BHM Feature, The Late Willi Smith

Black History Month is one of my favorite months/times of the year. I am so proud to be black and I believe that educating myself on my history is very important, especially in my career field of choice. It always frustrates me that I do not see many men and women that look like me doing the same thing I am doing, and if they are, 9 times out of 10 they are behind the scenes making the named designer millions of dollars a year. So to my fellow black/minority fashion designers and/or fashion lovers let’s get educated on famous black designers who changed the game.


"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."

The Late WIlli Smith

Willi Smith was born February 29, 1948 and sadly died in 1987 due to AIDS. He had such a strong financial powerhouse minority brand bringing in $25 million dollars per year. Smith was a student at Parsons, The New School of Design and later dropped out in 1967 to begin his fashion career. He started out designing for the label Digits in 1969 and by the year 1973 Smith branched out on his own to open a business that failed shortly after. In 1976, WIlli started a new fashion company, WilliWear Limited, with Laurie Mallet that skyrocketed his fashion career. This brand included comfortable and inexpensive mens and womenswear. His work was often referred at Street Couture. WilliWear Limited often included an array of colors and prints and Smith was the first to begin mixing plaids and stripes, mainly in his menswear collections.

Willi Smith is most known for his wedding gown design for the character Mary Jane in the Spider-Man comic book and the clothes for Spike Lee’s School Daze. Amongst those designs, Smith earned many awards including being the 2nd African-American to receive the American Fashion Critic’s Coty Award, 1983. He also won the Cutty Sark award in 1985 for his menswear fashion. WIlliWear Limited eventually went on to be sold in more than 500 stores globally. Unfortunately after Smith’s passing WIlliWear Limited did not last for much longer and the brands final collection was in 1990.

Thank you Willi Smith for paving the way for myself and other blacks/minorities alike.





KiYada Upshaw

24 year old millennial building an overnight success story 1 week at a time. Talking about building a fashion brand while being a young newly wed keeping God at the full font of the relationship and career.