Tibi’s Amy Smilovic Talks eBay, Texas, And Ralph Lauren’s Olympic Uniforms
Yesterday we stopped by the eBay Holiday Collective showroom to see the designer collections and chat with Amy Smilovic, designer and founder of It-girl favorite Tibi.
First we took a look at her collection, a line of five comfy-cute tees and sweatshirts (we’re totally craving the short-sleeved black leather one) hanging under cubbies stocked with beat-up ice skates. Amy herself was wearing a matching top and pants of her own design in one of Tibi’s too-cool prints. Then we sat down to sip some cold hot chocolate and talk about the collaboration.
Styleite: What inspired the look for your collection? It’s very chic loungewear.Amy: Well definitely the holiday theme was sort of a challenge to come up with, something that was holiday and at a price point where you really could just buy it and not have to think too much about it. And so we wanted to come up with things that would have a holiday spirit but still be really cool and fun and easy to wear, and just a purchase that you don’t have to think too much about.
S: Was it difficult to create something at a different price point, or did you enjoy that challenge?A: I love the challenge. It really was the first time that we thought about how do we take our brand that, you know, the average price on one of our dresses in $450, and how do we interpret something for under $100 that would still be really meaningful? And what I didn’t want to do is give a cheap version of a $450 dress. I really wanted to think about, you know, if I wear my clothes daily, what do I want to throw on? Or what do I want to open up and get from a best friend or a husband or a mom or dad? So it was really thinking, let’s just put our DNA on it. It should be feminine, it should be relaxed, it should be easy. But still really cool and stylish. So we had a great time coming up with this.
S: Well it looks fantastic. Do you have any fun holiday traditions that inspire you?A: Every year I go down to Georgia. That’s where I’m from. And then we split our time between St. Simons Island and Savannah. So, it really is an odd tradition, cooking out and being bundled up — it’s still just very relaxed and easy. It’s family. It’s blue jeans on Christmas morning and things like that.
S: What do you think of the whole drama over the U.S. uniforms being made in China? As a designer, what’s your opinion?A: I understand it at the very top level, but what they’re making of it so ignores the fundamental issues that we have. You can’t produce in the U.S. the volume that he was wanting to do. There are so many things broken in our manufacturing system. I know as a designer that I couldn’t just go into the Garment District right now and turn that kind of product around and do it at the right price. You just can’t. And I think instead of focusing on that I’d rather focus on why we can’t get people to be trained in different fields in the United States. It’s just readdressing people’s desire to work. And then be willing to work in a range of fields and then get them trained for it. And there are not trained sewers in the U.S., there’s just not. If you go to the Garment District, you just don’t have these sewers running around looking for jobs. They don’t exist. And I just think that what they’ve made of it is ignoring the reality of the situation.
S: It’s very interesting to hear your opinion because many of the people panning Ralph Lauren have no idea what the process actually is.A: And I think that even the designers that are ripping into Ralph Lauren who actually do produce in the U.S., their businesses are very much aligned for that. And you have to have a completely different business structure to accomodate U.S. production. My business structure doesn’t accomodate that. It would be extremely difficult for me to go produce an entire collection in the U.S. I’d have to completely change my entire business structure. I’d have to have new people who understand that type of production, and I don’t. And he doesn’t either. So this is ridiculous and everything that I’ve read that would challenge Harry Reid to go find anything in his closet — I’m sure that 90 percent of the things in his household have a “Made in China” stamp somewhere on them. So I’m like, cast the first stone if you have no sins.
S: One final question! If you were to buy one thing from another designer’s eBay Holiday Collective collection for Christmas, what would it be?A: I have to say right now, I do love Steven Alan’s. Like all his little cases. I think it looks really rich. I hate to single someone out, because I do love something from everyone! But I’m a sucker for something in a really rich leather that’s well made, and his stuff looks great.
S: It looks almost handmade, which is amazing.A: Yeah, and that I appreciate. I just got back from Austin, Texas a few months ago, and when you’re in a city that is so entrepreneurial and people make things — I love that there were no Dunkin’ Donuts. It was all local donut stores. And there were no Starbucks. I love that. I think it’s great. And they found a way to make that work, so I love it. I just don’t think Ralph Lauren could go down there and produce all his clothes. But I do think things have that handmade sort of look, it’s amazing right now. It’s very authentic.