Danielle DiFerdinando is keeping up with the Kardashians. Or, at least, her handbags are. At the age when most young women are graduating from college and juggling career options, DiFerdinando is the designer behind Danielle Nicole Handbags, a line of luxury handbags carried nationwide by Saks Fifth Avenue— and regularly spotted on the arms of Cameron Diaz, Whitney Port, Kate Hudson and the Kardashian sisters.
The handbag designer, however, was not raised at Fashion Week or amongst the trendy buzz of the Big Apple. DiFerdinando grew up in Ellicott City and attended River Hill High School in Clarkesville. Her father is the founder and president of Boardwalk Fries, and the unassuming 22-year-old can still be found munching on the hand-cut fries with vinegar every time she’s in town. Yet DiFerdinando knew as a teen that the family business was not her calling. “I started with making men’s neckties,” she recalls. “I’d go to Jo-Ann’s and get material and start sewing.”
After high school, DiFerdinando pursued a degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology and traveled to Europe for her studies. Her introduction to the design houses of Fendi, Hermes and Armani gave her ideas and inspiration for her own line. And, if she’d needed further convincing that the fashion industry was for her, living in Italy was “two solid months of fashion, eating and going out at night.”
While attending school in New York City, DiFerdinando landed a competitive intern position with Bergdorf Goodman. She spent three months in the buying department and three months working alongside a personal shopper to learn customers’ (for example, Donald Trump’s wife Melania’s) wants and needs. In 2005, she launched Danielle Nicole Handbags and in 2007 she designed a line of luxury cosmetic bags for Bergdorf Goodman.
Danielle Nicole quickly gained momentum as boutiques and department stores across the country and around the world began carrying the handbags. Offering a functional twist on classic styles, the handbags are made from Italian leather and lightweight lambskin and are designed to accommodate the busy lives of women while ensuring style and visual appeal.
Each season, DiFerdinando designs her bags around a central inspiration and theme. Last season, she introduced bags in different shades of greens, yellows and browns with two-tones and bone accents, all tied together by a safari theme. Recently DiFerdinando launched Elle Nicole, a new line featuring trendy twists on Danielle Nicole’s classic styles. The fall line is inspired by 1980s fashion and mixes chains, studs and leopard print with bold yet sophisticated colors and materials. The “Lydia” bag, the best-seller and a favorite amongst the Kardashian sisters, is studded with decorative fringe, echoing the chic rocker trend.
Despite her rapid success, for DiFerdinando, the business is personal. She names each of her handbags after important women in her life, such as sisters and close friends. “I’m hands-on through the entire process,” she explains. “They aren’t just buying Danielle Nicole, they’re meeting me.”
Her personal touch, however, does not keep DiFerdinando from being aggressive in the cut-throat world of fashion. “I’ve been on a reality show that had a fashion show and I wanted to get on the runway and sell my handbags,” she says. But while they were deliberating to see if I could go, I just went up without permission and got on the runway!”
In the future, DiFerdinando hopes to design clothing, shoes and jewelry. “I started when I was 18 and now I’m 23,” she says. “I love what I do. I wake up and can’t wait to get back to work.”
For more information about Danielle Nicole Handbags, visit http://www.danielle-nicole.com.