Amy Smilovic

Interviews Style

Tibi Founder Amy Smilovic on the Three-Piece Wardrobe and Working with Her Husband

Amy Smilovic, founder of Tibi, in her office

Her composure, the pleasant lilt in her voice and her ambitious yet grounded perspective could lead one to assume that Amy Smilovic, the founder and designer of Tibi, has it all figured out. She might.

Tibi is a contemporary line of beautifully wearable clothes founded by a quintessentially modern woman. With 2017 marking the company’s 20th anniversary, we spoke with Smilovic about self-invention, reinvention and entrepreneurism.

Can you tell me a bit about the genesis of Tibi and your transformation to a fashion designer?

The company is just one and a half years away from its 20th anniversary—it began in Hong Kong in 1997. I had been in business before that, working for both Ogilvy and American Express. When I moved to Hong Kong I wanted to do my own thing. It was a really exciting time in Hong Kong, right at the handover from the British to the Chinese. There was this really entrepreneurial spirit.

In Hong Kong I found two Chinese men, Ben and Ivan, who were very young and entrepreneurial. They were game to do this with me. At the time I didn’t realize how special it was. I was the only contemporary brand producing in Asia. Theory, Rebecca Taylor and others were producing in the U.S. But to have all the resources in China, in Asia, the print designers and production houses there, was exciting.

Amy Smilovic's office at Tibi in Soho

I’d always loved, loved, loved clothing. And I always wanted my own business. My father and grandfather were artists. I was always creative and wanted to be artistic. That’s why I went into marketing; I wanted to be creative but fell into accounts. It was a great place to learn business, how companies run, how to crunch numbers, how to execute.

In college, I minored in art. Everyone always asks, “How do you do this without a design degree?” But I always wonder—how do people run a fashion label without a business background?

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Fashion Week

Tibi by Amy Smilovic: A Modern Take on American Sportswear for FW13

For the last three seasons, Amy Smilovic has embarked on an aesthetic overhaul of her Tibi brand. Her fondness for utilitarian sportswear has become the focal point of her collection that mixes functionality with polished dressing. For fall/winter 2013, the SoHo-based designer blends depth and texture to create an urban edginess with a ’90s refinement. Take a peek at the scene backstage before her runway show, held at Pier 59.

Before the show we had the chance to chat with Amy about her evolving design position.

The look of your collection has changed so much in the last three seasons. Tell us, what promoted the evolution of Tibi?
Amy Smilovic: A few years ago I asked myself, Do I do a merchandised brand that hits all these different components for so many different customers, or do I create a collection that really is from my heart and that I really believe in. There are so many influences in my life—I am a mom, I live in Greenwich, Connecticut, I work in SoHo, my husband is European, I’m from the South, we lived in Asia together—that making functional, beautiful clothes is really what I am about.

How does sportswear play a key role in the Tibi girl’s life?
Amy: I feel passionate about people looking great in the day and not overdressing. When you look great during the day, it’s because you’re wearing sportswear. The change you see in my designs is because I am bringing more of myself into the collection.

What inspired the look for fall ’13?
Amy: We go to Paris right after the show every year. I have a team of women that I work with to design the line, and for fall, we were doing what we want to wear, and I’m sure you’re going to see that come across on the runway.

–Qianna Smith
Photos by Fernando Colón

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Behind the Seams: Tibi’s Amy Smilovic Holiday Guide to Gifting with Style

For the quintessential Tibi girl, shopping is more of an art form than a chore, which is why we tapped the brand’s founding designer, Amy Smilovic, to offer some insight on her best buys for the holidays.

“I love giving gifts that combine the recipient’s personality with mine. Each year I buy a stack of blank cards and sketch the people I’m gifting, with a holiday spin,” says Amy, who launched Tibi in 1997. “My mom has a collection from over the years; they’re great keepsakes.” ‘Tis the season for a DYI approach to gifting. Personal touches, like designing your own wrapping paper or creating a card, add an intimate feel to the goodies you present to your loved ones.

Be sure to look the part at all your gift-giving occasions by wearing relaxed fabrics that reveal a feminine cut—hallmarks of Amy’s evolving design aesthetic. “The Tibi girl is dressing up for holiday dinner parties, whether it be with friends, co-workers or family. The trick is staying statement chic without overdoing it,” adds Amy, whose fans include Blake Lively, Olivia Palermo and Hanneli Mustaparta. When it comes to looking festive, Amy advises to “Go for updated classics with a twist. Swap out your LBD for a look that incorporates luxe textures and fabrics—anything with brocade or beading. Avoid looking garish when wearing rich materials by choosing pieces in modern hues of dark navy and burgundy.”

L to R: Tibi Silk Shift Dress, a vivid hue will energize your festive outlook on life;  Tibi Intarsia Knit Sweater Dress, blocks of color and a geometric motif are sure to get you noticed; Tibi Coral Print Silk Dress, a pop of blue coral is fresh and fun

Holiday Shopping with Tibi’s Amy Smilovic

Be inspired to celebrate the cherished ones in your life. Here, Amy shares what’s on her holiday shopping list. Take note and be sure to check your own list twice so you find the perfect present this season.

Cute & Cozy: Little Me ‘Reindeer Print’ Footie (Infant)
Amy’s Holiday Hit List  – “For a friend with a newborn, this is perfect for a baby’s first Christmas.”

Stocking Stuffer: Beats by Dre, PowerBeats ‘Sports’ ControlTalk® Headphones
Amy’s Holiday Hit List  – “My kids introduced me to PowerBeats by Dr. Dre—the quality of sound is amazing, and the ear clip-on is great for working out. They’re a great gift for anyone in the family.”

Made for a Man: Ted Baker London ‘Pig Character’ Socks (Online Exclusive)
Amy’s Holiday Hit List  – “My husband has an obsession with printed socks. It’s a gift I give him every year—I absolutely love these pigs, stags and ducks.”

Festively Fab: Reed Krakoff Wool & Cashmere Coat (pictured center)
Amy’s Holiday Hit List – “Every girl loves a little cashmere. Reed Krakoff happens to be a favorite of mine, and burgundy is the go-to color of the season. I love the easy silhouette and color blocking.”

Home Away from Home: Jonathan Adler ‘Jet Set’ Porcelain Coasters & Cocktail Napkins
Amy’s Holiday Hit List  – “As a houseguest, I always bring my host a little gift. I love these Jonathan Adler cocktail napkins and coasters: good paired together, and something everyone can use.”

Makeup to Be Merry About: Bobbi Brown ‘Extreme Party’ Eye Palette (Nordstrom Exclusive)
Amy’s Holiday Hit List – “Bobbi Brown masters our runway makeup every season—I’m a big fan of her products. This ‘Extreme Party’ palette is great for a shimmered and smoky holiday eye.”

Once you’ve picked out all your presents, turn on the holiday music and get wrapping. Some of Amy’s favorite joyful jams include “It’s Christmas Time” by Yo La Tengo and “White Christmas” by The Smiths.

Find something special for everyone on your list and check out our Holiday Gifts Guide.

Interview by Qianna Smith | Photo credit: Courtesy of Tibi

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