If you have a passion for fashion and an entrepreneurial flare then there’s a good chance that you have considered starting your own clothing line. How hard can it really be? Well, there’s actually quite a lot more to consider than most think. But don’t worry, in this step by step guide we are going to teach you everything you need to know about how to start a clothing line with no experience.
Identify Your “Why”
Why? If you are going to build a successful clothing line business, its will have to be well thought out. According to the mathematical Pareto Principle, your new venture is going to require 80% planning and 20% execution.
This means that you are going to have to create a business plan. You may only have one shot at starting a business so its best to make every decision count.
Tip 1: You can start by identifying why you want to start a clothing line in the first place. Do you love fashion, do you love designing, are you passionate about marketing, have you found a niche or are you just interested in making money? Theres really no wrong answer and you may resonate with 1 or more of these ideas.
Tip 2: Choose your style of clothing or market based on your “why”. For example if you are not into design and fashion it’s probably not a good idea to work with complex designs or colors.
In contrast, if you’re a marketing genius and are just looking to make money then choosing basic designs that most people would wear is a safer place to start.
Tip 3: Find a niche in your target market. Find something that is rare or is missing and make it your own. Being somewhat unique will always draw attention and you will have less competition.
Alternatively if you need advise on planning and strategy you can visit experts like Learn To Make a Product.
Brand Your Clothing Line
Branding can make or break an image. Once you have identified your target market you are going to want to pitch your brand to them.
Tip 4: Choose a name that is unique, memorable and not to hard to say. If it’s easy and memorable it’s going to be catchy. Mission accomplished.
Before you decide on your name, you are going to want to check if it’s available. You can check a website domain names availability at Google Domains. You should also check to see if FaceBook and Instagram handles.
Additionally you may want to check with your governments business registry.
Tip 5: Create a logo. You can use your brand name as your visual logo and have it stylized similar to the Hugo Boss logo. Alternatively you could create a separate design, like the Lacoste brand crocodile logo.
Create A Mood Board
A mood board is a collage of clothing design pictures that give you inspiration. For example if you wanted to make a a unique t-shirt but you are stuck for ideas.
Tip 7: Once you find the style of t shirt you are happy with or whatever the designs may be, you will want to add more pictures to the collage that highlight different aspects of what you want such as color, length, fit or any additional features that capture your eye. The end result might be 4-5 different pictures that you have drawn inspiration from to create 1 design.
You can create a mood board using Microsoft Powerpoint or Adobe illustrator. It is important to add captions about each picture, what aspects you like and how you plan to use it on your design.
Spec Sheet / Tech Pack
Tip 8: Once you have created a mood board or a design scope, it’s time to get technical. Unless you are an experienced fashion designer, you will need to hire the services of a designer or even find a clothing manufacturer like Yoke who can provide technical design services.
Why is it so important? Well, making sure your clothing fits perfectly is pretty important especially if you are selling it to paying customers who are various sizes and shapes.
A technical designer will work closely with you to ensure you get the exact style and fit you desire. They will digitally illustrate your design and then once approved, create the measurements for it.
If you want to learn more than read this comprehensive guide on tech packs.
Find A Clothing Manufacturer
Your designs are ready to go now all as you need is to find the perfect clothing manufacturer. This is no easy task and there is so much to learn before reaching out to a prospective partner.
Tip 9: Read this comprehensive guide on clothing manufacturers to save yourself so time and money. It’s very important to know exactly which clothing manufacturer you need, and how to work with them. Good clothing manufacturers generally will have an expectation that you have done some basic research on them and on what you want before contacting them.
Tip 10: Get samples made before committing to a manufacturer. It’s a big MUST to check the quality of their work before investing money into bulk production. Here is further information on sampling.
Tip 11: You get what you pay for!! Don’t always be lured by the cheapest price or the quickest turn around times. Professional companies have to pay high salaries for a highly skilled workforce. In addition, high quality clothing manufacturers who are in demand will have longer turn around times due to their demand.
We have listed a great clothing manufacturer that works with startups at the bottom of this article but please continue reading because it’s all important.
How Much Does It Cost To Start a Clothing Line?
This is a very ambiguous question however we will try to give you some estimated price ranges further down. The start-up costs are variable and all depend on the following:
- The style or complexity of your clothing design.
- Type of material.
- Added features.
- The quantity (moq) and break down of your order.
- Which country your manufacturer is located.
Basics are the cheapest and most cost effective style of clothing to make due to fabric accessibility and simple design. Below is a rough price guide on production costs for custom made clothing which should give you some insight into what you should expect to pay. Prices will vary based on the above mentioned variables.
Mens and womenswear or more fashionable items, this is where the price tag starts going up. The garments complexity often increases and as a result the garments take longer to make. The amount of fabric used and the price of the fabric are also usually also higher. Below is a mens and womenswear price range guide.
As you can see the bigger your order, the more bang for your buck. But you have to start somewhere. Why are the prices higher for smaller orders?
Well thats a good question. The reason is it takes a manufacturer the same amount of time to prepare a 50 piece order as it does a 1000 piece order. All they way through sales, administration, sourcing, design, cutting, embellishment’s, factory machine prep and logistics.
Fabric and accessories are also more expensive in smaller quantities. So for providing a highly convenient service, manufacturers simply pass on the cost.
That should give you a pretty good understanding of how much it might cost to start a clothing line.
Sales & Marketing
You could have the best clothing designs in the world but if no one knows about your designs, then you can’t expect to sell them. The more people that see your designs, the more customers you will create.
With that in mind, theres a big difference between an established giant like Gap and a small startup brand. Big players have a dominant online presence. In contrast startups have to battle it out in the heavily saturated online markets just to get noticed.
If you don’t have an existing audience or if you aren’t a marketing genius then you will need to put in the extra legwork. But before we give you the hot tip, let’s take a look at online platforms that you should setup first.
Before you start finding customers, you will need an online sales channel to sell your clothing items. There are three players in the ecommerce platform space that are worth mentioning.
Squarespace Online Stores
Squarespace is now possibly the biggest e-commerce platform by marketshare, battling close first place with WooCommerce. This full package website builder and e-commerce platform is most popular in the United States of America.
Best suited for store owners with little to no technical experienced based in the US.
Shopify is about 8x smaller compared to the 2 e-commerce giants mentioned above. With that said, Shopify packs a powerful punch as a full package website and e-commerce platform with many built in features for beginners.
Best suited for store owners with little to no technical experienced based in countries other than the America.
WooCommerce is a plugin built on wordpress.org and is open source. It has ruled the e-commerce space for years due to its unlimited flexibility.
If you have an existing website, are design focused, produce a lot of content or need many plugins for your site than this is for you.
Best suited for store owners with a need for greater flexibility and room to scale. Need technical experience or to hire a developer.
See the below diagram of pros and cons between each platforms.
Facebook & Instagram
You can use Facebook and Instagram to create and post engaging pictures and videos to promote your your clothing line to existing followers. The more high quality content you post, the more likely you are to attract new subscribers and customers with organic reach.
Additionally, you can use paid advertising for a more aggressive advertising campaign. However this is only recommended for experienced advertisers. Ensuring your ads are setup correctly to ensure a positive return on investment (ROI) whilst navigating campaign optimization can be overwhelming for new users.
Hiring the service of professional agencies to take care of the advertising is always highly recommended. Yoke Hatch Labs is prime example of professional digital marketing agency and a startup business incubator. They will be able to help with a suite of startup solutions.
While tech giants battle it out for user engagement, fast moving video focused social media app TicTok is taking the world by storm. Clothing brands are reporting insanely high organic reach and conversion on sales.
TicTok boast a rapidly growing 755 million users so its definitely a platform you will want your clothing line marketed on. TikTok also has paid advertising options for business’s to explore.
Everyone has seen ads on google while searching. The fact that brands continue to pour marketing budgets into Google Ads and more specifically Google Shopping Ads goes to prove it’s a highly profitable business model.
Again, if you don’t have advertising experience, its always best to hire a digital advertising agency as previously mentioned.
Market Stalls & Expos
Tip 12: Getting face to face to meet potential customers to showcase your designs is a great way of gaining traction. Humans love interaction and if you can connect them with your journey, you will build raving customers for life.
One way of achieving this is by setting up stalls at popular markets. There is a small start-up cost involved in setting up a stall. However by a majority of accounts, the benefits far outweigh the initial setup costs.
You may have to purchase a marque tent and some small clothing display racks. Additionally you will have to rent a market stall area. Contact your market of choice to find out associated rent costs.
Similarly, expos are a great way to showcase your clothing line. The costs are generally higher but so is the customer foot traffic. With expos, you will just need to make sure you choose the correct expo suitable with your style of clothing line. You will also need to ensure you have a reasonably wide range of clothing and enough quantity to cover the costs and make profit.
You’ve got your clothing line, you have made sales however carrier pigeons probably aren’t going to cut it. It’s time to find the best distribution partner for you. You’d ideally want to have this done at least a month or 2 in advance before your clothing arrives.
We wont go into a lot of detail as each countries logistics and distribution works differently. However there are generally 3 categories:
- You could open a business account with your national post office. Most have an electronic label printing machine for packages. Your website will print out the labels for you to send the items to your customers. You would normally drop the dispatch packages to the post office or box.
- You could open a business account with a freight company such as FedEx or UPS. Their services include door to door pick up and delivery.
- Alternatively if you don’t have the time and would prefer to let someone else handle it, you could use fulfillment companies like Shipbob.
We recommend starting off with doing your own shipping so you can fully understand and be more connected with the process. Once you have a handle on everything it is definitely worth contacting a fulfillment center.
Thats how to start a clothing line with no experience. The next most important step is to make sure you are ready to rinse and repeat the process. The worst thing to happen is that you put all of this hard work into building momentum only to run out of stock and not have anything left to sell.
As soon as your first release designs have been finalized with your manufacturer you should really be getting to work on the next release. If you are going to be a successful fashion brand, you will always need to stay ahead of the curve.
Setback are definitely going to happen along the way. Don’t be too hard on yourself, you are either winning or learning.
If you would like to to learn more about the process or speak directly with a clothing manufacturer, Yoke Apparel Manufacturing can definitely give you the keys to a successful journey.