Simple, elegant and independent, this label born of an intuition conquers the public in the reign of fast fashion.
” Organic “. This word, which in fashion defines a way of doing things instinctively, without calculation, of course, imposes itself in the spirit of the times. It is therefore fashionable to say that one creates “organically”. Practical, the word is, except for the spelling, the same in French and in English. If it really applies to very few brands, we are entitled to use it to talk about Tibi. This modern and innovative contemporary house has been thought without calculation.
Amy Smilovic, its founder, has always loved fashion, without knowing that she would one day make it her job. “I grew up on a tiny island in the state of Georgia, in the United States, with an artist father and psychologist and a teacher mother. I was not very open to other jobs. I just had an aunt that I admired a lot, who had her own business. It made me dream. “ She goes to college and is moving into marketing after seeing the film” Nothing in Common “in which Tom Hanks plays a young advertising success. She joined a large Atlanta agency after her studies, which among other clients was American Express. She left to work there, in New York, in 1993. It was there that she met her future husband.“He was transferred to Hong Kong. I followed him but I resigned because I didn’t want to end up working for him! “ In 1996, the couple moved so in Asia.
Amy Smilovic thinks it’s the right time to start his own business. Fashion imposes itself on her. On the plane, she scribbles a few phases on the identity of the brand she would like to develop. “A pure, minimal style, a la Prada, Calvin Klein or Donna Karan from the 1990s.” Just arrived in her hotel room, she finds a headhunter in the directory, who presents two boys the next day. whose parents have factories they want to move upmarket. She meets them and they prepare the prototypes in just one day.
Just before going to get her creations, she meets at the American Women Association club a young woman, Ottavia, whose husband is one of her former classmates. She asks him if she can accompany him. In the car, she explains to him that in Hong Kong it is impossible to find pretty quality cotton dresses, which would, however, be very useful in the heat. During the trip, Amy draws two dresses, a skirt and pants. Ottavia suggests making them in batik, an Indonesian painted fabric. “Arriving at the factory, I discovered my first pieces, but galvanized by this new idea of the collection, I put them aside. “ The duo called Tibi brand, named after the grandmother Ottavia and begins to arrange sales for expatriates.“In one day, we won 9,000 dollars, I had almost covered my investment of 12,000 dollars! The clothes were stored in the bathtub and the kitchen of our house. My husband was going crazy because I didn’t even have a business plan! “ They sell to the French, Australians and Scandinavians, delighted to find clothes that fit. During the summer, the outfits of these customers returning to their countries are spotted by shops that contact the designers. “We packed our stock and went to the United States to shop. I made an appointment in New York with the concept store Neiman Marcus who did not want to receive me outside of fashion weeks, but I insisted and it worked. “They come back with thirteen new points of sale and Amy’s mother is responsible for receiving and returning the parcels during her summer holidays. In 1998, the brand grew. She was spotted by Sarah Rutson, then a buyer for the department stores Lane Crawford, then by the magazine “WWD” and joined the Coterie, a prestigious American salon.
Ottavia returns to the United States and Amy keeps Tibi. In 2000, her husband left American Express to work with her, as her mother shortly before. They settled again in New York. She develops fall-winter collections and continues to shape a contemporary image, very close to volatile trends. “It worked until 2009 when we started to find a Zara, H&M or Top Shop on every corner. If you weren’t a prescriber, you ended up selling a 250 euros dress that was 100 euros at Zara with more or less the same quality. “Fast fashion” has really disrupted the industry. “ Amy Smilovic begins to have enough to draw colourful dresses and flower she would not wear herself.
Tibi takes a new turn, more refined, feminine and avant-garde, as she had imagined so many years ago on the plane that took her to Asia. She is gradually expanding her range with luxurious shoes and handbags, designed with her friend Myriam Schaefer.
The designer has just released a capsule for men exclusively for the Ssense e-commerce site. It wishes to remain an independent label, removed from the imperatives of marketing, free to offer what it sees fit. Today, 30% of its turnover – up – comes from e-commerce. Half of its clientele is American and the rest is international, 60% Asian. It continues to have its models made of beautiful Italian materials produced in China, with the same factories as seventeen years ago. “Amy takes Tibi to a future in which women, men and non-binary people will be able to turn to satisfy their fashion desires. She always has the needs of customers in mind ”, analyzes her friend the photographer and influencer Tamu McPherson. The more the brand flourishes, the more the collections are reduced to the essentials. The designer hates disposable fashion and pays attention to the consistency of the pieces from one season to the next. “The biggest mistake in business is to say that you have to do things one way. I had no idea how fashion worked and I still succeeded, ” concludes the instinctive designer.