Interview: Tibi founder Amy Smilovic talks about reinventing her brand and how to find the perfect separate

Tibi, founder, Amy Smilovic, Hong Kong, Fashion, Style, Trends, Shopping, Interview
Amy Smilovic of Tibi

Who else is obsessed with Tibi’s off-the-shoulder tops? The brand may have been on our radars for a few seasons now, but we recently discovered that it is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. What’s more, it was originally founded in Hong Kong by American Amy Smilovic who went on to build it into the fashion success it is today.

Amy was recently in the city to show her spring/summer 2018 line, so we took the opportunity to find out more about her journey, the new Tibi and her tips for finding the perfect separate. Read on to find out more…

Tibi, founder, Amy Smilovic, Hong Kong, Fashion, Style, Trends, Shopping, Interview
Tibi Spring/Summer 2018

IN interviews you refer to yourself as an entrepreneur rather than a fashion designer. Why launch a fashion line all those years ago?

I had just moved to Hong Kong and I knew I wanted to start my own business. I quickly went through a checklist in my head of what I’m good at and fashion came out on top. I loved drawing as a kid, I was obsessed with clothes and loved fashion. Hong Kong seemed perfect because of the proximity to China with its factories. Plus you say the word go here and anything can be done.

What was the ethos of brand back then?

As soon as I came here I realised that my choices were either Gucci or G200, with nothing in between. I started Tibi from an analytical point of view. I never stopped and took measure of what I wanted to be as a brand in terms of look and feel. It was more about about what’s missing at that time and following trends.

When fast fashion suddenly appeared a few years later, they quickly took over the space we occupied and I knew we had to change. I hated being at the whims of the market. If I hit the trend right, life was good, but if it was wrong, life sucked for the season. If I’m not doing something I am proud of and that I really love, why bother? We needed to take a risk and change.

So what is the philosophy of Tibi today?

It’s based on my own personal dress code which calls for clothes that are clean, modern and high quality. Whether it’s an off-shoulder top or pink dress, it’s always clean. You will never find distressed frayed edges or gigantic details. What we do is always going to look modern, not vintage or classic. It’s also always going to be relaxed and feminine. We can do whatever we want as far as trends go, but it still must fit those parameters.

How do you build your collections?

I literally stand in my closet and look at the pieces I don’t want to wear anymore and see how we can make them fresh and new again. I always lay out the colour story for the season, which dictates the mood overall. Then I sit with my head of design and go through items we still love and what do we not want to see any more of. Sometimes retailers don’t like it but we stick with it.

Tibi, founder, Amy Smilovic, Hong Kong, Fashion, Style, Trends, Shopping, Interview
Tibi FW17

Tell us about spring 2018…

For spring we were really feeling we wanted some permanence – we want things to slow down. We had a conversation about what makes an item something you love and want to keep forever. We’ve created pieces that aren’t overly trendy but that you will love like the men’s inspired blazers or suiting. The sculpted wool knits are really easy to wear and look cool.

As the queen of chic basics, do you have any tips for finding the perfect separate?

Buy them as a total look, then wear them separately. It’s so much easier that way and you’ll always know what to match them with!

What is the biggest challenge working in the industry today?

There’s a lot of noise out there for the consumer, and I don’t know how they are doing it. Less is more, and retailers have finally come around to that. We need to be more edited and selective. I really get sick when I read that the average America throws away 70 pounds of clothing a year. There’s lots more we can do within sustainability.


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