Amy Smilovic

BY Anum Bashir

When you come across cool clothes, more often than not it's safe to assume that the people behind them are probably cool too. I'm starting off 2018 by getting to know the ultra cool Founder and Creative Director of Tibi - Amy Smilovic. Revered for designing clothes that speak to the chicest of the fashion lot, Amy has conjured up a variety of ways to make clothes uncomplicated yet extremely fashion forward. Her effortless approach to style and well tailored androgynous pieces has afforded Tibi phenomenal growth in recent years, and they're showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. With the contemporary crown resting safely on her head, let's get to know Amy!

AB: Where were you born, and where did you grow up?  

AS: I was born in Indiana, in the heart of America’s Midwest. When I was 8 years old, my family and I moved to an island off of the coast of Georgia, called St. Simons Island.

AB: What was your childhood like?

AS: My childhood was really idyllic when I look back on it. We drove a bright yellow Volkswagen jeep; the model was called “The Volkswagen Thing”. My father was an artist and we spent our weekends having breakfast on the beach – lots of sun, boating, sports and art. I have a very close family and we spend a lot of time together.

AB: Your earliest fashion related memory? 

AS: Purple, plaid culottes! My grandmother bought them for me and I thought they were the chicest things in the world. Funnily, they’re very “on point” at the moment. 

AB: Childhood dreams/ heroes?

AS: I always admired artists (Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe), writers/singers (Patti Smith), and actresses (I’ll be honest, the original cast of ladies on Charlie’s Angels.) 

AB: When did you know you wanted to become a designer and launch your own label? 

AS: I always knew I wanted my own business – all through school I was making scarves or belts, and selling them at a local boutique. But it was not until I moved to NYC that I really started hatching plans to have my own business one day. I gained some early business experience at Ogilvy out of college, and subsequently at American Express. In a way, I was plotting back then how I would put all that to work to have my own business one day. 


AB: How did that journey start? How did Tibi come to be?

AS: My husband was transferred to Hong Kong by American Express shortly after we were married. Since I had to start all over again, I felt that there would be no better time to strike out on my own. And Hong Kong is an entrepreneur’s dream.

AB: What is your usual daily routine like?

AS: I am a fairly early riser at 6am. I get to work straight away: getting a few hours of email and sketching done and continue my work during my train commute. Three cups of coffee before 12pm. Not proud of that – but it’s the real number. I’d love to be creative most of the day – but the reality is that three or more hours are fully dedicated to business issues. Thank goodness I have a really solid team so I’m not mired down there but I am deeply involved in all aspects of the business from production, to marketing, to sales. I spend a lot of time conceptualizing new ideas with our CMO, and new designs with the design team. And lots of sketching. I have the iPad Pro and a program called PROCREATE – both have been a game changer for allowing me to sketch whenever I want to. 

AB: Favorite color?

AS: Grey/navy/green

AB: Favorite food?

AS: Indian or Szechaun – I love spicy foods

AB: Vices?

AS: Impulsive

AB: Pet peeves?

AS: Arrogance 

Image Credit: GPS Radar 

AB: Take us inside your design process.

AS: First I spend time in my closet – really understanding what I want to wear – what’s missing, and what would be new and modern – what could I add to my closet or change to my existing wardrobe that would make me feel more alive, more creative. Once I have that sorted out (for example, maybe it’s about longer leaner styles, or sharper tailoring), I spend time absorbing my environment so I can identify the factors that are contributing to my mindset. Maybe it’s an art exhibit I’ve seen or a city I’ve visited. I really step back and take measure of what it is I’m drawn to and why. Is it softer more transparent colors? And, if so, is that making me want something a bit stronger to counterbalance that? I try to articulate all of these feelings onto paper, with sketches and pictures, to share with the design team and confirm that we are all in the same mindset. From there, the concepts take a lot of twists and turns – but I always keep the original vision front and center – in the past, if I veered too far from it, I’ve always regretted it. My head of design and I spend an inordinate amount of time sending sketches back and forth, debating the overall look and tone of the collection. But once we’ve nailed that down, the rest flows quite smoothly. Choosing the fabrics from Europe becomes simpler once you are clear on the vision.

AB: What is the toughest part of being a designer?

AS: Really allowing yourself to pursue your ideas – you have to tune out a lot of noise sometimes: what the stores will say, what a customer may think – you have to stay razor focused on your conviction. Otherwise, your collection can become watered down and lack authenticity.

AB: What are some of your favorite pieces you've designed over the years? 

Left: A look from Tibi Resort 2018                                                                                                                          Right: A look from Spring 2015
      Left: A look from Fall 2016                                                                                                                                         Right: A look from Fall 2017                               
       Left: A look from Spring 2017                                                                                                                                Right: A look from Fall 2014

AB: Who do you design for? Who is the Tibi girl/woman?

AS: I design for a woman who is very curious about life – living it to the fullest. She sees clothing as a way of making her feel modern and smart. She’s busy, loves luxury and appreciates a point of view. She’s above average in every sense.

AB: The best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?

AS: Don’t sweat the small stuff.

AB: If there's one place in the world you could be, where would it be?

AS: I love Asia – would love for my family to have an opportunity to live there again.

AB: If you weren't a designer, what would you be?

AS: An artist – with a gigantic barn as a painting studio. Julian Schnabel is my hero – I have so much respect for what he does as an artist. I’d like to be Julian one day. 

AB: One piece of advice you would give to budding/ aspiring designers?

AS: Stay with your vision – but getting experience first is a great thing. I think there is such a temptation to jump right out of the gate with your own collection. But, without some experience under your belt – seeing how a company works, how production flows, how cash keeps a company afloat – you will have a very rough road to having your own independent line. Somehow, getting experience has gotten a bad reputation. I don’t understand that because it’s a good thing. It will make you smarter, and ultimately better able to control your own destiny. Take a deep breath, learn, and hone your skills. Life is short – but it’s also a long haul – not everything has to happen by age 22.

AB: A fun fact about you no one knows?

AS: I was voted most humorous in my high school. Around runway time, I don’t know that anyone would guess that. 

Image Credit: W Magazine

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