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It’s a Wednesday morning at the headquarters of 25-year-old contemporary women’s line Tibi, and everything is business as usual. The brand’s tall, ashy-blonde founder, Amy Smilovic, is poring over a rack of clothes with her style director, Sarah Brody. They’re about to depart on a trip to Dubai, where Smilovic will host styling sessions and shoot content for retail partners in the region.
Smilovic is clad in exactly the kind of minimal, sophisticated look that Tibi’s devotees love: a taupe silk shirt tucked into tonal trousers. She adds a nearly identical blouse and pants to the rail, where they join an oversize brown suede bomber, wide-leg blue jeans, and a lavender sweater. Once that’s settled, she and Brody rush into Smilovic’s office to host the brand’s semiweekly Instagram Live, a stream-of-consciousness styling chat that runs for about an hour.
It’s all par for the course for a brand that’s hitting its quarter-century milestone. But most contemporary labels never make it that far. If you glance at the list of designers who showed alongside Tibi during New York Fashion Week in 2008—to pick a year at random—it reads like an in memoriam of names long gone: DooRi, Abaete, Behnaz Sarapfour, Erin Fetherston, Richard Chai, L.A.M.B. Even the brands that survived past the decade mark didn’t have an easy time of it. Milly, which would have stood next to Tibi in department stores, hit its stride dressing Michelle Obama, only to part ways with founder Michelle Smith in 2019. Rebecca Taylor, another feminine midpriced label, saw its founder quit that same year. You could explain these goodbyes as a part of fashion’s life cycle, but that’s not