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Meet Danielle Malconian of Plus by Design and Vikki Vi in Chatsworth

Today we’d like to introduce you to Danielle Malconian.

Danielle, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Over the 25 years that I’ve had the pleasure of selling Vikki Vi Clothing, I have spoken to countless women about their love of Vikki Vi. There is magic around this product. Whether it’s in the fabric, the fit, or the way it makes you feel – Vikki Vi has a massive following. I can’t tell you the many conversations I’ve had with women who tell me they own over 100 pieces of Vikki Vi and still love and wear each one. I love having these conversations with my customers because Vikki Vi has brought magic to my life as well.

It all started back in the 90’s when Nordstrom created the Encore department. I was a women’s clothing manager and had the opportunity to take on the responsibility of Encore. Soon after we received our first collection in black, the craze began. The wonder and excitement created around this special product was amazing. I communicated to the buyers how much the customers loved this product and encouraged them to carry it all the time. The love affair had begun and is still going strong today.

I had a vision way back then that Vikki Vi would be an important part of my life. I couldn’t imagine how at that time, but I just knew. When my second child Juliet was born in 2001, I felt that I couldn’t go back to the corporate world to work for Nordstrom again. I took the opportunity with the dawning of ECommerce to start a small website called Plus by Design. I started my business with $5000 in inventory in six colors of slinky that I housed in our garage. I worked from home and was able to care for my new baby. I did everything in the beginning from taking customer calls on my cell phone to chasing the UPS guy around town every afternoon. The growth of the business was immediate.

In 2007, the company that created Vikki Vi declared bankruptcy. Nordstrom had decided to discontinue the product. My business was still growing online so we decided to buy the label and keep going. I loved my business and just couldn’t imagine disappointing my customers. 10 years later we are back in Nordstrom online with Black Classics and Plus by Design is still growing.

I am always so grateful to the amazing support of all my Vikki Vi fans. The love they show toward this amazing product has kept it going through many ups and downs. I also have an amazing staff. Allegra is our buyer/photographer/model and has been with us for over 10 years. Leslie handles customer service and logistics. Lydia is our beautiful model and the face of Vikki Vi for many years. Monica is another beautiful model and an amazing stylist. Our product is made in New York City with Roger handling the manufacturing and Burt supplying our high quality slinky fabric. We’ve recently welcomed our fabulous blogger Jen Anderson. I am so blessed to work with these outstanding individuals and own this amazing company.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Many struggles along the way. When we started the company in 2001, e-commerce was fairly new. You could get Google traffic for 5 cents a click and new customers were discovering us on the internet daily as they went online for the first time. Working out of the house kept overhead down and life was fairly simple. The profits were great.

Then we decided to expand and get our first “store” in 2005. We always continued to focus with online sales but needed a business location. The next 10 years brought many ups and downs. The next hurdle was the company that sold our main product Vikki Vi went out of business. I was able to purchase the label in 2008, just in time for the economy to tank. I also had the pleasure of getting involved with an unsavory manufacturer in New York City and lost quite a bit of money along with most of the wholesale business we counted on when buying the label. Nordstrom also decided to stop carrying the line.

2010-2015 was spent simply breaking even and sometimes creating more debt. We couldn’t let our loyal customers down and knew we would come back at some point because we had a great product that served a need. We held on through those years and then Nordstrom decided to carry basic styles online again in the spring of 2015. This was the beginning of the resurgence. Business has been growing again ever since then.

Plus by Design and Vikki Vi – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Plus by Design is an online source for women’s plus size clothing. Our customer demographic is 45+, professional or retired. Our main product is Vikki Vi which is mostly comprised of clothing made from acetate/spandex slinky fabric. We create the highest quality slinky on the market which gives the customer a product that drapes beautifully, hides a multitude of lumps and bumps, travels well, and looks very professional. It’s also very comfortable to wear. We have created small cuttings of prints to go with the slinky line, but more than half the business is done in this fabric. Nordstrom carries our most popular styles in black and navy.

We are most proud of making it this long in business and having a loyal customer base that values our high standard of service and care.

We are set apart mainly because we have no competition in this particular fabric.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
My proudest moment came when the Nordstrom buyers informed us that they were interested in our slinky styles again. I knew that would be one of the keys to our future success. It helped validate the fact that we were still relevant in the fashion community.

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