TORONTO - As a star stylist to a high-wattage roster of Hollywood A-listers, Phillip Bloch has been a keen observer of what's making waves in fashion while creating a splash of his own in crafting celebrity looks.
But regardless of the season, he firmly believes there's one thing that should never be in vogue — spending beyond your means in the name of style.
"I've dressed celebrities for years and I've put them in the gowns, the jewelry, and that's a great lifestyle, it's very aspirational. But the reality is everybody doesn't have that," he said matter-of-factly in an interview at a downtown hotel.
"Everybody doesn't get to go to gifting suites and designers don't send them things. And I don't come from that."
Growing up in a middle-class family, Bloch said he had to shop on a budget.
"I was always cognizant that everybody doesn't always lead the fabulous life. I happened to fall into it, but everybody doesn't."
Bloch has worked with the likes of Sandra Bullock, Jim Carrey and Salma Hayek, and dressed Halle Berry in the famous burgundy Elie Saab gown she was wearing when she won the Oscar for best actress for "Monster's Ball" in 2002.
Five years ago, Bloch came up with the idea for a book delivering his own dose of retail therapy, aimed at helping individuals to not only look stylish for less but to shop smarter in the process.
For three years, no one was interested. Then within the past two years, just around the time the economy went south and terms like "recessionista" emerged as buzzwords in the style lexicon, Bloch suddenly found himself in the middle of a bidding war for the title.
In addition to the tips and solutions which form the core of "The Shopping Diet," Bloch delves deeper into what could be prompting individuals to overspend, which may have little to do with the items they're buying.
In the opening chapter, he cites childhood habits, low self-esteem, attracting the opposite sex and competition among the main motivations which cause overshopping.
The quick-witted, affable Bloch turns serious when he shares his concerns for those who dismiss extravagant spending as a comic foible.
He recalled a story of a friend who told him that she had purchased a pair of designer boots for about the same amount as her monthly income.
"She was like, 'I know. I'm going to be living on ramen noodles for the next month. Hee hee hee.' And I was like, 'That's a problem, that's not funny,'" he said. "But the way our society has become, if you sat with your girlfriends and you'd all 'kee kee' and giggle about it (and say), 'But I look fierce in those boots.' You'd all go, 'Ha ha ha.'
"We're all pushing that forward instead of someone saying, 'Honey, that's a problem. That's not smart.'"
Bloch said it isn't his intention to tell people not to shop; rather, he is advising that people only purchase what they need.
In the book, he suggests individuals identify a personal style that can help focus their purchases as well as what to keep and purge while sifting through their wardrobe.
Those who define themselves as having a classic style should set aside their button-down shirts, pencil skirts, sweater sets, dark-wash denim and polos "which will get a lot of use in your look," he writes.Meanwhile, for the "hippie princess," wide-legged jeans, shearling jackets and faux fur vests may be their essentials, while jewelry or other pieces can be borrowed from the closet of their mother or grandmother.
Bloch offers suggestions on reviving current favourites, like adding beautiful ribbon or lace to a strapless dress or top or replacing buttons to spice up a blouse.
He encourages individuals to find the part of their body they consider to be their best asset to accentuate, be it their legs, arms, skin tone, the freckle on their shoulder or a tattoo.
Bloch is a fan of investing in "transformational pieces."
One such example is a three-piece suit comprising a jacket, pants and a vest, a piece that is "very in right now for the next few seasons." The items can be mixed and matched with other items in the wardrobe, like jeans.
Women can also add a modern twist to the conventional twin set.
Rather than buying a top in a matching colour, purchase a cardigan that pairs with a patterned camisole, like a floral print, which can be worn in tandem or with other pieces, he suggests.
Bloch says accessories are "more important than ever," with shoes, earrings, leggings, belts and purses among the ways to add versatility.
"I say they're the GPS. In your car (it) gives the direction. Your accessories can give the look the direction."
While he may be able to shell out a bit more to indulge his love of well-made threads, Bloch still puts its own cost-conscious mantra into practice.
He recalled waiting for a Jil Sander shirt to get marked down to a third of the cost before picking it up. He also proudly showcases the "beautiful" paisley tie he picked up at a department store in Denver for an additional 30 per cent discount.
"I don't lead the average life, so it's hard to put me as the guinea pig for it — but I do follow it."
Phillip Bloch: www.phillipbloch.com