Do you dream of starting your own clothing line, but you’re unsure how to inject the idea into a reality? To be successful you’ll have to learn how to; run a business, market your products, keep your customer’s happy.
Here is my 10 step guide on getting started in the clothing and fashion business.
Step 1- Getting your house in order
Create a clear business plan. Your business plan needs to lay out how you intend to manage your clothing line- this is known as the foundations of your brand. Try to be as realistic as possible when you write this. Remember, it’s better to underestimate your profits and be pleasantly surprised than to overestimate your abilities and be disappointed. Think about these aspects in particular!
Write an Executive Summary
An executive summary is both a description of your company’s mission statement and future plans, as well as a way to lure in potential investors. This is necessary for all businesses but especially for clothing lines, which often require outside funding.
Step 2- Company description
The company description gives people an idea of what your clothing line is about, what differentiates you from your competitors, and the markets you want to gain a foothold in.
Put top priority on your company’s projected financials. Your funding is the lifeblood of your company in its early stages. Even if you don’t have outside funding yet, it’s important to get your finances in order and master certain basics. Here’s what you’ll need to know before starting out.
– How much money will I need in order to launch my own clothing line? Do I have money saved up for this, or will I need a bank loan? Consider a small business loan or another type of loan if you require it to get your business started.
– What are your costs? Read through the rest of this article, then make a list of ”all” of your anticipated costs (materials, manufacturing, supplies, equipment, advertisement, marketing, overheads, etc.). Add up how much it would cost to run your business for a year. Will your available revenue offset these costs?
Try to imagine how long you can personally go without pulling down a salary
Do you want to do this clothing line full-time? If so, how many years are you willing to wait before this company starts turning a profit, thereby giving you a chance to earn a salary? Or do you want it to be a side thing? If it makes money, it’s a bonus, but you value expression more than profitability. Try to gauge your level of involvement. At the same time, bet on not giving yourself a salary for about the first year of operations unless you’re incredibly lucky.
Step 3 – Funding your Business
You’ll probably spend more money than you earn for the first year. However once you’re established, you might be able to expand with funding from angel investors and pre-orders with store accounts.
Do research on the rest of the market. Who is your current and likely future competition? Who is your target market? How much do you think you can sell your designs for at the retail and wholesale levels? Ask around. Get feedback.
Step 4 – Your target market
It can be a good idea to get a part-time retail job at a store that caters to your target market. See what the store is buying and what the customers are buying. Find examples of clothing that is similar to what you’re going to design, and learn where and for how much they sell. This will give you a leg up when you need to build your own. Also straighten out your legal obligations. First of all, decide on your business structure (LLC, partnership, corporation, etc.).
Step 5 – Choosing a supplier.
Get to know the basics
Consider whether you’d need employees. Will you need to hire help to work on your clothing line? Consider what sort of assistance you’ll need, how many hours per week you’ll require, and what you’ll be able to pay.
If your production is at boutique level, you may be able to do all the cutting/ stitching yourself. If you plan to start a bit bigger, you’ll definitely need to hire production help.
Do you want your clothing to be produced locally? Organically? Are you willing to have it manufactured abroad for less money (and lower quality)? Or will you consider a drop-shipping with an automated API to your manufacturer. These questions will all affect who you decide to hire.
Talk to store owners and potential customers alike, even consider wholesale drop-shipping with U.S. companies like the Printful who are super popular with thousands of customers with a big product range! They offer an automated integration so you can have your order fulfilled automatically via an API integration. There is also U.K. companies that offer a no-minimum order policy that requires you to hold no inventory too.
Will you want a retail location? If so, you may want to hire help to begin to build your brand. Now it’s time to make some fun aesthetic decisions! How you set up your brand will define what people associate with your clothing line, so choose wisely.
Step 6 – Your company name
Choosing a name. What name will represent your clothing line? You could use your own name (as did Hugo Boss and Marc Jacobs). Whatever you pick, make sure it’s unique and recognisable.
– Your brand name and company name can (and should) be different. Your company name for example, can be your initials or a variation of your own name. Whilst the name of the collection (the clothing line) should be something more creative and representative of the style you’re going for.
– Design a logo. Brainstorm a lot of different logos, but narrow it down to one and make sure you are completely sure about the one you choose. People are going to recognize you by your logo and it will confuse them if you keep changing it.
– Check to make sure the name you pick has an available domain name and look into registering for a trademark (most jurisdictions allow for and encourage this).
Step 7 – Designing your clothes
This is the fun part for many people, but it’s only 10-15 percent of the process! Make sketches, get feedback and decide which ones will contribute to your first collection. Pick out fabrics and materials that are cost effective and current.
Always check with you supplier whether there are any restrictions first. For example if they can’t print certain colours or don’t have a specific material. If you are designing a T-shirt line, be sure to get the following information from the printer; size specifications (specs) of the design (how big it can be), the type of shirt you want to print on, the weight/quality of the fabric (for example, choose thinner, less expensive fabric for summer clothing lines).
– Detail is everything. When you do your sketches, create a layout that shows every detail clearly and uses the proper terminology. If you don’t know what the terminology is, find a photo and show it to the manufacturer and ask what they call it. Learn the jargon and be prepared to properly identify the fabric you wish to use by weight, content and construction. After you have created your designs, you should create a pattern of your product. This is the blueprint of your clothing and is used by manufacturers to mass-produce your designs.
– Design your collections according to season. Most department stores buy at least two seasons in advance, while smaller stores buy one to two seasons ahead. You’ll need to time your design, production and delivery accordingly
Step 8 – Produce the designs
Bring your sketches to a seamstress, manufacturer or screen printer. Typically, a prototype or sample is created so that you can be sure that the clothing is going to be produced the way you want it to be. No matter what, be sure to ask lots of questions and always get everything agreed upon in writing.
Step 9 – Find your manufacturer
The best way to discover manufacturers is to simply do an internet search for ‘clothing manufacturers’ or ‘design clothing’. There are also online platforms available that help fashion brands to connect to manufacturers. Many people use garment manufacturers overseas because the costs are lower. Keep in mind that many overseas manufacturers only do large quantities, so ask about minimums before proceeding. Shop around and ask for turnaround times and how fast you can get samples sent to you (they should provide samples before your designs are finalized for production).
Another way of finding suitable suppliers is through trade fairs. Here you are able to actually speak to the manufacturers, which is very beneficial. Bear in mind the conditions of manufacturer — consumers are much more conscious about “sweat shop labour” than in the past and will penalise clothing lines that use it. If you know how to sew, you may be able to create the patterns and prototypes yourself. Consulting with someone who’s an expert at sewing apparel is also an option.
Step 10 – Marketing and selling your line
Create a website to promote your clothing line. Make sure it looks very professional and presents your line in the best light. Provide contact information, in case stores or other merchants want to get in touch with you. If you want to give people the ability to buy clothing from your website, you’ll need to set up a shopping cart and merchant account so you can accept credit card payment.
Establish relationships with websites and blogs that can bring attention to your brand and site. This includes selling your clothing through auction sites and arts and crafts sites that allow clothing sales. Relationships drive sales, whether it’s by word of mouth or helpful quid-pro-quo. Don’t forget that!
Promote and advertise your line as much as possible. These costs can run into the thousands for just one year.
Ensure you cover yourself with Privacy policies, Cookie Policies, and website E-commerce Terms & Conditions, I would recommend Cracknell Law who are a reputable company in Norwich U.K. who can cover everything you need to ensure you are covered before you are found online.
Here’s what you can do to get your brand out there:
– Write a press release; send it to local newspapers and magazines, I would recommend Archant who specialise in print and digital advertising.
– Purchase ads in papers and on websites that people in your target audience will read.
– Sponsor events that cater to your target audience.
– Get a celebrity endorsement or get the most popular person you know to wear your stuff by giving it to them for free.
– Use social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and maybe even your own blog to spread the word.
Make sure you have a good LinkedIn profile too.
– Use yourself as a walking billboard. Wear your own fashions and ask people’s opinions and record them; this will also aid you in designing a product people will like. Take every suggestion a person has to offer; it’s like having your own marketing and design team and it doesn’t cost you a thing. Starting out, money is going to be tight, so take advantage of every opportunity you can.
Sell at festivals, markets, and to everyone you know. Get appointments with local stores and convince them to carry your line. Offer your clothing on the Internet. Print a catalogue and mail it to clothing stores and potential customers.
Go to a fashion trade show if you have the funds. Paying for a booth can be expensive, but it can also be worth it, both in terms of sales and publicity. For example, the MAGIC Fashion Trade Show held in Las Vegas, or Europe’s Bread and Butter fashion trade show, are great places to set your sights.
That’s it, those are my 10 steps to creating a clothing/fashion business. Here are a few tips, from my personal experience of creating a business!
– Sometimes joining up with a designer friend or colleague can help get your clothing line off the ground with more support and ideas than just doing it alone. However, ensure that you are business compatible–just because you’re friends doesn’t mean you’ll click when running a business together!
– Try to think of a catchy name! It helps your business really take off!
– Be conscious of the need to ensure that your clothing line reflects your own principles. If you care about worker fairness, a healthy environment and sustainability, work out the ways in which you can ensure that your clothing line lives up to these principles and is also made clear to your consumers.
– Make sure what you do or what you take out there will be something that helps and boosts your brand.
– See if you can find angel investors or similar investors who are willing to back your brand. You might even consider going on a program such as ”Dragon’s Den” to get investment ”and” show off your clothing line at the same time.
For more information regarding a clothing online business get in touch with Visionary Hub Space who specialises in start up clothing companies for their website design, planning, development, and launches.