December 8, 2016

A fondness for fashion becomes a career

By: Matt Duchesne

Blogging for fashion requires the writer to have a strong pulse for the life of the fashion industry and up-to date reports on the latest trends. This is a daily routine for Webster University alumnus Sean Phillips. Heis the regional marketing director for CBL & Associates Properties Inc., where he oversees five malls in St. Louis and six more across the Midwest.

What started as a simple interest in fashion has turned into a hybrid career at CBL. Phillips is the face of St. Louis In Style, a fashion blog. He also appears regularly on Channel 2 News at 11 a.m., Channel 11 News at noon and Show Me St. Louis to promote St. Louis In Style’s trend of the week, as well as presenting fashion tips and tricks.

“I spend a lot of time and energy on the TV segments,” Phillips said. “And I think getting the word out there about the blog is important, and I’ve put a lot of effort into making sure the blog succeeds.”

Phillips graduated from Webster in 1994 and worked an entry-level position at the St. Louis Galleria’s marketing department. He worked at various companies before being employed by CBL in 2007. He eventually became involved with Fashion Group International (FGI) of St. Louis. In FGI, Phillips developed a relationship with St. Louis’ media and fashion industries and was later elected as regional director of FGI. Phillip’s time at FGI allowed him to work with designers like Laura Kathleen Baker from the Lifetime TV series “Project Runway.”

Phillips is involved with many collegiate fashion programs around St. Louis. Throughout the year, he speaks to fashion design and fashion merchandising students at Fontbonne University and Stevens Institute of Business and Arts (Mo.). During his speeches he explains how he merged his interests with his career.

“I just made my job part of my interests,” Phillips said. “I explain to them how I had a personal interest in fashion that I turned into a job. And there’s not necessarily anyone else who has my job.”

Although he stepped down from FGI in 2002, Phillips used the experience as a way to incorporate fashion into his career at CBL. His boss at CBL was looking to test a fashion blog to see if it was viable for marketing.

“It was a good fit that I already had this relationship with local media and was able to turn that into online content,” Phillips said. “And I’m always selling the fashion part of my job, and that’s something I can bring a lot to the table on. If you’re hiring me to be an expert, then hire me for something I can actually be an expert on.”

Phillips and CBL have worked with Webster University to provide an internship for communications students. Noah Randall is the first Webster intern to work at CBL and has learned about women’s fashion while working with Phillips. Randall often chooses the clothes for the segments Phillips appears in and completes marketing tasks for the malls that Phillips oversees.

“He definitely has challenged me creatively,” Randall said. “I get plenty of tasks with both the fashion and blog side, and the marketing side of things.”

Phillips said Facebook was the most important tool he used to build his blog’s popularity. This past year, St. Louis In Style won in the “Best Use of Facebook” category at the St. Louis Fashion Week Blogger Awards. His blog currently attracts more

than 1,500 readers per month and has 4,172 likes on Facebook. He hopes to reach 5,000 by this spring.

Phillips’ colleague, Priscilla Visintine, said Phillips’ business and people skills have helped him to succeed in his career. Phillips is one of Visintine’s clients, who does public relations for the malls he oversees. Visintine is also a Webster graduate. Over the years, their work relationship has developed into a friendship.

“He’s very accommodating to everyone, but he’s never available for lunch,” Visintine laughed. “Sean looks at all sides of a challenge and decides the best course of action, and it’s always the right decision.”

Phillips takes time to scour magazines and research style trends online. He believes part of the blog’s success can be attributed to his dedication to finding trends. To accomplish this, he contacts the stores in the mall on a daily basis.

Phillips enjoys the fact that the stores he promotes receive calls on the items he features during his segments. Seeing  what he does generate sales is one of his personal accomplishments. He said this success keeps him going, and he hopes to continue seeing the results of his work.

“My biggest success is that I don’t dread coming into work every day,” Phillips said. “I get to do something different each day. And I think seeing results, seeing the growth, that is pretty cool.”

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