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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Amy Smilovic, Tibi designer and founder

Tibi designer and founder, Amy Smilovic, began her career in the fashion industry shortly after moving to Hong Kong in 1997. Following a successful marketing position at American Express in Manhattan and arriving in Asia, Amy began designing a collection of brilliant must-have pieces. Her father’s interest and talent as an artist was influential at an early age when Amy began to bring her vibrant fashion ideas to life through unique illustrations. Each season Amy designs a range of prints that match her sense of style and distinctive approach to dressing.

Tibi has expanded from ready to wear into shoes and launched a swimwear collection for Resort 08. It is now one of the largest contemporary lines found in over 350 specialty stores and upscale department stores around the world including Saks Fifth Avenue, Henri Bendel, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, Net-a-Porter, Harvey Nichols, Harrods and Scoop. Scarlett Johansson, Liv Tyler, Drew Barrymore and Reese Witherspoon are all fans of Tibi’s sophisticated prints, fabulous sense of color and feminine designs.

The Fashion Week tents at Bryant Park are home to Tibi’s fall and spring runway shows. Each collection is heavily influenced by Amy’s lifestyle and travels throughout Asia and Europe, including the beaches of Bali, forests of New Zealand and Mediterranean landscape of Capri. These combined comprise her uniquely inspired collections, found on

Two years into the business, Amy was joined by her husband Frank Smilovic, now President of the company. Frank is responsible for developing and implementing Tibi’s global growth strategy and managing the day-to-day affairs. Before assuming this role, Frank was Senior Vice President of Gateway’s Japan, Asia and Australia operations. Prior to Gateway, Frank was with American Express for over 25 years in a variety of senior positions including Head of Finance for Europe; Vice President Worldwide Marketing based in New York; and President Merchant Services Group for Asia. Amy and Frank run the business from the Tibi loft in Soho.

In 2005, Tibi was hand picked by The Cloister on Sea Island Georgia to develop a collection that would represent the lifestyle at their world renowned luxury resort. Tibi designed five exclusive prints inspired by the area and a collection of 60’s inspired mini dresses, tunics and bikinis for the hotel. Tibi was also asked to custom design one of the hotels three premier suites. The suite now features a Tibi zebra pop-art rug, a geometric patterned chaise lounge, and hand painted curtains all developed exclusively for the resort. Tibi will be launching a full home collection in spring 2009.

September 2006 marked the opening of the first Tibi retail boutique in New York. It has since been flooded with clients from US and International destinations alike. The 2,200 square foot boutique is located in Soho at 120 Wooster Street and will be the first of many in the comprehensive Tibi retail strategy. Peachy Deegan love love LOVED the Tibi show during fashion week so she recently chatted with Amy Smilovic!

Peachy Deegan: When and how did you realize you wanted to be a designer?
Amy Smilovic: I always knew I wanted my own business – everything I made when I was little, I sold. Whether it was a painted t-shirt, a ribbon belt, or a braided hairclip, it was fair game to be sold to some unsuspecting relative or classmate that I could bully into buying.

What do most people not understand about the career of a designer?
That it’s 75% business and 25% fashion.

What was the most challenging aspect of this past fashion week's collection? Streamlining the amount of product to what’s more realistic in this financial environment. As a designer, if you’re in love with something than you become passionate about getting it realized and produced. But there’s simply only so much you can be offering now days.

What is your personal favorite piece from this past fashion week's collection?
The firebird long dress – I love the print, it speaks volume to the whole collection – and we showed it on Lakshmi, who is one of my absolute fave models of the moment.

What future vision do you have for Tibi?
Simply to continue on the path we’re on – the collection has evolved into a full lifestyle brand – with home, day, evening, etc. The further along we continue on this path the happier I am.

What is your favorite place to be in NYC? Hitting the galleries in Chelsea – so inspiring….

What is your favorite shop?
Kirna Zabete

What is your favorite drink?
My new fave is called a Pisco Sour – super bitter and sweet at the same time.

What is your favorite restaurant?
Il Bucco – literally next door to our offices – luve luve luve

What is your favorite NYC book?
I just finished Water for Elephants – AMAZING --- but a NYC book? Not sure what that means…..

What is your favorite thing to do in NYC that you can do nowhere else?
Spend time in Central Park on a Sunday then go to Barney Greengrass for brunch.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
Underrated – hanging out for dim sum in Chinatown – it reminds me of when I lived in Hong Kong and it’s a great experience in NYC – overrated – going to a concert in Central Park – great idea but absolutely maddening

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
That I love every area of NYC – that’s what’s so amazing about this place – the upper east side, Chinatown, LES, Soho, every area is so different from the next and truly all worth exploring.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?

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