Person

Kim Steele

Grayscale photograph of a dark-skinned man wearing a white suit and round glasses hugging a light-skinned woman with short hair wearing sheer fingerless bridal gloves, a sheer shawl, and a white wedding gown

I met Willi in the eighties through Laurie Mallet, whom I met through the art dealer Holly Solomon. Holly’s gallery was near my loft at 640 West Broadway.

Willi was always very warm but a bit distant. He encouraged my work and often invited me to his studio in the Garment District and to parties at his home on Horatio Street. Each February for my birthday, he sent a messenger to my studio with a tall, Spring branch of flowering cherry blossoms with a sincere note. He always remembered.

After I proposed to MaryAnne Levesque, Willi wanted to contribute to our union and offered to design our clothing for the wedding. MaryAnne went to fittings in a loft near Union Square, across from Andy Warhol’s Factory. I’m not sure who owned the place, but it was pretty vacant. I joined them a few times. He had a vision to dress this blond, blue-eyed beauty in a tight-fitting, satin-buttons-up-the-back, shoulderless silk dress, with a lovely, short train. It was expensive even in today’s dollars but worth every penny. It was regal.

The wonderful part was that Willi attended the wedding and reception in 1985, in the countryside of New Hampshire, with Laurie. They added a rich and storied dimension to our wedding in MaryAnne’s hometown.

Grayscale photograph of a dark-skinned man wearing a white suit and round glasses hugging a light-skinned woman with short hair wearing sheer fingerless bridal gloves, a sheer shawl, and a white wedding gown

Willi Smith and MaryAnne Levesque in a wedding dress Smith designed, 1985. Courtesy of Kim Steele


Grayscale photograph of a man wearing a white button-up shirt, a patterned blazer and pants, and white cowboy boots.

Kim Steele in bespoke wedding attire designed by Willi Smith. Photographed by Ben Buchanan, 1985. Courtesy of Kim Steele