Entrepreneur and ‘creative pragmatist’ Amy Smilovic founded Tibi in 1997 while residing in Hong Kong. Now based in SoHo, New York, Tibi has cemented its status as the go-to for problem-solving wardrobe staples that elevate everyday dressing.
With a focus on separates, tailoring and witty-yet-wearable detailing, Tibi creates timeless pieces that transcend trends and slip effortlessly into any wardrobe. Smilovic and her team test-drive every design to ensure they work as well on the runway as they do in the real world, and every piece must fit the Tibi ethos: Relaxed. Feminine. Modern. Clean.
Read on to discover more about the Founder and Creative Director behind the label in the first interview of our SO Inspired series.
Q: Helping women to build a wardrobe that works for them is key to Tibi’s brand DNA. What three items do you think are essential for every wardrobe?
A: I think the items that are essential in every woman’s wardrobe are pieces that you love so much they become tied with your identity. For example, I have the fluorescent cashmere jumper and while it is quite a statement, I treat it like an everyday favourite item to wear. If I have a dinner out, I’ll wear it with a silk jogger. I may wear it to the office with a pleated and pegged chino pant and I’ll wear it on the weekend thrown on with jeans. Here’s the deal: you have key items in your closet so that you have ‘go-to’ items that you can count on. But if those go-to items are basic, in other words, average, then you will always feel average when you wear them. So choose a big men’s style button-up shirt in a patchwork stripe and always, always a blazer with a strange detail. For me, those are the ‘basics, but not’ that I’m living in at the moment.
What are the hardest-working pieces in your own wardrobe?
Hardest-working right now is the blazer, specifically our tropical wool in navy blue from the Tibi Resort 2020 collection. it has a great cut-out detail in the back which makes it super interesting and means that’s how I feel when I wear it. I wear it with everything from jeans to a slip dress and to the office – fall or summer. This is a piece that you can wear 12 months a year.
How has the Tibi style evolved over the years?
The Tibi style has evolved over the years in the same way that myself, and my team, have evolved. We’ve become more interested in what’s happening around us globally, more concerned about making things that last, a throwaway culture for clothing is abhorrent to me. With the rise of fast fashion and cheap clothing that is meant for only one wear, it’s made us think about what we want in a wardrobe. How we want clothing to make us feel. I feel very connected with what I wear and I want to feel modern and creative and clever, and my clothing needs to reflect this. When we design, we think about this, so this is our focus; making luxury pieces for customers who are curious about the world and love interesting proportions and mixes of colours and styles that are modern but still effortless and functional.
What is one item you can never get enough of?
The perfect oversized blazer.
Do you have an all-time favourite Tibi piece?
This may seem funny, but it’s a poplin wrap skirt. Because I wear it to dressy dinners, on the weekend, and even as a beach cover up. And my nylon joggers – again, they go to super fancy dinners to weekends at the grocery store. Clearly getting use out of my clothing is really important to me.
Who are your style icons?
My style icons include Charlotte Rampling, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, and Vogue Ukraine Fashion Director Julie Pelipas. Clean, modern, strong-dressing women.
This season’s essential items?
The season’s essential item is the jumpsuit. We did a khaki-coloured one on a shiny fabric called liquid drape and it’s amazing. I’ll wear it with a flat, strappy sandal in the summer and a black pump during the winter holidays.
What’s inspiring you at the moment?
At the moment, and I think forever, I’m inspired by art, literature, music… creativity. I’m a little exhausted with all the sound bites, the rushing, and the disposable mentality. I want to be around people and objects that stop and make me think. I’m into documentaries at the moment, I just finished the documentary on music mogul Clive Davis, and one on Julian Schnabel. So fascinating and inspiring.
What has been your proudest career moment?
My proudest career moment? Oh that’s hard to say. I’m so bad about stopping and enjoying the moment. That’s why I’ve always enjoyed runway shows because it forces you to do that, and I’m always with my family then and it’s really nice.
Your top tip for surviving New York Fashion Week (NYFW)?
Surviving NYFW? I am the worst to ask. I am a workaholic. But here’s the thing: I’m not a perfectionist. Not unreasonable, so I don’t make people crazy and I don’t make myself crazy. That’s key.
Where would you like to travel to that you haven’t already, and why?
I want to travel to India, I am obsessed with Indian writers. There is so much beauty in the way they write – Jhumpa Lahiri, Rohinton Mistry, Vikram Seth. So peaceful and beautiful. I feel such a connection – I can’t believe I lived in Asia for four years and never visited India – that was a shame.
Amy’s New York City
Q: Favourite NYC restaurants/bars, and what do your order?
A: The Cacio E Pere at Felidia, NYC. A pepper and pear ravioli – to die for.
Attaboy NYC – a Lower East Side speakeasy where you will find the best cocktails. No reservations, and there’s no menu – it’s a complete experience.
Totokaelo and Kirna Zabete for my favourite designer pieces, Kith for great tees and Kith ice cream of course, and Aime Leon Dore for menswear (I wear a lot of men’s items – mixed with my skirts and dresses) and, of course, the original Moscot store for the best glasses on earth. They are a family business in their 5th generation that’s been there for over 100 years. All five are in the SoHo area – it’s a great place to spend the day, and of course, visit the Tibi boutique on Wooster Street.
The best thing about living in New York City?
The energy in New York is the best – so fast paced and that’s perfect for me.
A must-do for those visiting New York City for the first time?
If I was visiting NYC for the first time I would walk through Central Park to Barney Greengrass on the West Side and experience a true old Jewish deli. It’s nearly 100 years old, and the whitefish and bialy platter is the best. Then I would head down to SoHo for great shopping, I’d visit Attaboy for a cocktail and then go to Nolita area and have dinner at any of the amazing restaurants in the area.