Black Influential Designers
by Alexandra Phanor-Faury
In celebration of both Black History Month and New York Fashion Week, Essence.com is paying homage to the great designers of the past, present and future whose unique perspective has helped shaped the fashion landscape.
Willi Smith was of the most successful, young designer in 70’s. At the time of his death, his label was racking in $25 million a year. His love of mix-matching unusual colors and prints broke all the fashion rules. Smith spent years designing for mass-produced companies before branching out on his own in 1976 with WilliWear. The line was cashing in $5 million a year in 1982. Smith branched out and turned to designing an equally critically acclaimed sportswear collection for men. He would go on to win the prestigious Cutty Sark Award for his exceptional menswear designs. Smith’s affordably chic designs would continue to be profitable up until he passed away in 1987 of AIDS related complications. He was only 39 years old.