Person

Iris Simpson

Grayscale image of two figures posing dramatically in matching oversized trench coats

I have many fond memories of the fast-paced days of New York City in the eighties. One of my greatest memories is of Willi Smith and his WilliWear line.

My sister lived in New York City, and whenever I visited from Canada, one of our first stops was always Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. It was so inspiring to see a young Black designer’s line in these two iconic department stores. I would head to the WilliWear fixture and try on many pieces. The first outfit I bought was a beautiful multicolored jumpsuit, which I wore the very same evening to Chippendales to celebrate my sister’s birthday. Boy, did I feel like a boss in that eye-catching outfit! Many of my friends wanted to borrow the treasured piece. After finally relenting, it was never returned to me—apparently lost at the cleaners. I have always wondered if that was a setup.

I loved seeing Willi and his sister Toukie photographed; they had such personality and the most fantastic style! Those were amazing times, and I still miss those days very much.

Grayscale image of two figures posing dramatically in matching oversized trench coats

Willi Smith for WilliWear, SUB-Urban Fall 1984 Collection, Photographed by Max Vadukul, 1984