948-1987), considered by some to be the most successful African-American designer in history.

Smith, educated at Parsons and Philadelphia College of Art, specialized in relaxed cotton creations. He began his own line, Williwear, in 1976 which, at its peak, sold $25 million worth of clothing per year.

Pantsuit by Willi Smith
Smith won a Coty American Fashion Critics’ Award for women’s fashion in 1983 and a Cutty Sark Menswear Award in 1985.

During his career, Smith designed the suits for Edwin Schlossberg and his groomsmen for his marriage to Caroline Kennedy in 1986 and also designed clothes for Spike Lee’s film School Daze.
Willi Smith died unexpectedly at the age of 39.
*If you are in New York during New York Fashion Week, be sure to save the date for Harlem Fashion Week’s 6th annual show on Saturday, February 16th! The event goes down from 6:30-10:30pm at the Museum of the City of New York located at 1220 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10029. Get your tickets here.