WilliWear used fashion as a creative platform to advocate for diversity and inclusion within the fashion industry, populating runways with models of color, showing men’s and women’s collections simultaneously, and styling gender-fluid ensembles.
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WilliWear runways served as sites of experimentation and expression, presenting each collection with a new theme, graphic identity, and set of artistic collaborators in an unconventional venue. Smith and Mallet shattered the formal traditions of the couture runway by presenting affordable clothing in events that Smith claimed were not about “the clothes but the impression of the clothes, seeing the clothes in context, in a way that might amuse.”

Music, video, makeup, conceptual art, and “street dressing” converged in references as far-flung as techno-utopianism, American suburban life, 16th-century-Italian commedia dell’arte, and drag balls—underground performance events traditional to young, working-class Queer Black and Latinx cultures.