Person

Mary Jane Marcasiano

WilliWear New York showroom with metal pipes, wooden pallets, corrugated metal sheets, and faux broken windows painted gray; two out-of-focus models walk by in brightly colored clothing

In New York City in the mid-seventies, the subways were dangerous, and everyone took the bus, in particular the number 5 bus, which connected uptown to the Village and SoHo in a straight line.

You never knew who you’d meet on the bus. It was a bit of a party. As a Parsons’ fashion student, I would often ride the bus back and forth from school, Fifth Avenue and 13th Street, to the Fifth Avenue museums. One day, coming home from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I met two cute, fun people. We exchanged compliments on each other’s style and introduced ourselves—it was Willi and Toukie Smith.

I was thrilled it was Willi Smith, who was not only my favorite designer at the time, but that year I had an after-school job designing the windows at Capezio in Greenwich Village. I had just designed a window of his wonderful cotton separates hanging from clothespins on a wash line. I invited Willi and Toukie to come down and see the window, and they came. That semester, I made no money in my job—I took all my salary in WilliWear! WilliWear’s fun, practical minimalism influenced my personal style and my development as a young designer. It’s also inspired in me the concept of young independent designers, and when I graduated from Parsons, I started my own company.

WilliWear New York showroom with metal pipes, wooden pallets, corrugated metal sheets, and faux broken windows painted gray; two out-of-focus models walk by in brightly colored clothing

SITE for WilliWear, Showroom, New York, NY, Photographed by Andreas Sterzing, 1982