As online start-ups that offer a blend of shopping and social media continue to proliferate, OpenSky stands out as one to watch. An expert- and celebrity-driven site that allows users to connect with those in the know, on topics ranging from food and health to style and design, OpenSky seeks to offer product tips, recommendations, and feedback that its members wouldn’t be able find elsewhere.
To learn more, we thought we’d sit down with one of the experts himself. Phillip Bloch is a celebrity stylist and charity advocate who’s been working with the site since its early days. He told us about what it’s like, what he’s up to, and where things are going next.
The High Low: You’re one of the top celeb stylists out there. Can you tell us how that led you to join OpenSky as one of their experts?
Phillip Bloch: A lot of my friends were doing it — I gave in to peer pressure, it’s just like high school! Seriously, I heard it was fun, from friends like Kelly Bensimon, Molly Sims, and Veronica Webb. What I thought was brilliant is that for someone who wants to get into branding themselves more, or create a clothing line, OpenSky takes a lot of the fuss and mess out of starting your own collection. You can see what your fans and client base will like, and test the waters for doing your own thing.
It’s a very good way to gauge what consumers want from you — if they want anything from you!
HL: What’s the biggest difference between dressing celebrities and recommending stylish picks for, well, civilians? What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your new position?
PB: I think OpenSky is an interesting thing because I’m so new at it, I’m still testing the waters. I’ve had many meetings and every time I learn new things. We’re testing vendors and it’s completely different from styling. The boutique will only get better, and over the next few months I’ll start to get notes, tweets, with feedback, you know, “I hate this/I love this.”
To choose items, I looked at silhouettes and shapes I know already worked. Besides the celeb aspect, I do a lot of makeovers for television, so I put a lot of thought into pieces that are transformational. I’m trying to combine my journey in fashion with what I’ve learned — for instance, I put up a shift dress with a peplum, but you can remove the peplum, make it a miniskirt, or keep it on the dress and it becomes a very stylish thing, like Tina Fey or Michelle Williams at the Oscars.
Also, I look for things that are going to pack well, come in great colors, and try to keep everything under $100. For one of my first offers, I put up bags from Ivanka Trump — so I’ve looked to friends as well.
HL: Speaking of what you specifically offer in your boutique, we love that the items you recommend have a charitable angle. How did you become affiliated with the non-profits you represent?
PB: I’ve always been — oh I hate the word at this point! — a philanthropist. Everyone uses that word, because George Clooney and Angelina [Jolie] use it. But I am truly a philanthropist.
I lost my mom several decades ago to breast cancer and I became involved with that. We all are affected by things that happen along the path of life. It starts there and grows, and as a known person you get offered the opportunity to use your “notoriety” for good. I became a youth AIDS ambassador with the Youth AIDS Organization, which Salma Hayek and Ashley Judd are a part of.
I’m also involved with GMHC and God’s Love We Deliver. Certain things speak to you as you go through your days. I became immersed in fashion to the point of drowning, and I felt I needed a rope! Or a life vest. You need to see the forest for the trees.
A lot of my celeb friends are involved in charity, so I thought it would be great to do a show on them. My segment on ABC News has featured Christy Turlington, Mary Louise Parker, Susan Lucci, [and more]. Some I’ve worked with, some are friends. Ironically, one of the interviews was Ivanka. I’ve known her since she was a little kid, so we thought it would be interesting to do a first round-up with her handbags, which are cruelty-free, and with some of the proceeds going to GirlUp.
Each month there will be a different charity based on friends. We’ll donate proceeds to the ones who need a little extra help, or maybe I’ll do a charity each month that’s appropriate to a holiday. As the sales grow over the next couple months, maybe we can do it every week, but everyone tells me it’s a slow grow.
HL: Who are some of the tastemakers on OpenSky who you follow and admire most?
PB: I don’t follow a lot, but I love Kelly Bensimon, Molly Sims, and Allegra Hicks — she does really good home stuff. It’s a little bit of everything, which is so interesting. Oh and Cynthia Rowley — I love Cynthia’s [boutique]! I also like Veronica Webb, La La Anthony, Patricia Valesquez, and Holly Robinson Peete. I’m going to do something on Peete for Cause Celeb as well. Those are the ones I follow more than most, then I just look to see what’s on there. Nancy O’Dell has some fun things, and Carolyn Murphy is great too. I’ve worked with her before. There are certain people I look at more than others, just because.
HL: There are so many online fashion start-ups emerging right now. What, to you, makes OpenSky a standout?
PB: It’s very similar in concept to what HSN is doing, taking celebrities and influencers and giving them a boutique. I think it feels more concentrated here, like a cyber bazaar! It’s sort of like going into our own closet (unless you’re a guy like me selling girls’ things) but it’s like going into Molly or La La’s closet and seeing what they love. It’s really voyeuristic, yet welcoming in its concept. We’re all a little voyeuristic in these times.
I came on last summer, when there were only 20-something people on there, and it took a while to get going. I think there are really good things coming on my site. Are they for everybody? No. Will they get better? Absolutely. QVC or HSN, you go on once every two or three months, but here’s it’s every day. I get a new grouping of products every week. There are four dresses one week, and a group of handbags the next. This is much more built around the consumer’s timing, instead of having to tune in on some random day at a random time. On OpenSky, it’s like, let me go visit Phillip’s boutique and see what Phillip has for me.
HL: When it comes to straight-up style, did we miss anything else?
PB: Well, I’m old enough to know what I don’t know. I feel very new at this, and it’s nice to feel young! It’s important to always be learning and seeing something new, and OpenSky is that. Personally I’ve been involved in so much change over the last few years, and I’ve stepped away slightly from styling and more into this, my show, my new book.
Here, you can build around your own concept. And what became important to me over the past few years was shopping smarter, finding transformational pieces. We all have 6, 8, 10 phases in our life. For instance, I have galas, the gym, my homeboys to hang out with, work events, going on set, and so on. What you buy should fit in at least half of these elements. And I try to find those things that will fit my audience. We also get to do these fun product videos, and because I live in New York, I get to go in and explain why I love something, and why it’s fun. It’s an all-encompassing experience, for both curators and consumers.