Face Time: Amy Smilovic

Anyone who says all fashion riffs on the past hasn’t seen the modern womenswear that Amy Smilovic designs for Tibi (sold locally at Wink and Urban Chic in Georgetown and Bloomingdale’s and online at Tibi.com). By merging crisp, oversized prints, lush fabrics (leather, lace, silk) and girl-meets-boy silhouettes, Smilovic is turning out styles at once feminine and genuinely forward-feeling.

Your background is actually in advertising. How did you end up designing clothes?
I knew I always wanted to start my own company. My father was an artist, and I love art, but I like the idea of making it a business. When I started in 1997, there was this obvious missing link in women’s fashion. You had low-rent stores, and then you went straight up to Gucci.

You created Tibi to be something between luxe and low-end?
I was going for cool, refined and feminine. Our best customers buy luxury and then dip down to buy Tibi; younger girls find the brand aspirational and might splurge on it.

Who is your customer?
We describe her as a perpetual 35-year-old. She can be between 25 and 45 or even older, but she wants to look sophisticated.

Your spring collection has a lot of black and white and some good but not overly bright neons. Where did that come from?
Well, I don’t like things looking retro, I really want them to look modern. So I go with things I was drawn to, like a great pop of color, things that were clean and bright and went with all the blacks, whites and grays we all have in our wardrobes.

Tibi does such good prints. How do you create them?
I use art as my jumping-off point. I scour websites looking for new talent. I’m drawn to abstracts and stronger colors. It’s actually very laborious, but when one is good, you know.
 
Tibi is huge in the fashion blogosphere. How does that exposure help you?
It’s a nice back-and-forth. I get inspired by how people like Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine [Manrepeller.com] and Miroslava Duma  [buro247.ru] put their clothes together, and they’re also great women.

You’ve recently added shoes to the line. Why did you do that?
Well, I don’t know if all women do this, but I get dressed from the shoe up. The shoes set the mood for what you’re wearing. If you’re wearing something softer, you go for a harder shoe and vice versa.

Michelle Obama hasn’t worn TIbi yet. What would you put her in?
We do leather tops with peplums, so maybe one of those. She’s inspiring — you can tell she’s passionate about clothing and has fun with it.

Holley Simmons is the dining editor of The Washington Post Express. When she’s not reporting on local restaurants and tastemakers, you can find her sewing a dress from a 1950s pattern or planting a windowsill herb garden. Contact her at holley.simmons@wpost.com.
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