Amy Smilovic's Tibi Touch

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(NEW YORK) Tibi founder Amy Smilovic has found her sweet spot somewhere between the Connecticut ‘burbs, her posse of strong female friends, and a killer Soho-based Ready-to-Wear business. BY DENA SILVER

How was Tibi born?
It started in 1997. I was based in Hong Kong, and I really wanted my own company. When it began, Tibi had a strong business approach and I created it to fill a niche for easy, cotton-printed clothing. As the business grew, I really wanted to make clothing that represents what I love, rather than satisfying a market niche.

What does your Fall collection look like?
There are a few plays on the classics going on, and a lot about comfort, coziness, and practicality. We’re featuring tonal dressing and a lot of blazers and jackets. The collection has a bit more of a romantic feel than I normally do.

Why is that?
It just felt right. I hate to make up answers. As a female, you just know what feels right!

Love that! Who are your female besties in the biz?
I’m very close friends with Beth Bugdaycay, who’s the CEO at Rebecca Taylor. I’m also close with women in media, like Gloria Baume from Teen Vogue and Kate Snow at NBC. I gravitate towards women who are moms, because we can relate. It makes for a nice support group!

Does the fashion industry empower women?
It bums me out, because the U.S. is not that supportive of female designers. But, internationally, female designers rule the world! Between Phoebe [Philo] at Céline, Clare Waight Keller at Chloé, and Gucci’s Frida Giannini, it’s such a women-centric business overseas. Women in the U.S. need to stick together.

You’ve been expanding your line slowly—first clothes, now shoes. Why is that?
It’s not so much about a branding strategy; it’s more of a survival strategy. Trying to be everything at once and getting into too many categories can really kill a company. Being very focused, from a business perspective, has  made sense.

Anything you’d like to add to the line in the next few seasons?
I’d love to do bags when it’s the right time. The woman who wears Tibi carries a designer bag, so we have to design a bag she’s willing to put into the mix. We’ve got someone working on designs. We haven’t seen it yet, but it’s in the works! We’ll know it when we see it.

Does living in Connecticut factor into your style?
I was born in the Midwest, I grew up in the South, and I live in the Northeast. My home is in the suburbs, but I work in Soho, and my husband’s European, so it’s a bit of everything! It’s important to be exposed to different things all the time.

How much of your personal style is translated into the clothing?
My personal style is so critical to Tibi. We try to develop things very early on, so I can road test it and see if I’ll really wear it or if I’ll look ridiculous.

So on any given day you might be wearing a sample?
Oh yeah, definitely. Sometimes I’ll wear seven different outfits in one day!

How important is social media for Tibi?
It’s really important. If I’m on [my iPhone] and I see that Elin Kling is wearing something I like, I’m only two swipes away from buying it. When you’re promoting any product, putting it close to someone’s fingertips makes it a critical outpost for marketing.

Do bloggers have a big impact on your sales?
If Olivia Palermo wears something, it will sell out the next day. Leandra [Medine]’s the same way. For us, bloggers are just new personalities, so when we’re designing something, we really think ‘Would Leandra wear it?  Would Miroslava [Duma] wear it?’ It helps us figure out who the audience is.

Editors adore clothes as well. Do bloggers and eds end up wearing the same styles?
They definitely gravitate toward the same pieces. They both want things that are either really special, or easy and not-so-special. They want pieces they can throw on, but they need to be really well-made, too. Our tank tops are huge!

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