Celeb-approved designer Amy Smilovic on curating a summer wardrobe and dressing modestly
DUBAI: Amy Smilovic is the founder of the cult contemporary womenswear label Tibi. Shortly after quitting her corporate advertising job at American Express, the Georgia native went on to build an impressive and successful company beloved by women the world over, including Queen Rania of Jordan, Priyanka Chopra and Kourtney Kardashian, who have all been spotted in the New York label’s tailored silhouettes and sophisticated designs.
With its clean lines, expert tailoring and elevated, modern silhouettes, it is no surprise that Tibi is coveted by the fashion set.
The designer even coined a term to describe the woman who gravitates toward her clothing: Creative Pragmatist — a woman whose personal style is high without sacrificing comfort, striking the perfect balance between modern, chic and classic without trying too hard.
Since launching Tibi in Hong Kong in 1997, Smilovic has seen the company expand from three employees to over 60 while her brand has been picked up by a number of retailers across the globe including Bloomingdales, Mytheresa, Farfetch and That Concept Store in Dubai.
More recently, Smilovic launched her latest fall 2022 ready-to-wear offering during New York Fashion Week, a collection of cozy separates and dresses that cater to staying in.
Arab News caught up with the designer to get tips on dressing modestly, curating a warm-weather wardrobe and determining the pieces every woman needs in her wardrobe.
What are your tips for finding your style?
I tell people to write down a few of their favorite quotes, no more than three. And to really dissect them — see what those quotes say about you. I love quotes because they reveal a lot, and we often have a visceral reaction to a quote. They’re not something that we choose because of a partner or a friend. They speak very closely to who we are. You can tell a lot about a person by their favorite quotes. When you do this, you find out a lot about who you are. Not through the lens of others, but from inside you. And when you are able to distill a description of yourself into three words, adjectives, then that is a great base for building and honoring your style.
How would you describe yours?
Chill, modern and classic. All three, at eleven. If my style becomes one-dimensional — all chill or all classic — I feel off and not centered. I am a blend of all three. I don’t have a uniform, but I do have a clear style.
Do you have any tips for dressing modestly without sacrificing style?
I think it is very modern to dress with interesting, high necklines. I love playing with the drape of sleeves, and I live for the strength of a great blazer. I am inclined to think that dressing super immodestly is not stylish, so it would be a tougher question if you had asked me how to dress stylishly whilst showing lots of skin!
What are the basic pieces every woman needs to have in her closet?
A blazer with a point of view, an oversized pair of pants and a fitted pair of pants, so that you can play with proportions and shape. A range of shirts or bodysuits, in a range of colors. I love playing with tonal dressing, so I have the perfect bodysuit in brown, tan, ocher, navy and black. And then a black leather pencil skirt, always. Ideally mid-calf.
Do you have any tips for curating the perfect summer wardrobe as the heat continues to creep up on us?
Keep it clean and sharp. I love summer, but I find this is the hardest time for me to dress fully in my style. I keep trying to build up our designs in this category to offer something that is lightweight and easy but still modern, effortless and a bit classic. At this time of year, the clothing tends to get either way too breezy bohemian or too preppy classic. I like the balance, lots of cotton wrap skirts, men’s dress shirts and easy nylon track pants.
Comfort is at the core of your brand. How can one ensure they can sartorially bring coziness into elevated environments?
It’s in the fabrication and the tailoring. I might love something easy and oversized, but it is always in a refined fabrication and has a tailored element. No one confuses the oversized Stella pants with pajamas. That’s why they can go seamlessly to work, to black tie events, and then in nylon I even wear them on the beach rolled up with a bathing suit and a giant oversized shirt.
You previously signed an open letter to the fashion industry to make fashion more environmentally friendly. Why is this important to you?
I hate waste, on many levels. Overconsumption and overproduction are the biggest culprits. I know that what I’m doing is really helping people to understand their style and as a result they are buying less, and they are buying smarter. As for the company, I am very pragmatic about what size it can be and still be highly creative. So, we prefer to stay relatively small and focus on producing no more than we can sell. We work with the best mills from around the world that are incredibly innovative in their approach to working with recycled and sustainable fabrics.
What are some steps consumers can take for a more eco-conscious approach to fashion?
Buy from people and brands you know. Wear what you buy — a lot.