Designer and Founder, Tibi
We should all be so lucky to go to Paris to shop. For Amy Smilovic, Founder and lead designer of Tibi , it’s all in a day’s work.
In 1997, Amy and her husband Frank moved to Hong Kong when Frank was transferred with his job at American Express. Amy, also an American Express employee, found herself in an interesting position; Continuing with the company would have meant reporting to him! Had she been okay with her husband as boss, Tibi would have never been born. She quit her job and launched the day the couple got to Hong Kong. Together with another woman she met early on, she began researching how to get access to little cotton dresses and fun prints. They’d fallen in love with Indonesian batik prints, but the colors were uninspired and dour. They contacted the Indonesian Consulate and got the names of batik suppliers who would allow them to come in and look at the archives. After taking their prints, they allowed Amy to do them in pinks and yellows and whites and blues. They launched with four dress styles and then sold them to ex pats. When those fashionable ex pats started going home over the summer to Nantucket and the Hamptons, the phone started to ring.
What I learned from Amy: “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” is a book she always goes back to whenever she is panicked. “There is also nothing wrong with picking up a good trash book to clear your head. The Shopoholic series is great and a Candace Bushnell novel is always hard to put down.” Amen!
What’s in a Name?
“Tibi was my original partner’s grandmother’s name. We always joked that my grandmothers were Bernice and Betty and not anywhere as chic as Tibi, but it was derived from that and had a lot of meaning. We fell in love with the name and people seem to be really drawn to the Tibi name.”
Who Is The Tibi Woman?
“There are three major influences to the line; Hong Kong, Paris and Palm Beach. We like to think that our girl never looks uptight and that is where the Hong Kong influence comes from. Hong Kong is about the ease of wearing things, throwing on things that aren’t too encumbered. The French side is effortlessly chic, the mandate for runway is that the girls always looks fabulous but she didn’t spend more than 15 minutes on herself. Our girls definitely didn’t spend hours in front of the mirror. Palm Beach is always on the clean side, the girl may wear something that is laid back but she is not a hippy. It’s clean and minimal.”
The Business Plan (Or Not)
“I really kind of just did it. I tried not to over think it too much. My husband was really kind of insane about me getting a business plan together. One entrepreneur said the way you do business is ‘Here’s your business plan; you make a product and if you sell it, you have a business and if you don’t sell it you don’t have a business.’”
The Biggest Challenge
“It was just lack of knowledge in the industry as a whole. I knew what I liked to wear and I knew what pretty fabrics were, but I didn’t know what customs regulations were to get things to the U.S. I did’t know how to set up a U.S. base and distribute, it was all trial by fire. I was buying books on customs and international shipping laws and trying to learn as much as I could.”
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