Person

Reba Ford-Sams

Photograph of a light-skinned woman with short blonde hair sitting at a long table in a park. The woman looks at the camera smiling and wears dark sunglasses, a striped short-sleeve crop top, and matching striped pants with brown flats.

I began working with WilliWear in their third year of business in 1979. We were still a small studio with about eight people. I assisted Om in the financial department, Willi in the design studio, and Laurie Mallet in marketing and sales.

As the company grew, I became Laurie’s assistant and “design coordinator.” In the third year of business, WilliWear realized tremendous growth. The new SITE-designed showroom was planned. It was an extremely exciting time, as well as a valuable education in business, watching a company grow and develop.

WilliWear was a true collaboration between Laurie and Willi. Laurie was the creative genius in marketing the WilliWear brand. Willi’s domain was in the design studio. Laurie was always interested in the arts and everything new happening in New York City at the time. Through her vision, she created the avant-garde artistic collaborations that WilliWear became so well known for.

As Laurie’s assistant, I wore many hats. My two favorite projects were collaborations with artists. WilliWear produced a line of T-shirts and clothing with materials designed by various artists. These artists included Keith Haring, Dan Friedman, Dondi, Futura 2000, and even Ed Schlossberg designed a T-shirt, as well as other artists. These were decades prior to Uniqlo marketing artist T-shirts!

My second favorite project was working with Christo. Laurie was friends with Christo and his wife, Jeanne-Claude. WilliWear collaborated by providing hot-pink jumpsuits, sneakers, baseball caps, and T-shirts for all the workers who assisted in wrapping the Biscayne Bay islands in hot-pink fabric for Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Surrounded Islands. What a blast it was to be in Miami and partake in this phenomenal project!

In the seventies and early eighties, we lived our lives to the fullest in New York. We didn’t have cell phones, and we didn’t take a million photographs and selfies. So much to remember!

Working for WilliWear was the time of my life. I look back on it with great joy. I developed and remained friends with many people who worked at WilliWear.

Photograph of a light-skinned woman with short blonde hair sitting at a long table in a park. The woman looks at the camera smiling and wears dark sunglasses, a striped short-sleeve crop top, and matching striped pants with brown flats.

Reba Ford-Sams in WilliWear ensemble in New York, summer 1983


A light-skinned woman and light-skinned man pose together in front of the San Francisco skyline with water, boats, and buildings behind them. The woman wears a solid beige button-up blouse, a matching high-waisted skirt, and a loose-fitting beige jacket with red accessories. The man wears a pink button-up shirt with a brown cardigan and dark blue jeans.

Reba in WilliWear ensemble, San Francisco, 1982