Fashion, the Future, and the Creation of NoRal Apparel

Photo of LaRon Hickerson and models wearing his fashions.LaRon Hickerson (center)
For LaRon Hickerson, known as Ron DuWayne, BFA Fashion Design ‘03, community has been at the heart of all of his creations. He sat down with us to talk about the road he took to creating NoRal Apparel, his pathbreaking menswear brand.

LaRon, what first drew you to the world of fashion?

My Grandmother. Her wardrobe was spectacular. I remember as a kid, sketching for her and showing her the outfits thereafter. She’d choose which she’d like, and I’d continue to perfect the sketch day after day until the details were right.                                                      

Was there a moment in your life when you first definitively knew that this was what you wanted to pursue?       

There was. At the age of 16, I learned how to sew while attending YPAS, the Youth Performing Arts High School in Louisville, KY. I created costumes for our high school plays. I ultimately wanted to learn how to bring my sketches to life through design.

What made you choose Columbia College Chicago for your education?

College truly refined, disciplined, and properly executed a slew of the self-taught ideas I was brought up with. I chose Columbia College Chicago because it was nestled in the center of the city and brought on exploration and innovation.

What was your experience like in the Fashion Studies department?

It was oh so awesome! I loved meeting and seeing the fashion genius of the outgoing seniors and befriending my new freshman peers.

Did you have any mentors here who helped you on your path?

I later became friends with my mentor and who I like to call my “Fashion Father,” Robert Behar. Robert has designed for Janet Jackson, Mariah, Naomi. His advice helps as he’s at the top of his game.

Did you participate in any courses or internships that changed your professional trajectory for the better?

[The late] Dennis Brozynski’s menswear class was by far the game changer. His willingness to allow us to explore menswear technique and translate it into our own was big for me. Thereafter, I knew menswear was my lane.

What are some of your influences as a designer?

Overall, I believe that the ability to create is a blessing. Sharing that vision with the network of photographers, stylists, make-up artists, and others that the line encounters truly influences the fashion journey. The experience alone thus far has been one hell of a ride, and I'm so ready for what lies ahead.

What was life like for you after graduation in the world of fashion?

Life after graduation was even better. The transition to Los Angeles happened after I graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BFA in Fashion Design. I, like many, was done with the harsh winters and needed the consistent sunshine, which brought on good vibes and limitless creativity. It was the year 2003, and I managed to transfer as a manager at the Gap on Hollywood and Highland. Working in retail helped me to overcome the struggle of understanding the business side of fashion.

In November of 2005 to February 2006, TV Guide Channel aired the initial pilot episode of the Melissa Rivers hosted show “The Stylist.” I was chosen from dozens of upcoming designers and stylists to participate in the show. In the end, I earned my first national tear sheet from the show by putting together a wild rock and roll look for “Young and the Restless” star Christine Williams, which is played by Lauralee Bell.

What first gave you the idea for NoRal Apparel? How did you go about building your own line?              

NoRal Apparel is a menswear apparel brand that continues its mission to provide clients with one-of-a-kind swimwear and ready to wear. Handcrafted to perfection, the brand continues to move forward for now, nonmanufactured, which solidifies our exclusiveness in the marketplace. All garments are sewn/patterned/designed by Ron DuWayne for NoRal Apparel.

The brand was the end-product of the evolution: learning costume design in high school, learning fashion design in college, understanding the business of fashion from my retail management job after graduation.

What do you hope the social takeaway is from your creations?

For folks to see that independent design still exists. We live, breathe, and desire creativity, and I plan to continue to deliver on a message of body Positivity

You are an advocate for body positivity. How do you see yourself as a disruptor of damaging value systems currently at play in the market?

Bring the clothes to the people, and the people are of all sizes. The brand mission is to make everyone feel sexy despite weight, race, sexual orientation, etc.

What’s next for you professionally?

The possibilities are endless. The world is re-opening and new beginnings are extended to all.


Instagram @noralapparel
Facebook: Ron DuWayne