Amy Smilovic launched Tibi in 1997 with just four styles made from hand printed fabrics. Her first collection was picked up by Lane Crawford and quickly expanded into a full Ready to Wear line. Tibi is now stocked at over 600 specialty retailers around the world.
How are challenges you face different now from when you started designing?
When I started Tibi I was figuring most things out myself on a smaller scale. I didn’t have any industry experience or staff. 15 years later I have a lot more of both, which is helpful. However, since our business has grown, challenges are now on a much larger scale.
Was there a turning point in the life of the brand?
We came to a turning point about a year ago, there was a realization that we had been heavily influenced by what the market was telling us, and the line was no longer true to my original vision. Since that point, we’ve looked at everything through the lenses of: clean, feminine & relaxed. Those are our key words. Besides that, if we come to something that I would never wear, I know it’s just not right.
How has your inspiration evolved over the years?
I’ve always taken inspiration from all over the world – it could be travel, film, art, really anything. I used to focus heavily on vintage prints but lately I’m looking for what feels fresh, clean, feminine and relaxed.
Do you have a muse?
We’ve worked with a few different seasonal muses over the past few seasons such as Elin Klin or Julia Sarr-Jamois, but general women of inspiration are Charlotte Rampling, Jane Birkin and Lauren Hutton.
Which have been some of your favorite collections? Why?
A favorite earlier collection was Spring 2007. It was the slightest bit safari inspired, with a lot of white and natural tones and then pops of cobalt and green. Utility style jackets were belted over extreme wide-leg pants and dresses were simple with interesting necklines & cutouts. My staff sometimes pokes fun because when we start getting samples in for a new collection I always say “this is my absolute favorite collection ever” that’s just the way it goes.
You launched your shoe collection right around then, is there a shoe designer that meets your aesthetic most?
I sort of run the gamut with shoes, going from sneakers to serious heels and a lot of Tibi shoes. Some favorite brands are Celine, Miu Miu, Alexander Wang and Alaia.
Can you give us a glimpse into Spring 2013?
Digital prints, bright whites, feminine but strong. It’ll be a bit more of a defined waist then we’ve seen for the past couple seasons. Stay tuned….
What advice can you offer young designers ready to expand their collections and enter new areas such as footwear, handbags, home, etc?
Know the market, research your competitors and design something that’s true to your brand and you personally. Don’t launch too early, really have the right product in place and make it a cohesive collection. Your first impression is always what sticks in people’s minds.
Do you feel not using your name on your label has effected branding in any way?
I think it gives us the opportunity to tell a story, people are always asking where the name comes from. Also, I love the idea that anonymity let’s our customers project themselves on the brand.
In what way do you connect with your customers most?
We launched e-commerce about two years ago, since then I’ve found it’s the most direct way to connect with our customers. We’re able to collect feedback that we’ve never had access to and monitor response to various marketing campaigns directly. It’s a great resource and has allowed us to react and change strategy quickly and efficiently. We also are very active on Twitter, Tumbler and Pinterest. The reach is amazing and you’re speaking directly to your fans and customers.
Reflecting back what gives you the most pride about the business you built?
I have a lot of pride in the team I’ve put together. Collectively they have helped tremendously in making Tibi what we are today. I’m also very proud that my husband and I have built this successful company and still have a balanced lifestyle with so much time to spend with our kids and families.