+ By Desiree Smith-Daughety
Peel back the layers of certain creatives and you will find that the stardust of which they are made is composed of pluck, nerve, hard work, determination, and inspiration—all blended with a unique twist.
Rose DiFerdinando is one such force, driven by deep family ties, self-expression through fashion, and the inspiration that comes from mixing with other creatives.
As a child, DiFerdinando told her mother that she wanted to be a pirate, explore the world, and live everywhere. Even now, she loves living in different places, immersing herself in local culture, and, in homage to her roots, making a new family everywhere she goes.
The thick strands of family ties unfurled enough for this East Coast girl to move across the continent to Los Angeles, hitherto sight unseen. It was there, in the town that can create a fodder of dreams, where DiFerdinando first began to truly come into her own. She arrived bringing a distinctive foundation developed from a young age: joyful, fun expression through fashion. Her experience included dressing and styling girlfriends for evenings out (with lessons on how to pose in front of disposable cameras)serving as hostess and server at her mother’s lavish soirees, and attending art school at the Maryland College of Art and Design in Silver Spring.
DiFerdinando’s first job was as an administrative assistant to the movie producer of 3,000 Miles to Graceland. He appreciated her work, but asked, “What is your passion?” Being young, she did not know how to translate her interest in events coordination and fashion into a job title. Nevertheless, he connected her with a fashion producer, and she helped produce shows, including an off-Broadway Dolce & Gabbana show.
“You’ll either sink or swim,” one of her most influential mentors advised her. DiFerdinando took on the challenge, learning to navigate the utter chaos behind the spit-and-polish front of a successful show. She produced shows for multiple seasons of the Los Angeles Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, learning both back- and front-of-house production—from red carpet check-in to meeting with celebrities’ PR agents, to graciously accommodating small personal requests that included who could or could not sit with whom. Taking it all in stride, DiFerdinando perfected a poker face, instilling confidence in all a show’s players and never missing a beat, even when a fire marshal once threatened to shut down an event.
She can dazzle a crowd with her innovation. While you may picture an austere, pier-like runway jutting into an admiring sea of fashion aficionados, add this to your visual: models strutting down a moss-covered avenue, each step sending sprays of gold dust aloft. Invisible behind this dramatic effect is the care that went into the set’s creation; only a detail-attentive person such as DiFerdinando would extensively research to ensure that the type of moss chosen did not smell like manure.
She shows that fashionable does not mean flighty.
DiFerdinando knows how to captivate audiences using multifaceted media and entertainers to best effect. Sometimes she’ll aim directly for the emotional jugular, as she did with the short film she directed that opened for a We Believe Foundation fashion show. The audience was taken through the surreal experience of a breast cancer diagnosis, from a routine mammogram check to ultrasound and biopsy, to a doctor delivering the only spoken words during the film’s eight-minutes: “I am so sorry, you do have breast cancer.”
Seeking deeper connections and feeling the pull of the family that would not let her stay away any longer, DiFerdinando came back east after three years. Though constantly inspired by Los Angeles, she had become a bit jaded. “Everyone there is their own brand, so you’re meeting their brand. I needed more real experiences with people. I wanted to get back to more emotional meaning in my life, and I found that in Annapolis.”
Back home, she worked at a marketing consulting firm, researching social media just as it was taking off, and working with clients such as Palm Casino in Las Vegas. She fell in love with marketing and discovered she was technically inclined. “I’m a bit of a chameleon,” she says. She also did a stint in the family business, Boardwalk Fries, as its marketing director, helping to develop the company’s first customer loyalty programs, design websites, and boost franchise sales.
DiFerdinando never expected to be involved in fashion in Annapolis until she met photographer David Hartcorn at a gallery opening in Annapolis. Admiring his unique personal sense of style, she felt compelled to work with him. Her heart lit up after seeing David’s studio and a new medium—fashion photography—to flex her creativity. The casual poses that the audience sees belie the truth of ten- to thirteen-hour shoots; they require hard work, planning, vision, and an eagle eye for detail.
Currently living in Baltimore, DiFerdinando continues to flex and soar. She was voted best dressed by Baltimore Magazine in 2013, selected to be judge and presenter for the Fashion Awards Maryland 2014, and joined the Baltimore Fashion Alliance board to help strengthen the city’s fashion scene and make it a contender on the national stage. But the stage is broadening because now, having been accepted into the British Vogue Professional Studies Program in London, she is turning her sights eastward. █