NYFW Backstage Q&A: Five Minutes With Amy Smilovic Of Tibi

Julie Kosin

Season after season, Amy Smilovic of Tibi produces chic, compulsively wearable collections that have stylish young things coveting every single piece.

For Fall 2013, the brand was focused on urban utilitarianism with a mostly black-and-white collection, punctuated by bold shocks of kelly green, army green, and cerulean (click through the gallery above to see key looks from the collection). We caught up with Smilovic before her runway show yesterday and got the scoop on her inspiration, the piece every girl needs come spring, and which celebrity she thinks needs a Tibi makeover.

StyleCaster: What was your inspiration for the Fall 2013?

Amy Smilovic: My whole team is women designers, and we really talk about what we want to wear. We were in Paris last September, [which is] when we go to look at the fabrics, and we decided that the goal was to make it the collection that we would wear every day.

I think it’s easy to make a collection that you would wear to a fabulous party or a great art opening, but to actually make people look amazing during the day is a really tough challenge. How do you make sportswear incredibly chic without looking like you’re trying too hard, without looking like you’re totally inappropriate? We noticed that we’re all wearing trainers all the time, we’re all wearing sweatshirts; how do we take this and turn that into a real collection?

There’s a lot of black and white in the collection—where did that come from?

It’s really that you’re influenced by what you know you want to wear. For us, it was the reality of what we wear a ton of, and we all live in New York so I know that has an influence there. What was important to us was to bring in colors like army green and not do it in an earthy way. I’m not really into an earthy look right now [for] this season, but I know it’s out there on the runways already. How do you bring in army green and not make it too look rough, keep it more refined? I think with the black and white and army green palette, it keeps it really clean.

So where did the pops of blue come from?

I suppose there’s been a bit of ’80s influence, and in our pre-fall collection we also did these Crayola pops. I think that what’s important is that our collection doesn’t ever take itself way too seriously.

Do you have any pre- or post-show rituals?

We just checked into the Peninsula a little while ago, and that’s calming for me. Being with my family is really important before the show, with my boys. I worked out this morning—it’s certain things to get rid of the stress.

Whose style are you influenced by? 

This season, it was a lot about looking at Gaia Repossi and Vanessa Traina; just girls who never look like they’ve tried too hard and they’re not too fussy. [Also] with the bloggers that I’ve worked with; Elin [Kling] and I worked together two seasons ago and I think [it’s] that effortless, cool, not too precious or fussy [look].

What’s your one go-to style tip? 

If you’re just a little bit uncomfortable with what you’re experimenting with, I think that’s a good thing. I think to always reside in your comfort zone gets really boring. I love trying new things, and I get bummed when people don’t. Dress in a way that rattles you a little bit.

One piece every girl needs in her wardrobe for spring: Go

Bermuda shorts—big, oversized, gigantic bermuda shorts. Personally I’ve never been a short-shorts person. I think [bermudas] can look so relaxed—they look like a skirt, they look like pants, they’re short, and they feel new. I love fashion, but you can overdose when you keep seeing the same thing, so I do love it when things feel new.

How would you style a pair of bermuda shorts?

With a big sweatshirt and heels—if you’re gonna go that sloppy, then de-slop it somewhere else.

If you could style one person, who would it be and why?

I would love to style someone like Gwyneth Paltrow. I think that, especially for women who get into that above-35 range, [it’s about] getting them to relax about the way they dress and not feel like they’ve got to show all the leg and everything. I’d like for her to relax a little bit in her dressing.

Have you ever thought about doing a diffusion line, collaboration, or lower price range?

I don’t think I’m ready for that right now because we’re still very focused on communicating who our girl is and I think people need to completely understand that before you start to introduce a new girl.

Who is your girl then?

She’s a tomboy but she’s definitely feminine. She always has a relaxed look about her and a bit of ease and cool to her.

What are you predicting as major fall trends? 

Pony hair is big, and I think what’s great about pony hair is that it can still be casual. It’s not like you’re wearing a big fur vest, you don’t look ostentatious; it’s a way of being a little bit luxe but still look casual. I also think the other trend, for us, is big and cozy and oversized—we just started putting a hood on everything. 

We did dickies, tons of big, comfortable turtleneck dickies, because utilitarianism was very important  to us this season. I love the idea of dickies and hoods because when you don’t need the hood, you just put it down and it still looks great. When you don’t need the dickie because you’re too hot, you just take it off. It was the idea of dressing from August to January; if you bought it in August you can wear it and then just keep layering it, and in January you’re good to go.

After all the fashion week madness is over, what are your plans to de-stress and relax? 

It doesn’t seem that relaxing, but it is for me—my team and I leave for Paris tomorrow to start work on spring of next year. We go shopping, we go to the Marais; we go to Paris to eat falafel because we love the falafel.

Julie Kosin is the winner of StyleCaster’s New York Fashion Week Insider contest, sponsored by Maybelline. You’ll find her reports from backstage and the runways all week right here in our Insider Access section!