Tibi’s Amy Smilovic on 25 years in fashion, footwear and more – Footwear News

A lot has changed in the 25 years since Amy Smilovic launched Tibi. Biggest takeaway? Less is more.

The designer is committed to scaling and creating a useful product. For example, more than half of the business comes from direct-to-consumer sales with a focus on specialty retailers, rather than a strong wholesale strategy. (Although the brand does sell online at Browns, Net-a-Porter, Printemps, Rent the Runway, and Shopbop.) Plus, Tibi has far fewer seasons — now shipping five times a year when they used to ship 11. Additionally, his new York Lighthouse is only open five days a week instead of seven.

It’s a more focused and strategic approach that pays off, according to the company. Tibi reported seeing a 123% year-over-year increase in footwear volume, for example, and a 68% increase in ready-to-wear due to its strategy.


Tibi’s Spring/Summer 2023 collection at NYFW.

CREDIT: Daniele Oberrauch

Some of that comes straight from Smilovic herself. If she has always been the face of the brand, the designer is more than ever in daily contact with consumers.

Scrolling through her Instagram account, you’ll find fit checks and, more importantly, “Style Class” episodes on everything from clothes for work to shoes to wear with jeans. It all started during the pandemic, when Smilovic took to Instagram Live, where she’s grown from 5,000 followers to now over 100,000. She’s struck a chord with a wide range of people, including high-level executives. level from HBO to BlackRock, who slip into his DMs looking to have smart conversations about style.

Here, the brand’s founder talks about Tibi’s footwear business, social media and more.

After 25 years of activity, how has Tibi evolved?

Amy Smilivic: “It’s not just a clothing brand anymore. Our customers are very touched by what we do
do it in a way that I didn’t expect. I coined this term “creative pragmatism”. It’s a way of referring to our clothes and the people who follow Tibi. It’s about dressing in a way that balances pragmatism and creativity. Doing this gave us permission not to have to define ourselves. With that, I’ve written a book – hopefully coming out in two months – and we’re doing these seminars all over the world, to talk about style and what it means to be a balanced individual. I get about DM200 a day, at least, and I know where their head is at all times and that’s so good.

What is your approach to selling shoes?

AS: “It’s largely a direct-to-consumer model, with the exception of selling to certain stores where it makes sense. The path we’ve come down is really to create a product that works with the collection. So there is no traditional merchandising approach. It is very creative and pragmatically conducted. Each season, we only do about nine styles. However, with this, shoes now account for 14% of our direct-to-consumer business. And direct-to-consumer is just over 50% of our total business right now.”


Tibi spring 2023

Tibi’s Spring/Summer 2023 collection included minimalist flat sandals.

CREDIT: Daniele Oberrauch

Although Tibi is not a wholesale company, what makes a good retail partner?

AS: “There’s Kick Pleat in Austin, Texas; This Concept Store in Dubai; Schneeweiss in Austria; Max in Denver and Aspen, Colorado. These are the stores that have a deep collection with Tibi. And they have a very loyal customer base that comes to them, so if they don’t offer that customer the shoe to finish the whole outfit, then it’s a missed opportunity. For me, I can’t wholesale footwear and charge the prices I want to charge. For the very valuable stores we sell to, it’s on a margin that I could never normally work with. And it is certainly not a margin that would allow any risk.

What has been driving Tibi’s growth this year?

AS: “We’ve always had an interesting perspective: we have our own warehouse, and the warehouse is in Georgia. We have been doing our own e-commerce for [over a decade]. We don’t have one-hit wonders; there is a lot of depth. We have also just worked hard on social networks and built a real dialogue with the client. And the company turns 25 this year. I think my age has something to do with what we do. I have experience under my belt. I’ve lived a varied life and that’s something we really lean into, showing people that we can relate to different people on many levels. Currently, half of my time is dedicated to social media and direct communication with our customers. »


Tibi spring 2023

Tibi’s Spring/Summer 2023 collection at NYFW.

CREDIT: Daniele Oberrauch

How do you operate now as a leaner business?

AS: “We reduced the number of seasons, but we really reduced the number of SKUs by more than 100% for ready-to-wear.
We have canceled all major stores [in the U.S.] with the exception of Bergdorf Goodman. For me, the only way to be sustainable and ethical is not to overproduce. You need to do less. So before we go into production, I put a feeler out there and ask people to sign up if they’re interested. We don’t pre-order – I don’t want to take people’s money and risk not delivering – but we do get their intent to buy. And the conversion on this intent is usually around 75%. So before starting production of the Bronson boot, for example, 800 people signed up to buy it.

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