COUNTDOWN TO SPRING EXCLUSIVE: A Moment With Amy Smilovic of Tibi New York

I have been absolutely smitten by Tibi – a New York-based fashion label that is popular for its trendsetting prints. I’ve known Tibi New York since the label has been in Malaysia for quite some time and is currently available at Aseana boutique at the swanky Melium Galleria, Suria KLCC.

Aside from Aseana, Tibi New York is also carried by 600 fashion retailers around the world and they include a slew of world-famous departmental stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Harvey Nichols stores and Selfridges, just to name a few. In Japan, its presence is further strengthened with the opening of 16 free standing stores.

Want to know more about Tibi New York from the founder’s perspective, as well as what you should have from Tibi’s spring/summer 2011 collection as soon as it hits the stores? The answers are right below this line and exclusive to Fashion Heaven Rants.

First of all, why do you choose Tibi as the name of your brand and what made you conceived it?
I originally started the brand with a partner, and her grandmother’s name was Tibi. We both liked it; people were drawn to it and my grandmothers’ names were Bernice & Betty, so we thought this was the best choice.

If Tibi were a girl or a woman, how does she look like?
I like to think that Tibi could be both a girl and a woman, and also anywhere in between. The Tibi customer is excited about fashion & personal style, but never over-zealous. She is put together, but never too calculated, she is fun, a little quirky and sophisticated.

When it comes to designing a collection, some designers would look into various forms of arts for inspiration; others would either recall their sweet, old memories or take some time off, travelling to exotic places and create a distinctive collection based on the recollections or their travels. How about you?
I have always found travel to be a large part of my inspiration, but certainly not the sole contributor. I look to old films, art, fabrics, vintage clothing, really almost anything. The hardest part each season is getting everything together and then saying, “That’s it, this is the starting point”, and from here on out we’re working with what we have, not gathering any other ideas.

Tibi and prints seem truly inseparable and they are omnipresent in all seasons. Tell me, what is the significance of prints to the brand?
Our prints are represented in each collection and certainly hold quite a bit of significance in our history as a brand. I launched Tibi while living in Tokyo; I would travel to Jakarta and work with local mills & artisans to create batik prints to use in the pieces I created. It was a breathtaking and also humbling experience to see these individuals perfect & produce such pieces of art. Right now we’re designing with solids and more textural fabrics than we are [with] prints, but of course we’ll still produce and include them in our collections. They’ve just been scaled down a little to accommodate for the growing popularity of some of our other items.

Since its debut, who are Tibi's biggest fans thus far, particularly among the trendsetting celebrities?
Well, very fortunately for us, we have fans in so many different countries and cultures. One of my favourite things is to see how women in different places interpret Tibi, and incorporate it into their wardrobes’. Some of our more well-known fans are Olivia Palermo, Blake Lively and Kelly Osbourne.

Now let's talk about the current season (spring 2011). I saw Jane Birkin on the mood board that was attached with the press release. What does Birkin has to do with the new collection?
Jane Birkin made boyish figure and dressing just slightly tousled look so chic, and she has a sense of innocence about her that is alluring. That faintly peculiar charm, and mix between feminine and masculine is something we’re constantly trying to balance in our collection.

What is the message that you would like to convey to your avid coveters via this collection?
We’re continuing to move in a direction that focuses on head to toe looks. For spring, we demonstrated this in solid, bright hues like concord, corn husk and fire. For summer & Pre-Fall, we mix and match prints for those same head to toe options, that can also be deconstructed and mixed in with wardrobe basics. We’re trying to make dressing easy, but look thoughtful at the same time.

I see that appliqués are almost everywhere in this collection. Why?
Appliqués are a detail we’ve really fallen in love with, especially to add some interesting texture to more classic silhouettes. I think for Tibi, the reasoning is due in part to the success of some leather pieces we’ve produced in the last couple seasons. We’re really exploring fabrics and constructions that we never have in the past, and it’s always a little scary and fun to see the response from customers.

Aside from tweed with leather appliqué and laser-cut lace, what are the other highlights that will certainly make this collection a truly 'must have' collection of the season?
I think the overall versatility of the collection makes so many of the pieces must-haves. One of my favourites is a shin-length jumpsuit with thin tank straps. The full legs flow gorgeously when you’re moving, and it can easily be paired with leather flats and a printed scarf or a beaded blazer and heels. It’s about multiple uses.

And the colours, according to the release, are inspired by the movie "Leave Her to Heaven". Why?
The colours in “Leave Her to Heave” just had a beautiful way of flowing with the settings throughout the film. They felt right, refreshing, but also comfortable. There was terracotta, tobacco, and bold white in New Mexico; denim, plaid, rich red and blue in Lake Michigan, and cornflower blue, white and brown in Cape Cod.

WWD has proclaimed that the SS11 collection is your best thus far. Do you agree with that?
The team would tell you that I say that about every single collection. I can’t help but be excited each season, and I think it’s so important to be in the moment and totally in love each time. I do just have to say that sales for this spring are our best to date, which is a wonderful and exciting accomplishment.

Last but not least, will I be able to see Tibi shoes, handbags, jewelleries or perhaps, a fragrance line in stores within the near future?
Well, we have shoes already, sold on our website and the New York boutique. There’s a new collection of shoes launching with the Spring delivery, flat leather sandals, brogues, penny loafer wedges… all from our Spring 2011 runway and all [are] ridiculously perfect. As for handbags, jewellery and fragrance, perhaps in the future but those aren’t on my short list. Right now we’re looking to grow with more stores and international accounts, especially in China.

Tibi New York spring/summer 2011 collection will be available at Aseana and selected multi-brand retailers and fine departmental stores worldwide very soon.

*Photos courtesy of Tibi New York and

Tibi New York at Aseana – Ground Floor, Melium Galleria, Suria KLCC, Jalan Ampang, 50088 Kuala Lumpur.


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