Person

Christine Rucci

A light-skinned woman with red hair stands smiling in front of the Taj Mahal. The woman wears a black short-sleeve shirt with dark blue high-waisted pants and a dark blue vest.

In 1987, I was hired to be part of the anonymous design team to carry on Willi’s legacy, along with Bob Andrew and Liz Flynn. I was the textile designer and was sent to India to develop the fabrics for the collection.

It was on that trip that I learned weaving with textile masters, including madras, eyelets, and prints. I traveled all over India, and it was on this trip that I was told of Willi’s last trip where he went to the Lotus Temple in Delhi, and it was told to me how he prayed about his health in the wake of the AIDS epidemic. My desk was right next to his office, which remained off limits, but I could see in, and his presence was felt. I have a few treasures from the trip to India, which remind me of my time at WilliWear, including an ornament and the original eyelet prototype from an antique trader’s shawl, which was used to inform the color palette of the collection.

That trip to India changed my life. My “mind’s eye” can still recall the colors of the saris, the silver jewelry, and the temples. I can recall seeing the Gateway of India in Bombay (now Mumbai), and I often dream of that time. When I do, I think back fondly of my brief time at WilliWear and how lucky I was to have been chosen to work there after Willi passed. And being a young girl when WilliWear was everything to an up-and-coming designer.

A light-skinned woman with red hair stands smiling in front of the Taj Mahal. The woman wears a black short-sleeve shirt with dark blue high-waisted pants and a dark blue vest.

Christine Rucci at Taj Mahal during trip to India with the WilliWear production team, summer 1987


Polaroid image of two light-skinned women and one light-skinned man posing in a design studio. The man lays across a white filing cabinet behind the two women who lean against the cabinet. Color and fabric swatches cover the walls behind them. Text on the Polaroid reads, "WilliWear's Anonymous Design Team"

The "Anonymous Design Team" in Willi Smith’s office, from left to right: Liz Flynn, Bob Andrews, and Christine Rucci

Rucci wears a long, gray double-breasted jacket from the fall 1986 WilliWear collection


Multicolored V-shaped shawl with large and small floral patterns and long multicolored fringe. Shawl is pinned on a white wall

Antique shawl used to inform the color palette of the Fall 1988 WilliWear Collection, purchased from seller Eileen Danzing


Newspaper article for the Women's Wear Daily Sportswear Report showing a large image of a dark-skinned woman sitting down and looking at the camera wearing a black-and-white gingham shirt with white shorts and white shoes.

Cover of Women’s Wear Daily, October 28, 1987 issue, with review of the first women’s collection for WilliWear after Willi Smith’s passing by the "Anonymous Design Team," featuring textiles by Christine Rucci and Liz Flynn