Here is another look at a label to shine at the recent fashion week in Miami, Tibi. Continuing our look at some of the names who appeared in strength thanks to Kat Popiel who captured the content which includes an interview with Amy Smilovic, the founder of Tibi.
Former Marketing Director at American Express turned fashion designer, Amy Smilovic, began Tibi in 1997, focusing on unique illustrations of colourful prints and must have silhouette cuts for ready to wear. Attracting young style icons such as Liv Tyler, Drew Barrymore and Scarlett Johansson to become followers, she has risen to become a unique classic staple, emerging as one of the most widely coveted brands to be stocked in over 200 specialty stores including Harvey Nichols, Henri Bendel, and Saks Fifth Avenue. This summer she emerged onto Miami Fashion Week with her debut swimwear collection showcasing pieces that continue to reflect her eclectic lifestyle and persistent travels throughout Asia and Europe most notably the beaches of Bali, the forests of New Zealand and the Mediterranean landscape of Capri. In 2005, The Cloister on Sea Island Georgia commissioned Tibi to develop designs for the hotel that would reflect the lifestyle of the world renowned luxury resort, including 60’s inspired mini dresses and bikinis, and one of three custom designed premier suites with a Tibi zebra pop-art rug, geometric patterned chaise lounges and hand painted curtains. The first Tibi concept space opened up on Wooster Street in New York in 2006, giving birth to a wider global retail strategy for the brand.
Kat – Where are you this very minute and how are preparations going for Miami?
Amy – Am INSANE at the moment – fitting suits, trying on loads of VOGUE eyewear, finding the perfect specs for the show, searching for a little gold bling for the runway, sweating it out with the Italian factories for swim runway shoes, sewing last minute sequins on last minute to suits, casting models, changing my mind every second – losing my mind! But everything is great – it’s all part of the excitement.
K – Tell us about the Tibi name and why did you chose it to head up your brand?
A – I started the line 11 years ago with a friend, Tibi is her grandmother’s name – the friend left the company shortly after its inception, but I kept the name. It has a fabulous ring to it, people love the way it sounds.
K – You are launching your debut swimwear collection this year in Miami – tell us about your desire to include resort wear to the brand?
A – Including swim is an absolute logical extension to the brand. Tibi has staked its identity on fun whimsical clothing that simply makes people feel chic and happy. We’re known for bold and colorful prints and I think this transitions beautifully to swim. We waited to introduce swim until we were confident we would be bringing something to the swim mix that is entirely new and has it’s own voice – we’re very excited with what we’ve come up with!
K – Why is showcasing at Miami Fashion Week important to the Tibi’s swimwear launch and what, in your opinion, does this showcase mean to the swimwear industry at large?
A – There would be no better place for us to launch – I feel as if we’ve gone straight to the top why start anywhere else. I think for the swimwear industry, Miami Fashion Week is incredibly important it lends a tremendous amount of credibility and prestige to an industry where it’s well deserved.
K – What was the magic moment that inspired you to start a swimwear line and what were the direct influences?
A – Truthfully, I’ve always wanted a swimwear collection it was simply about ensuring that we had the right message, the resources and the time to focus and make it work properly. The collection harkens back to my early days when I lived in Asia. I worked very closely with local artisans on the island of Java in Indonesia on my first Tibi collections. It’s many of those original prints that I’ve brought back to life for the swim collection.?
K - How versatile is the swimwear outfit and do you see innovation in swimwear existing?
Amy: For me, the swimwear look is more of a lifestyle, rather than just a simple outing to the pool. This is about a woman who wants to look chic and sophisticated while having a light hearted fun air about her. We?re really focused on the prints mixed with quite simplistic styles, so I wouldn’t want to stretch it and say we’ve tapped into new and innovative materials or accessories.
K – What were the major pitfalls in starting a swimwear line in terms of the creative production process?
A – Well, there’s always risk when you’re venturing into an area that is an unknown. I know just about everything there is to know regarding what prints my customers respond to for the regular collection and just how my clothes should fit. For swim, I’m introducing a bit of a new concept the idea of chic sophisticated colors in whimsical happy prints and geometrics. Currently, swim seems heavily boxed into two areas: chic/sophisticated coloring (Bottega Veneta, Malia Mills, Calvin Klein) or bright prints in candy colors (Ralph Lauren, Trina Turk, Diane Von Faustenburg, Milly, etc.). I’ve always been drawn to a chicer palette but still love fun prints. This is something new for swim and I?m totally sweating it out wondering how the market will respond. It’s a battle also trying to determine what the key silhouettes should be ? and should they be padded?? And how much bum is the American girl going to want to show versus the European girl?? I?m from the South, and those girls love to be extra covered. All of these things keep you up at night! We were also adamant that the collection be 100% Tibi’s own prints which means a huge investment in fabrications so we’re certainly taking a leap of faith here.
K – What were the challenges in starting out as an independent brand, before you grew to the commercial brand that you are today?
A – Simply being unknown. You have some customers that thrive on buying items from unknown designers ? but the bulk of customers need the comfort level that they know or have heard of the designer brand. It’s nice now that we can sell many of our items simply based on the fact that customers love our style and seek out the brand.?
K – Who is the Tibi woman?
A – The Tibi woman is obsessed with fashion, she loves to look great, and she relishes standing out in a crowd. She has a fabulous eye for prints and color and she wakes up in the morning looking forward to getting dressed. She loves travelling to exotic locales she has a preference for Asia – and she’s not a girl to lounge around on a Sunday ? her agenda is packed with loads of parties and events.
K – Which countries or cultures inspire your designs?
A – Indonesia is probably the most influential. I spent days upon days in the countryside of a town called Solo on the island of Java. That’s where I worked with local batik designers and developed many of my very first prints. I love Indonesia – the smells of the Frangipani, the food, the colors, the rice fields – it’s absolutely overwhelming.
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