‘There are power women in Miami’: Why this woman’s clothing line thrives in Miami

Tibi clothing line founder Amy Smilovic was the keynote speaker at United Way Miami lunch.
Tibi clothing line founder Amy Smilovic was the keynote speaker at United Way Miami lunch. United Way Miami-Dade

Amy Smilovic, 51, didn’t create her clothing line Tibi with Miami in mind, but the clothes do what the city often does: make a statement. Metallic silver pencil skirts, loose teal suits, yellow snake print leather booties. No surprise, then, that Miami consistently ranks as one of Tibi’s top 10 domestic markets, the company said.

“The biggest definer of a good customer for us is a woman who owns her own pocketbook and is not asking for permission from a man on how she should be dressing,” said Smilovic. “There are power women in Miami.”

Smilovic, a power woman herself, recently visited Miami to be the keynote speaker at a joint lunch event for United Way and the Tocqueville Society. She spoke about the lessons she’s learned getting her business off the ground.

Smilovic didn’t take the typical fashion designer’s path to success. She started in advertising after graduating from the University of Georgia. When she and her husband moved to Hong Kong for his work in 1997, Smilovic combined her entrepreneurial spirit and art degree to launch Tibi.

Soon, printed dresses became Tibi’s signature look — not because of Smilovic’s personal preferences (she rarely wears them), but because market research said they would sell. But Smilovic felt isolated from the brand, and in 2010, she relaunched Tibi based on looks she and her design team wanted to have in their own closets.

“It’s just four women and we are driven by what’s new, what’s interesting,” she said.

The brand’s popularity in Miami may have something to do with a North Miami thrift store. Once a year, usually in March after the major fashion shows end in New York, the Tibi design team makes a fashion pilgrimage south to visit a windowless 10,000-square-foot vintage store called C. Madeline’s. Previously located at 13702 Biscayne Blvd, the store is now closed as owner Madeleine Kirsh searches for less-expensive space, according to her Instagram.

C. Madeline’s calls itself a “Fashion Wonder of the World,” and Smilovic agrees. “She’s called it every single time,” Smilovic said of Kirsh’s fashion predictions for the next season. “She’s got her finger on the pulse.”

When Smilovic says Tibi is for women with their own pocketbooks, she means thick pocketbooks. A Tibi polo-style shirt goes for $350, leggings $395. Tibi’s most loyal customers spend between $50,000 and $75,000 a year on Tibi clothes, Smilovic said.

South Florida women in search of Tibi head to Jenna White, a boutique in South Miami. The store’s namesake and owner has been stocking Tibi clothes for 13 years. She said the average Tibi piece sells there for $450. Miami women of all ages are attracted to the brand.

“It’s stuff you have in your closet forever,” White said. “A beautiful suit for someone who is 65, a metallic skirt for someone in their 20s.”

Said White, “our version of sexy is how it makes people feel,” she said. “We mix dressier pieces with something that’s more casual. Tibi does that perfectly.”