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date: 03 April 2020

Smith, Willi locked

(29 Feb. 1948–10 Apr. 1987),
  • Eleanor D. Branch


fashion designer, was born Willi Donnell Smith in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Willie Lee Smith, an ironworker, and June Eileen (Bush) Smith, a homemaker. He had two siblings, a brother Norman and a sister Doris, known as Toukie. As a child Smith showed an interest in art and, encouraged by his parents, also took an interest in clothing design. He attended Mastbaum Technical High School, where he studied commercial art. In 1962 he studied fashion illustration at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art but knew almost immediately that he would rather be a fashion designer. At seventeen his ambitions took him to New York City and the Parsons School of Design. During his two years at Parsons, he worked as an illustrator for designers like Arnold Scaasi. When he left Parsons in 1967 he freelanced for the Bobbie Brooks Company and did ...

A version of this article originally appeared in African American National Biography.

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