Person

Martha Nutt

Newspaper clipping from the Staten Island Advance detailing an exhibition of textile designs by Martha Nutt and Bruno Duluc at the S.I.A gallery in New York City, October 1983

I had the amazing experience of being Willi’s in-house fabric designer and production coordinator from September 1985 to 1987.

My small but modern office, designed by SITE, had a sliding door that adjoined Willi’s office. Close proximity allowed me the opportunity to witness Willi’s creative process, his caring relationships, and the multitude of adoring Willi enthusiasts.

My dearest memory of Willi demonstrates how supportive and encouraging he was of other artists. I was granted an interview with him thanks to my friend Bruno Duluc, who had an internship at WilliWear while at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and was later hired as Willi’s women’s design assistant. I had brought with me many fabric designs on paper, but first I unrolled across his desk my collection of bound graduating-sized printed fabrics from my final thesis at RISD. A wide grin came over his face as he picked up the fabrics, threw them over his shoulder, and said, “I’ll be right back.” Ten minutes later he returned and asked when I could start.

Throughout our relationship he continued to encourage and trust my ideas and suggestions. He inspired creativity in all of us assistants. He lived and breathed design and style. His expression of art was unwavering and confident. It was a joy to be around his energy.

The majority of our fabrics were woven and printed in India. Because our communication with India back then was solely through faxes, we often went to India to oversee and approve fabrics. During one trip, Laurie and Willi came to attend a traditional Indian wedding. They were both so gracious as to include me in all the festivities they were invited to. What memories!

This group of photos tells the story of the black-and-white optic print group for our 1986 Summer collection. The five prints I designed for Willi were an extension of my moiré and optic prints from RISD. They were perfect for the WilliWear look, being fun and easy yet sophisticated. All of the prints worked in any combination with each other. Mixing a vibrantly colored accent accessory and a solid black-and-white jacket offset the optic patterns to create the “twist” that Willi loved having in his work. There was the large and small grid, the large and small optic, and the WilliWear map. Its simplicity was ideal for production in India. Using their tried-and-true crisp white cottons and linens to print on and needing no color matching gave us no surprises. It was an easy, successful collection everyone loved.

Image of three people, two white women and a Black man, standing together and looking at the camera in a large, white showroom

Martha Nutt, Willi Smith, and WilliWear womenswear designer, 1987

“During my tenure at WilliWear, Willi was extremely into health, taking incredible care of himself and abstaining from alcohol and the like. It was devastating losing him in a matter of months after this photo was taken.”


Black and white short sleeve shirt with map print

WilliWear Map Shirt, 1986


Page from WilliWear News describing black and white WilliWear summer 1986 collection

WilliWear News, Summer 1986 Collection, 1986


Black and white page from Summer 1986 issue of WilliWear News with female model striking a dramatic pose surrounded by text

WilliWear News, Summer 1986 Collection, 1986


Remnant of black and white WilliWear map print fabric

Remnant of WilliWear Map Print on cotton fabric, 1986


WilliWear black-and-white Optic print fabric

WilliWear black-and-white Optic Print on fabric, 1986


Black-and-white cover of WilliWear News with image of Willi Smith smiling and holding his English bulldog Rufus

WilliWear News, Summer 1986 Collection, 1986


New York Times article "Hot Weather Urbanity," June 8, 1986, showing female model in black-and-white WilliWear optic print suit

New York Times article "Hot Weather Urbanity," June 8, 1986


Women's Wear Daily article "The Shorts Suit," showing model in WilliWear optic print bra top, shorts, and black jacket

Women’s Wear Daily article "The Shorts Suit," January 7, 1986


Model is lying down wearing optic print shorts and bra top from WilliWear Summer 1986 Collection

Model wearing Optic Print shorts from WilliWear by Willi Smith, Summer 1986 Collection


Newspaper clipping of February 1986 New York Times article titled "Willi Smith's City Look" showing model in black-and-white optic print jacket and matching shorts

Newspaper clipping of article titled "Willi Smith’s City Look" in the New York Times, February 25, 1986


Newspaper clipping showing an illustration of female figure wearing a black-and-white optic print skirt and black crop top from WilliWear Summer 1986 Collection

Newspaper clipping featuring an illustration of the black-and-white Optic Print fabric that was designed by Martha Nutt, ca. 1986


Newspaper clipping from the Staten Island Advance detailing an exhibition of textile designs by Martha Nutt and Bruno Duluc at the S.I.A gallery in New York City, October 1983

Newspaper clipping from the Staten Island Advance detailing an exhibition of textile designs by Martha Nutt and Bruno Duluc at the S.I.A. gallery in New York City, October 1983