Monday, April 23, 2007

NYSD Fashion: Tibi's Amy Smilovic

The face behind the label. Amy in her element.
Jen Goodkind and Jayne Chase are two friends and creative partners who host the morning show “A Fashionable Life” on WGCH 1490 AM in Greenwich. They are joining us as contributors with a new column called NYSD Fashion.
Recently, Jayne and Jennifer met with Tibi's designer, Amy Smilovic, in her sunny showroom on Crosby Street to talk about fashion, life and the woman who is the heart and soul of TIBI. Born and bred on St. Simons Island and Sea Island Georgia, Amy’s batik inspired clothing line is turning heads every day. Now, with her new store on Wooster Street and more planned, she is clearly a designer to watch!

What is the Tibi girl wearing to transition from Winter to Spring?

I am layering everything, but the updated layering look is everything! I mean the oddest things that you would think would never go, are layered over little blouses. My favorite is my blue and white gingham shirt blouse. Yesterday I wore it with wide leg jeans, platforms and I layered a little white eyelet square neck flutter sleeve top over the gingham blouse. I am loving mixing all shades of denim at the moment.

I also have an amazing denim tunic. I'm layering it over a red and white gingham blouse. I wear the denim tunic with gray skinny jeans - super chic. I also add ballet socks... my feet are a little cold, but you've got to suffer a bit, no?

We're also wearing dresses over the wide leg pants - no more leggings please! If you must be skinny on the bottom, layer it over skinny jeans.

The girls in the office are all wearing shorts with tights and heels. They all look fabulous and have the right outfits to transition to spring.
Sketches and accompanying swatches tell the story of the evolving spring 2008 collection.
The first question we have for you today is what is the greatest shaping event of your life?

Definitely having children goes without saying.

Well, that is a given since you are a working Mom. What else has had an impact?

Probably starting my own company. I was definitely on a certain path and then all roads change once you take that on.

Inspiration comes from travel, art, interior design and history.
If you had one place to be alone, were would it be? Where would you choose to go?

You know, I probably would go back to Bali. When I first started the company, I did all my fabrics out of Indonesia and it is such an amazing, amazing place. If I could just get away from everything and go to Bali for a week or so, that would be incredible.

Well, we are coming with you when you go.

Clearly there has been an influence on a certain level of the Balinese aesthetic or design point of view in the collection. Would you say there has been a thread almost?

Yes…when I started the collection, it really was using only Indonesian fabrics and we would go to Indonesia to take a look at them and see how they were made. A lot of batik fabrics are used which are very much apart of the Muslim culture. They use dark colors like lots of blacks, browns, mustards. We would take the fabrics in and ask if they could do the batik designs using blues, whites, pink and yellow and that was totally new for them. I fell in love with batik fabrics, to begin with a cleaner look, but a very hand stamped look, and I think all my prints have that feel in some way, shape or form.
Getting down to the business of fashion: Decisions have to be made by the design team to meet the production schedule.
You can definitely see that thread in the collection and showroom.

What is your idea of happiness?

Besides family? That really does come up first.

Well, in addition to family….

A well balanced life. While I was growing up (in Georgia) my Dad was and still is an artist. He is the epitome of someone who takes the time to enjoy the moment. I think happiness for me is finding the balance when you can appreciate what you have and enjoy what you do everyday. I love my kids and it breaks my heart to leave them every day to come to work but when I get to work I am so happy and so fulfilled at what I do, I can’t imagine not doing what I do. I really love it. I am so lucky.
L. to r.: Amy shows us one of her favorite pieces from the fall 2007 collection; Design ideas decorate the floor.
So many successful women have been seriously influenced by their fathers. It is not a given of course, but there does seem to be a correlation. It is certainly true in my life.

Yes. My Dad still goes to the beach every morning and has coffee before he goes to work which is at his own art gallery which is next to our store on St. Simons Island in Georgia. He really takes time to go the beach every morning. I wish I could do that more but running your own company makes it hard but I love what I do so really, I am happy.

Who is your favorite artist besides your father?

I am really drawn to Julian Schnabel, Elizabeth Peyton, Basquait, a contemporary aesthetic for sure which is a constant battle with my father who is very much an old school impressionism kind of guy.
Press clippings along the windowsill.
What is your chief characteristic?

I think I have a certain level of sarcasm. Some people might describe me as funny. I was voted the most humorous in my high school growing up. It is a trait I like having. I hope that would define me. Creative also!

Is Bali your favorite vacation spot?

I know this might sound crazy, but we love going down to Palm Beach.  I also love going home to St. Simons and staying out on Sea Island but I like to separate it. I mean, Sea Island is incredible but its home, but Palm Beach is a get away and relaxing and my kids love The Breakers. We just love it there. I love the shopping there.
Employees take their shoes off at the door in keeping with perfect "southern" charm.
TIBI is definitely apart of a Palm Beachers wardrobe but which came first for you? Has some sensibility influenced you from your trips to PB?

We spend every November in Palm Beach and every December in Sea Island. My resort and early spring collections are completely done in the mindset of what I’ll want to be wearing on Worth Avenue. My collection is completely focused but it is always infused with things distinctly Palm Beach—clean lines, strong colors, feminine and sporty at the same time. The TIBI girl is someone who will nail you in a game of tennis than throw on a fabulous dress that’s utterly chic and shop or dine for hours.

What is your favorite motto?

One door closes another one opens. In this business you have to believe that.
Inpiration abounds in the Tibi showroom.
If you could wear one designer’s clothes whose would it be?

Right now, I would be wearing Burberry. Christopher Bailey has done an amazing job. The fall collection is over the top. I am not a one designer girl really ... I am also a huge Chloe fan and I love it this season.

If you could sit in the front row of any designers show, whose would it be?

Definitely it would be Balanciaga. You never know what to expect and each time is a shocker. I love it and his show is on sometimes at 8:30AM in Paris!

What is your present state of mind?

I am so obsessed right now with spring ’08 that I can‘t think of anything else. It is a little bit about Out of Africa meets the 50’s with a little 80’s spin thrown in….
The first free standing TIBI store on Wooster Street.
You mean, 50’s like June Cleaver?

No, more fabrics like ginghams. I am totally obsessed right now about spring.

What has been the greatest influence in your life? Has there been a person?

No, not really a person, but really how I grew up. And what I was exposed to…it plays into every day. You look at things one way or another.
What is on for the future?

We are launching a shoe line! I love shoes and it will launch Resort 2007 with lots of appliqués, some gems and skins.

Who is the TIBI girl?

She is someone who is insane for fashion. She loves designer wear and she loves to mix things up. She also shops at H&M and knows how to mix it all up. When she walks into a party, she does expect to be noticed and she makes a statement wherever she goes!

*Jayne Chase and Jennifer Goodkind co-host A Fashionable Life every week on 1490AM WGCH in Greenwich Connecticut. Heard throughout the tri-state area and worldwide on the web at, they are coming together monthly for New York Social Diary to bring you the faces and personalities that make up the international New York Fashion Scene.
Amy reviews possible fabric selections for the 2008 collections.

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