By  on January 21, 2009

NEW YORK — Tibi has signed a licensing agreement with the Japanese Marubeni Fashion Planning Corp., which in turn signed a sublicense agreement with Itokin Co. Ltd. to produce and distribute the Tibi brand in Japan. The agreements, which cover clothing, handbags and jewelry, stand to more than double Tibi’s total volume.

Owner and designer Amy Smilovic will retain creative control of the collection. Itokin also has licensing deals with Cynthia Rowley, Ashleigh Verrier and James Coviello.

Smilovic has had her sights set on the Japanese market for a decade. Despite making inroads, Tibi was never leveragedfully in Japan, Smilovic said. “We really didn’t feel like we tackled the market completely,” she said. “I feel like we’ve been working for 10 years toward [a deal] in Japan. We’ve always been carried in a lot of stores there. We wanted to go the full licensing route, rather than the regular distribution route.”

Sales of the contemporary label in Japan are expected to reach $30 million in the next three years, Smilovic said. In-store shops are planned for Isetan and Takashimaya units. “We’ve designed the in-store shop concept,” Smilovic said. “It looks like our showroom merged with our New York store.”

Smilovic said freestanding stores are on the horizon, with about 10 units planned over the next three years. “Our partner is very aggressive,” Smilovic said. “Once they’ve made the decision to do something, they do it right. When the brand was recently launched in Japan, they rented a showroom and replicated our Tibi showroom in New York down to the cappuccino cups with the Tibi logo.”

Smilovic has positioned the company globally, with 700 retail accounts worldwide. “We’re sold in about 250 to 300 stores in the U.S.,” she said. “Russia was our growth country until about June. It’s shifting. The Middle East is very strong, and Greece is going gangbusters. Europe is still doing well. We were on such a growth path before everything plummeted in October. That’s certainly leveled off. At least it’s level and not going in a downward trend.”

Plans to open three or four stores in the U.S. over the next two years are on hold, but not indefinitely. “Cash flow is everything right now,” Smilovic said. “We’re really trying to keep investing on the marketing side because we don’t want to go quiet at this time.”

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