(NEW YORK) Meet Danielle DiFerdinando, the brains behind hip handbag line, Danielle Nicole. Combining high quality design with affordable pricing, DiFernando’s carryable endeavors have been sealed with a blessing from the most influential woman in the world. Post-recession, she’s proving that being chic doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Now, that’s a principle we can get behind!
BY RACHEL BERNSTEIN
Were you really “discovered” in an elevator?
I started my line when I was a freshman at FIT, as well as an intern at Bergdorf Goodman in the buying office and the personal shopping department. I’d make my bags in my dorm room and wear new ones every day to work. One day I got noticed in the elevator of Bergdorf’s by the cosmetic buyer, who asked me if I made cosmetic bags. Once those items sold well, the handbag buyers approached me and picked up my line.
Wow! Who else carries your handbags?
Nordstrom, select Macy’s stores, Cusp at Neiman Marcus, Piperlime.com, and a number of smaller boutiques in the U.S. I’m very happy with my stores now, and am focusing on expanding the brand into more accounts. We’re launching in the U.K. at House of Fraser, which is a big deal for me, as well as QVC UK in May.
What prompted you to decrease your price points in 2008?
I love accessories, but I believe you shouldn’t have to pay $400 in order to feel good about yourself, so when the recession hit, I thought, ‘You know what, let me change. I can still make the same handbags with the same design and quality but siege the materials and retail it under $100.’
What other tricks do you have for staying on top?
Reading is key, whether it’s general news or fashion news because what happens to the economy affect my retailers and my brand. Google news is one of my favorite places to look because it features articles from all over the country, which is helpful since I sell in Canada, China, Israel, Japan, and the U.K. as well.
Oprah’s endorsement doesn’t hurt!
She’s a great supporter of my line in O, The Oprah Magazine. In 2011, she picked my handbag out of 200 designers for her O! You Conference in Atlanta, where 5,500 guests walked home with my limited-edition tote. That opened major doors for me; I saw a big change in the company with increased orders, a higher following on Facebook, and overall brand recognition. I grew up watching Oprah when she used to be on WJZ Baltimore, where I’m originally from, so it’s like seeing my hometown girl in person.
Ha! What are you working on now?
We’re just launching our Spring 2013 collection in stores now. One of my favorites is called the Peyton. All the hardware is custom made, and coral is the color of summer.
Who’s your dream ready-to-wear collaborator?
Tibi is one of my favorite brands. I also like Milly and Theory. And I would love to design a capsule collection for J.Crew. I’m a fan of mixing high and low price points.
What’s your growth strategy for the future?
We’re expanding into other categories for the holidays. One of the comments I got in market was that everyone loves the hardware on my bags; it’s all custom made and there’s nothing else out there like it, so we’re starting to translate that to jewelry and small leather goods. Eventually, I’d love to get into shoes and home goods, and build Danielle Nicole into a lifestyle brand.
Do trade shows drive your business?
Trade shows are great for exposure, especially with boutiques, which are just as important as department stores. It’s the boutiques that are the first to carry emerging designers. Before I joined the tradeshow circuit, I used to schlep around New York City with a suitcase and walk into boutiques to see if they would carry my line! We’d talk about what was performing well for them or what their customers were asking for. That’s priceless information. You can’t learn that in school!