From Nike to KFC, every iconic brand comes with its unique story of origin. A clothing line that dominates today’s fashion world and department stores may have begun as a small business run out of its owner’s living room. While launching any new business is a challenge, ecommerce and digital marketing can possibly turn a startup or small store into a globally recognized brand. Although starting a clothing line may seem apparently simple, it involves some careful consideration, planning and assessment.
How to Start a Clothing Line – 6 Key Factors to Consider before starting a clothing brand
When you own a clothing brand, you are selling more than style – you are selling clothes that boost people’s confidence. So, selling the right things to the right audience at the right time is important. With the competition, intricacies and intimidation related to the fashion industry, you may be concerned about how to start your own clothing line with no prior experience.
The good news is, unlike becoming a doctor or nurse, starting a fashion brand doesn’t necessarily require any special degree or training. In fact, most of the eminent designers in the world had no formal degree in the fashion industry before starting a clothing line. That said, you need to consider a few important things before taking the big leap.
- Have a proper business plan
As in the case of any type of startup, having a proper business plan is key to your clothing line’s success. This will help you figure out the particulars of your business and perhaps even discover some unknown facts. Here are a few crucial topics to consider. For your convenience, we have done some research and came up with the following information.
- Know the costs involved
When estimating the cost of running a business, you must consider both the startup and ongoing expenses. For instance, if you plan to sell just a few hand-painted t-shirts through an online platform, you may not need more than $1,000 to get started. All you need is a good product supplier, a few helping hands and a computer with reliable internet connection.
However if you are planning to go further with your clothing line, be ready to invest a minimum of $500,000 for the initial costs for a small clothing line. This figure includes the cost of clothing design, manufacturing and stocking facility, branding, marketing and other miscellaneous expenses. If you’re planning to go big and compete with famous clothing brands across the country, expect the cost to go even higher.
- Know who your target audience is
Your target audience refers to a specific group of people who are most likely to want your products or services. It is also the same group of people that should see your ad campaigns. Target audience is usually designated by age, gender, location, interests, sometimes income and a myriad of other factors.
Identifying your target audience is a crucial part of your clothing design process. Who are you designing clothes for? Do you intend to sell a few premium pieces per month or build an affordable line of clothes tailored for all types of customers? Or would you want to compete with big clothing brands across the country? Before you order raw materials and settle on the designs, you must first determine if you should manufacture a hundred pairs of joggers, or just one.
- Decide upon your selling medium
As more and more people use the digital platform for getting the products and services they need, ecommerce is the ideal platform to launch your clothing business. Aside from keeping the startup costs down, retailers and wholesalers are more likely to interact with you with some brand identity in your credit. Building a strong and influential ecommerce website can be incredibly easy nowadays — and also inexpensive.
You can launch a simple Shopify store for as little as $29 every month, and you can also give it a pretty makeover with custom design. Remember that your website will be the face of your business and should appeal to your target customers. This also means that your logo and website design should conform strictly to your business guidelines. What can discourage or disappoint consumers more than an amateurish looking website or logo?
Alongside your own ecommerce website, you can also consider registering your brand on an online marketplace like Amazon or ASOS. This can help you with the much-required consumer exposure in the initial days, and creating a “boutique” style store on ASOS — which typically has a monthly fee with a 20 percent cut on sales. Since customers these days trust this type of selling platforms for online shopping, these sales can help boost your brand recognition organically.
Depending on your business goals and investment, you can consider working as a wholesaler and selling products to retailers. In that case, however, the consumer demand will be higher but profits per garment lower. This also makes the sales process easier, with no need to target or promote goods to individual customers.
- Choose a clothing line business model
If you’re planning to start your clothing line, consider making some important choices at this point. There are several ways to build your own brand, and each of them is different from one another, mostly in terms of cost, difficulty and time input.
Here are some of the most common options:
- Private Label Clothing Line
- Custom Cut & Sew Clothing Line
The first and easiest way to start a clothing brand involves printing your designs or logo on basic blank apparel.
With the print-on-demand or direct-to-garment printing process, you use a special digital ink-jet printer to feature ink directly onto the clothing. The best thing about these digital printers is that they’re able to create full-color images on clothing items, quickly and efficiently. Unlike screen printing, there are no setup costs. However, the biggest downside to this business model is the lower profit margin and limited finishing options (tags, labels, etc).
When procuring clothing products from wholesale or private label suppliers, you are basically buying garments from other brands and reselling them to others from your own store. Here, you buy products in bulk from a wholesaler at a discounted rate, and then sell them at a markup. Instead of manufacturing your own clothing pieces from scratch, you’ll curate an exclusive range of pieces that serve your customers’ taste.
While you won’t be able to personalize each piece like you’d if you were manufacturing them, you don’t have to endure the lengthy and expensive process of manufacturing them. The biggest disadvantage with this option is that, you need to purchase stock-keeping units (SKUs) of your clothing pieces in bulk and upfront, which means you’ll need a steady cash flow. What’s more, the minimum order quantities start at 10 units per color and size, for which you need to invest a hefty amount.
Custom cut and sew clothing method means you’re in charge of the entire process – from designing sketches and turning them into patterns to sourcing fabrics and manufacturers to paying for a full production unit. This is typically a long and intensive process that may take months to take off and earn revenue. You need to find a manufacturer, work with a pattern designer, source and test fabric, and create and check several samples before coming up with a finished product.
Even then, you need to produce a full run with your manufacturer, stock your inventory, and create a shipping strategy to deliver your products to your customers. Needless to say, this is a complex process involving several parts and exorbitant startup costs.
- Differentiate your clothing line
When it comes to business, being just another duck in the pond won’t do you any good. The point is you must know how to make your brand stand out in the crowd. The clothing and apparel industry is one of the most saturated industries in the market. In order to run effectively, you need to have a strong USP that’s exclusive to you and your target customers. The good news is, there are multiple ways to set your clothing brand apart from your competitors.
- Get your designs right
For any clothing brand, one of the most important and exciting steps is product development. Even if you only have only a few design ideas for your products in the initial stage, consider getting them on paper or screen in the form of sketch. Once you’re done, turn your rough ideas into digital sketches. There are programmes like Adobe Illustrator that can help you with this.
Once you’re done with the digital sketches, think about your ‘tech pack’, the essential information that you give to your manufacturer. It typically includes your product details and technical specifications, from materials and measurements to designs and any added accessories or features.
That said, you’ll also need to work on pattern design and grading, before sourcing your manufacturer. If you find the technicalities of fabric designing a little too overwhelming, consider working with an experienced design agency like DesignBro. From website and YouTube channel to t-shirts and other fabrics, they’ve created exclusive designs for a wide range of industrial applications.
- Focus on the fit and style
If you plan to start your own clothing line and make it stand out in the crowd, the actual fit and style of the clothes can be a key point of differentiation. For example, Bonobos is an online clothing brand that became famous for its excellent fit, particularly its custom-fitted men’s pants. It is this feature that helped establish them and turned their startup into a 100 million dollar company.
- Work on the clothing material and quality
The material of your clothes plays a key role in differentiating them from the rest out there. Their overall quality (including seams, buttons, weight of the fabric, etc.) and performance (whether they are warm, comfortable, light, airy, wrinkle-free etc.) have a major impact on your customers’ satisfaction.
- Don’t disregard online marketing
Considering the present scenario, we cannot stress just how important online marketing is to any company. When you’re on a mission to boost your online presence, make investment a priority. If someone likes your clothing line but can’t navigate or trust your website, they probably cannot make a purchase and will leave your website immediately. Hence, it’s important to invest in high-quality inventory photography — the images used on your website must look bright and 100 percent professional. Hiring a photographer for a couple of days would be worth the investment.
Next, you need an effective digital marketing strategy for building your brand, and make your brand stand out from competitors. It goes without saying that the clothing industry is incredibly congested and competitive and it’s a good initiative to build a strong online presence on Facebook and Instagram. This’ll help you interact with brand representatives directly and advocate for your clothing brand.
You can also opt for paid promotions on these social platforms for your ecommerce sites. Facebook’s strategy for ad targeting is so niche and targeted nowadays that you can reach out to your target audience in a short time span. What’s more, before you create profiles on any social media website, make sure that your target audience actively uses them. For example, Instagram isn’t much used by people above age 40, hence if your products target that particular age group, it’s better to stick to Facebook instead of using Instagram.
Another effective way to boost sales and brand exposure is via celebrity endorsement. A majority of the celebrities will have an email address in their profile description for PR inquiries. When celebrities with a huge number of followers wear your products, it automatically boosts your brand exposure and endorsement. Although this isn’t necessarily your chief marketing strategy (especially if you have a tight budget), you can definitely give it a try.
- Lower your startup expenses
One of the biggest advantages of launching a garments business is that you can keep the initial cost low. For this, you need to have a strong business plan. This way, you focus on the key areas of your business and work on your early budgets and monetary forecasts, depending on your startup expenses. It’s also a good thing to note down ways you can cut down on your preliminary costs. Prepare a list of all potential startup costs and mark them as either crucial, or something that can be postponed until you’ve earned some revenue.
However, your largest and most essential startup cost will obviously be the clothes, and if you’re also manufacturing them, you’ll also need the raw materials and some equipment. Use only the basic ones at the initial stage and invest in advanced professional tools once your business takes off and you have more funds. Additionally, avoid renting space and use your home, unless you’re dealing with huge stock. This’ll allow you to be more adjustable with your working times and perhaps even continue with your day job until your business becomes stable.
Another significant expenditure is insurance, including freelance insurance, basic business insurance, or professional indemnity coverage. When you own a startup and the risk is relatively low, you can find policies at a reasonable price. In case of any unfortunate incident, this insurance policy can save you. For example, if another brand ever claims that your logo or website design is copying theirs, professional indemnity insurance will give you the monetary backing to contest the charges. It also provides some protection against dissatisfied clients.
Pro tip: When creating your business plan, consider the number of sales, profit made per order, and the net revenue you expect to generate within a fixed time frame.
We hope this post has provided you with the necessary information it takes to start and run a clothing line. It may seem a little overwhelming at first, however, just remain focused and keep working towards your goal. No matter what type of clothing line you want to launch – whether it’s just a customized range of printed t-shirts or an entire collection of cut and sew clothes—the resources and information provided in this blog should guide you to get what you want. Good luck on your new venture!
Business Development Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the Media and Digital marketing sector, Passionate about innovation and bringing the future into new business solutions.