The Height of Fashion

February 28, 2014 | Borough of Manhattan Community College

The Height of Fashion

Ron Wallace will be the first to tell you that he wasn’t born with a pencil in his hand.

“Growing up, I couldn’t draw much, but I was good with computer graphics programs like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop,” he says. But by the time he was in eighth grade, he knew what he wanted to do with his life. When he enrolled in BMCC, he found teachers who were ready and willing to help him achieve his dream—to become a fashion designer.

Wallace graduated in 2012 with a degree in Multimedia in Arts; today, at 22, he heads his own design company—an exciting enterprise called NAMM Clothing that is garnering widespread media attention and a growing clientele.

Long Hours, sleepless nights

Wallace’s line of urban men’s ware reflects his personal aesthetic vision and his success is the product of persistence, a passion for excellence, and an appetite for hard work. “Like most entrepreneurs, I have a lot of sleepless nights,” he says. “But I’m not in this alone.”

At BMCC, he says, “I had some amazing professors, like Alizabeth Towery and Josephine Culkin, who helped me sharpen the skills I’d picked up watching YouTube videos. They showed me that even without knowing how to draw, I could bring fashion and graphics together.”

After graduating, Wallace started his company, always with the thought of someday going back to school to continue his studies in fashion design—“most likely at a place like Parsons or FIT,” he says.

In NAMM’s early days, the business consisted largely of crafting screen-printed t-shirts that were sold on the street and in one store. “But in that one store, we sold out in three weeks, so I knew I had something,” he says.

Last year, Wallace connected with Manufacture New York, a hybrid fashion incubator and factory that provides independent designers with the resources, tools and support to build their own businesses.

“I found out about Manufacture New York through a Facebook ad and ‘liked’ it,” Wallace says. “They were starting a pilot program to provide a shared workspace for clothing and jewelry designers, and I immediately messaged the CEO, Bob Bland to tell her I was good at construction and would be happy to help in any way.”

Bland took Wallace up on his offer and, on an August morning last year, he found himself pouring concrete and knocking down walls at the pilot space, in the heart of Manhattan’s Garment District.

Drawing attention

In addition to providing Wallace with a workspace fully equipped with machinery and computer workstations, Bland gave Wallace a wealth of pointers and guidance on how to build his business, provided him with introductions, and, he says, “taught me everything.”

His participation in New York Fashion Week earlier this month brought a wave of interest from the media—and from other designers, who called to congratulate him on his success.

Wallace’s design ideas can come from anywhere, and at any time—“from the colors and shapes I see all around me, and sometimes from surprising places.” Recently, he was watching a cartoon with his nephew, when inspiration struck. “I took out my laptop and started drawing,” he says.

His designs are colorful, but not outlandish. “I call my customers middlemen—people who want to stand out without being loud,” he explains. “For example, I like shirts with a splash of color—but not a lot of in-your-face graphics.”

When New York Fashion Week ended, Wallace had planned to take a much-deserved break, but found his days taken up with media interviews, and thinking ahead to his spring 2015 collection. He is also hoping to show his designs at Paris Fashion Week.

“Eventually, I want to take my company worldwide,” he says. “If you want to be a leader in urban men’s ware, you can’t limit yourself to New York.”