Once you were nobody unless you rocked some "WilliWear", honey
Willi Smith was one of the most commercially successful black fashion designers with his WilliWear line
His designs went so mainstream that he created the 1987 wedding dress for Mary Jane Watson's marriage to Peter Parker in The Spider-Man comics
Smith counted many wealthy socialites as clients and he also did wardrobe and costuming for plays and Spike Lee's "School Daze"
So of course, at the time WilliWear was given the dubious moniker of "street couture" which he himself didn't like because it was limiting and racially slanted
Yet he could play it both ways sometimes, admitting
"Being black has a lot to do with my being a good designer. My eye will go quicker to what a pimp is wearing than to someone in a gray suit and tie. Most of these designers who have to run to Paris for color and fabric combinations should go to church on Sunday in Harlem. It's all right there"
Further he told Essence magazine that
"What is happening on the streets of New York is happening to me, so I put it right in the collection."
yet he didn't look at his clothes as marginalized for certain people. WilliWear was for "people to live in" and he aimed for an affordable line of sportswear in relaxed silhouettes, natural fibers and mix-n-match patterns (love that!)
WilliWear was both a respected women's wear (Coty Award, 1983) and men's wear (Cutty Sark Award, 1986) line with designs so popular that Butterick and McCall's (before 2001 merger of the two pattern makers) both had a whole line of patterns out in conjunction
An uncharacteristically hands-on designer, Smith annually travelled to India to supervise the construction There, in 1987, Willi Smith died of AIDS-related causes. He was later honored in the original AIDS memorial quilt
WilliWear is still produced under a revolving design roster and Smith's personal legacy carries on as the street and the showroom continue to intertwine, prints continue to clash and American sportswear continues to favor young entrepreneurial people with a vision and drive to succeed no matter what stereotypes they face.