Person

Jorge Socarras

Grayscale image of man wearing corduroy overalls and black T-shirt with text stating, “WilliWear Willi Smith Video Crew”

In the early eighties, I was introduced to Willi Smith via photographer Kim Steele, who was friends with then-president of WilliWear, Laurie Mallet.

This was an explosively creative time in New York City, and Willi and Laurie were interested in collaborating with people across creative disciplines to help make Willi’s uniquely urban fashion message have total impact.

As a musician-singer and front-person of downtown avant-garde rock band Indoor Life, I was invited by Willi and Laurie to be in charge of music programming for the collections. Willi was a perfect balance of professional, friendly, and intuitive. He had me look at drawings of the collections and gave me keywords for their themes and feelings. Other than that, he gave me carte blanche. This was my first time putting music together for a major fashion designer, and when I brought in my selections, he couldnt have been more pleased and supportive. Thus began an ongoing collaboration through several seasons, during which I culled music from many of the most cutting-edge musicians of the time in genres such as electronic, world, and New Wave (some of which can be heard in the exhibition). Willi loved it all because it fit the exciting fusion of his fashion vision. After every show, Willi always wrote his collaborators letters of thanks.

I was just one of a number of artists and creatives that Willi helped provide with creative work and financial support. In fact, he and Laurie Mallet signed on as co-producers of my band Indoor Lifes second album, which might not have been completed without them. Aside from the lovely person that he was, to me, Willi Smith symbolizes a golden age of creativity in New York, both as a designer and a cultural visionary.

Four cassette tapes

Cassette tapes for WilliWear runway presentations by Jorge Socarras, 1983–85


Grayscale image of man wearing corduroy overalls and black T-shirt with text stating, “WilliWear Willi Smith Video Crew”

Jorge Socarras poses in WilliWear T-shirt, 1983