Willi Smith was one of the most prominent and successful black fashion designers in history. His company WilliWear Ltd. sold millions of dollars worth of clothing a year. Although Smith’s company held his name and was he was the public figurehead, most of the revenue from his company went to white invetors.
Smith was also the brother of model Tookie Smith. Tookie had a long-term relationship with actor Robert DeNiro and is the mother of his twins. Willie designed the wedding dress worn by Mary Jane Watson when she married Peter Parker in the Spider-Man comic book and comic strip in 1987 and the suits for Edwin Schlossberg and his groomsmen when he married Caroline Kennedy in 1986.
The clothing worn in Spike Lee’s 1987 film School Daze was designed by Smith. Smith died unexpectedly at the young age of 39 after contracting pneumonia on a trip to India, apparently as a result of AIDS. It is suspected that Smith, didn’t know he had the disease although those around him knew he was a fragile state during his last days. At the time of his death, Smith was regarded as one of the most successful African-American designers in the fashion industry. Smith died on April 17, 1987.