When Retail & Design Collide: A Conversation with Entrepreneur Danielle DiFernando

Danielle DiFerdinando

By Students William Sanford, Allison Schmertz, Maxwell Loescher, Minsum Lim, Rachel Lieber, and Hannah Peper


Founder and Creative Director Danielle DiFerdinando is the owner of the successful handbag company Danielle Nicole in New York City. Her drive to succeed led her to start a handbag business when she was only 18 years old. During her time at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, she would dedicate weekends to developing, producing, and selling her handbags. Danielle completed an internship in Europe in which she learned many skills vital for the fashion industry. Danielle continues to develop high class handbags which led her to reach the milestone of meeting Oprah and selling over 5,000 handbags to the audience as well as Oprah herself. This successful entrepreneur graced our Retail Leadership Symposium class on October 19 and shared her knowledge on how to be successful in retail industry.

Danielle DiFernandoDanielle’s presentation was enlightening as well as inspiring for those of us that wish to excel in the retailing industry as she has. Her experience and demonstration of tenacity in the face of adversity is impressive and motivating. Throughout her presentation she spoke about many points that were of great insight. Danielle highlighted the importance of building a business as well as building up the community, the necessity of adaptability, and the open mind needed to seek inspiration and mentorship.

When Danielle spoke about her involvement with the Ronald McDonald House charities, there was a sense of pride. She spoke of her charity work in the same fashion that she spoke of her business. Community involvement is built into Danielle’s life and business schedule, and she uses her business as a way to build the community. She described how she used her handbag business to bring joy to the lives of otherwise very sick children though a bag designing craft. She then brought the designed bag into being and sold it with a portion of the profits going right back to the Ronald McDonald House Charity. This is true dedication to one’s values.

Danielle also eloquently explained a necessary characteristic, in order to be successful in the retail industry, one must have adaptability and responsiveness to situations. While a certain good might be successful in one region, it could be completely undesirable in another. This characteristic was embodied by Danielle in an experience that she shared in which she attempted to sell a suede bag that was very popular in the United States to a customer in Canada. Although the bag suited the US market well, Canada’s extremely rainy climate destroyed the suede of the bag and caused it to stain a customer’s’ clothing. Danielle’s incident in Canada demonstrates how necessary it is to be aware of different desires and practicality of certain situations do not always match up. There is, therefore, a need for adaptability, which Danielle has championed.Danielle Nicole Logo

Lastly, Danielle explained the importance of traveling around the world and being aware of one’s surroundings which helps her look for inspiration. Many times throughout the year, she travels to countries and cities including Italy, Paris, London and Tokyo in order to explore the new trends that the women wear. Danielle brings her team with her so that as a group, they can brainstorm ideas to help their company grow. She also explains that when she walks around new places or even places she is familiar with she continues to keep an eye out for what the women around her are wearing. Also, she explains that you never know when a new idea can pop in your head. As evidenced by the Wisconsin handbags shown in class: Being aware of your surroundings and aware of new surfacing trends helps Danielle get inspired to create new products in order to increase the success of her company.

In closing, Danielle emphasized the value of giving back in addition to growing your own business, how essential it is to adapt with changes in the market and society, and how to find mentors and inspiration. Danielle’s Story emulates success and the rewards of hard work. She went from making her first bag without a sewing machine to partnering with Disney. From Danielle, we can further understand retail and what it means to make it in the fashion industry. It was an absolute privilege to hear from someone with such success, vision, and drive.

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