Stock Talk! How Tibi Got Into Neiman Marcus And How Valentina Kova Arrived At Maxfield

by Dena Silver

At yesterday’s SCADstyle panel, Tibi’s Amy Smilovic and young talent Valentina Kova sat down to chat with SCAD’s dean of fashion, Michael Fink. While Tibi is an established brand that’s been around for nearly two decades, Kova is currently working on a sixth collection at her namesake line. The two designers shared their stories about getting started and the hardships they faced in the first weeks, months, and years of their labels. As it turns out, a few white lies, a lot of perseverance, and great designs were involved with arriving in the stores of their dreams…

Amy Smilovic: “I packed up like 200 or 300 pieces in my luggage. And I landed in Boston [from Hong Kong] and I called up Ann Watson, who was at Neiman Marcus at the time, and I said ‘I’m in town and I want to show you my line. These are the times I have available.’ And she was like ‘It does not work that way.’ But she was like, ‘Okay, I’ll see you at two.’ I went in, she took a look at it and thought it was really interesting. This was when contemporary was really just starting as a whole segment, and she was like, ‘What will you do for Fall?’ And I asked her, ‘So this Fall thing is very important?’ And she said ‘Yes, because you don’t have a brand on a floor that goes quiet every six months and then you bring them back.’ And I was like, ‘My Fall collection is back in Hong Kong. It’s beautiful, with all these wools and Swarovski crystals.’ She bought the collection. I went home and I was like ‘Holy sh*t, I need to do a Fall collection!’”

Valentina Kova: “Maxfield was the key store I really wanted to be in. All the celebrities and the cool people shopped there. So I bought a ticket to Los Angeles, but I had no appointments because no one would answer my calls or emails. I walked into the store and they told me that they didn’t do [appointments like] that and Sarah Stewart [the buyer] wasn’t there, so I should try some other time. I bought my second ticket to Los Angeles two months later. I knew Sarah would be in town. So I walked in the store again and said ‘I really need to see Sarah. I think my assistant made an appointment with her.’ And they were like, ‘You think your assistant maybe made an appointment with her!?’ I told them that I tried and I thought I made an appointment with her for right now. I was so convincing and when Sarah came down, she asked, ‘Who are you? And who made an appointment with me, because I had nothing in my schedule!’ I told her who I was and that I didn’t have an appointment with her, but that I’d flown in from New York for the second time to see her. I asked if she could give me two seconds of her time so I could show my collection. She told me that she never does this, but she gave me a chance. Anyway, they placed an order, and that’s it!”

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