>When speaking about style inspiration, we often let geography lead the conversation. We’ll call out trends championed by French women, L.A. It girls, or Japanese street style stars. So when we headed to Charleston, South Carolina, for a couple days, we were on the search for what set fashion apart here and in the South in general. But that’s not exactly what we found out.
>“We could be in New York right now,” says Amy Smilovic, founder of Tibi, about fashion down South. And being a New York–based designer and Georgia native, she’d know. “People are falling along very common threads. There is not a stereotype that I can follow now for fashion. I think that’s what social media has done. It’s allowed people to really seek out others that identify with the same things that are important [to them].”
>Stacy Smallwood agrees. She’s our host while we’re in town, a longtime supporter of Tibi, and also the reason we’ve come here: Her internationally known boutique, Hampden, is celebrating its 10th anniversary. “We’re a town of 400,000 people but four million tourists a year. People talk so much about the South and what our style is, but we’re in this tiny little interesting bubble. We get to meet people and stay connected,” Smallwood tells us. She then adds, “We really do have the daughter and the mom shopping here.”
>Of course, if style is ageless in Charleston, it makes sense that Tibi’s part of this discussion. The brand’s become known for its cool, effortless, feminine designs—traits that all ages can appreciate. Oh, and one other thing: athleisure. No, not gym clothes. “I think for us, we really understand the principle behind athleisure. It’s that women really want to be relaxed. They don’t want to be constrained; they want to be able to sit on the floor, put their hands in the pocket,” says the designer, who crossed her own 20-year milestone in business this year. “It can be a 22-year-old who walks around with a yoga mat attached to her back, or it can be a 45-year-old woman who works in a law firm. Both of them want to feel comfortable, but they do want to look good.”
>So is athleisure is the biggest thing New York and the South have in common? Sort of, but it also seems to be about a desire to make fashion feel special without making it feel difficult. “One of my biggest clients, her lifestyle is a Monse or Tibi top and a ripped-up pair of jeans. That’s just it,” Smallwood responds when we ask how her shoppers value denim in their wardrobes. “It’s to the core of who we are, probably even more so down South because we’re more casual and laid-back.” She also tells us that tops have been outselling her typical number one performer, dresses, meaning denim and all kinds of pant trends are bound to be important, too.
>“I think that now you have the freedom to do whatever you want,” says Smallwood, who just last night welcomed women from all over the city—and South—to celebrate her boutique’s birthday. She says that customers continue to ask her if skinny jeans are still a must-have item. “No, it’s about whatever you want,” she says. To which Smilovic responds, “You can layer a skinny jean under a dress. It’s kind of a legging anyway.” No rules. No stereotypes.
>Scroll down to shop some of Tibi’s exclusive designs, made especially for Hampden’s anniversary.
For the latest cool-girl (of any age) must-haves, check out Tibi’s F/W 17 collection.
This press trip was paid for by Hampen. Editors’ opinions are their own.