Fashion Designer Willi Smith Had AIDS, His Attorney Says

United Press International

Award-winning fashion designer Willi Smith died of pneumonia brought on by AIDS, the lawyer for his estate said today.

Smith, 39, died April 17 at Mount Sinai Hospital after being ill for about a month. His body was cremated Monday after a funeral service. Medical reports at the time of death cited pneumonia and blamed it on an attack of shigella, a form of dysentery, acquired on a textile-buying trip to India.

But lawyer Edward Hayes said a blood test shortly before the designer's death revealed the presence of the AIDS virus.

"The doctors gave him a blood test and it showed a low white blood cell count," Hayes said. "That made them suspicious and they gave him an AIDS test, and it came back positive."

Smith never showed symptoms of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, Hayes said.

Smith, who lived in New York for 20 years, pioneered funky "street couture" fashions and taught fashion design at Parsons School of Design.

He began his company, Williwear, in 1976 and the firm last year sold $25 million in clothing. Smith's fashions are sold in more than 500 department and specialty stores in the United States, England and France.

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