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March 11, 2020
On view March 13 through Oct. 25, 2020, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum will present the first museum exhibition of fashion designer Willi Smith. The iconic designer was responsible for creating the brand WilliWear, which pushed the boundaries of fashion, creating “street couture.” The exhibit, titled “Willi Smith: Street Couture,” will feature key works by the pioneer of streetwear fashion.
When it comes to fashion, Smith was ahead of his time. WilliWear, which Smith created with his partner and Ozone’s founder, Laurie Mallet, blurred the lines between high and low fashion. Before streetwear was even thought of as a form of fashion, Smith and Mallet were creating a brand to serve just that. WilliWear changed the way that men and women dressed for work, for special occasions, and everything in between. With both bold and understated pieces, WilliWear blended both practical and fashionable.
Willi Smith took inspiration from the women around him. Whether it was his collaboration with some of the most avant-garde artists of the day, staging fashion shows that doubled as performances, to watching women walk the sidewalks of midtown, Smith took everything in. In this way, much of his style reflected influences from every corner of fashion. It is this that makes Smith such a legendary and understated fashion genius.
The exhibition will include more than 200 works by Smith and collaborators such as Juan Downey, Dan Friedman, Keith Haring, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Les Levine, Dianne McIntyre, Nam June Paik and SITE. Showcased will be a selection of photography, video, design drawings, garments, patterns, and ephemera, all of which highlight Smith as a groundbreaking designer and cultural producer. Five styles of Ozone Socks will also be featured in the exhibition. “Willi Smith: Street Couture” is organized by Alexandra Cunningham Cameron , along with curatorial assistants Darnell-Jamal Lisby and Julie Pastor.