Willi Smith Community Archive


Willi Smith: Street Couture—Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s book and exhibition—was built through the memories and contributions of Smith’s friends and collaborators. Share your own story about Willi Smith here...





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     I don’t design clothes for the Queen; but for the people who wave at her as she goes by.



The Willi Smith Digital Community Archive invites friends, collaborators and admirers of American designer Willi Smith to share in writing his history. This site collects and publishes personal recollections, new scholarship, video, and digital ephemera that contributes to a greater understanding of Smith’s life, work, and times.
During his twenty-year career Willi Smith (1948–1987) united fashion and American culture, marrying affordable, adaptable basics with avant-garde performance, film, art, and design. At the time of his sudden death from AIDS-related illness, Smith was considered to be the most commercially successful Black American designer of the 20th century and a pioneer of “street couture”—fashion inspired by the creativity of people from the cities to the suburbs that captured the egalitarian spirit of the age.

Portrait of Willi Smith, Photographed by Kim Steele, ca. 1981


︎  Browse the site by subject, timeline, and through open call submissions, or share your own story. We want to hear from you!



Community Archive



The Willi Smith Digital Community Archive collects and publishes personal recollections, new scholarship, video, and digital ephemera that contributes to a greater understanding of Smith’s life, work, and times. 


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Featured —
Feast or Fashion


By Horacio Silva

To celebrate his Coty Award win in 1983, Willi Smith tapped Miralda, the Spanish food artist known for installations such as Edible Landscape, Sangria, and Moveable Feast, to cook up something special in the designer’s showroom. On the menu at Miralda’s Dressing Tables, as the event was billed: three stations shaped to represent a jumpsuit, pants, and a shirt (Smith’s outfit combination of choice), with three different dressings—mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise.

Generously seasoned with concept, each table had a special color code for drinks that were placed on small mirrors: red drink for chicken with mustard, green drink for asparagus and mayonnaise, blue drink for shrimp with ketchup. 


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Miralda, Laurie Mallet, and Willi Smith installing Dressing Tables, Photographed by Marta Sentís, 1983 

This website was designed by and created in collaboration with Cargo, as part of its ongoing initiative to support arts, design and culture.

This website was designed by and created in collaboration with Cargo, as part of its ongoing initiative to support arts, design and culture.