How to Start a Clothing Line
Everything you need to know about starting your own clothing line
Research & Refine your Business Idea
Starting your own clothing line provides unique entrepreneurial opportunities but the endeavour also poses specific challenges.
To get started, you need to have a well-developed business plan.
Knowing that you’re capable of creating beautiful, unique clothes is not enough. You’ll also have to think about the specific audience you’re going to target, distribution channels, your marketing and PR strategies, as well as the development of a solid online presence for your brand.
Sit down and try to answer one important question before attempting to do anything else – how will your business be different from other clothing lines out there?
Will you focus on urban, affordable designs for a more youthful clientele? Will you opt for natural, organic or environment-friendly fabrics that will result in a socially-conscious brand? Or maybe you’d like to create exquisite, one-of-a-kind pieces that fashionistas will fall for? Will you make athletic wear? Swimsuits? Exquisite lingerie for the contemporary, strong woman?
You need a unique sale proposition. To come up with it, you need to have a good idea about your capabilities, the condition of the market and the specific needs/wants of your buyer persona.
Work on a solid business development strategy for the coming year, three and even five years. Where will you source fabrics from? What pricing model will you follow? Will you attempt to sell more clothes at a lower price or a limited number of costlier pieces? Every single aspect of your company’s operation will be dependent on these decisions.
You will also have to decide how you’re going to promote and distribute.
It’s possible to sign deals with retail venues or you can come up with your own ecommerce clothing sale and distribution model. Both of these approaches have their pros and cons. If you’re just getting started, you need exposure. It can be achieved in numerous ways but a strong distribution network is vital.
Creating your Business Website
Speaking of exposure, you need to build a solid online presence.
The womenswear industry worldwide generates annual revenue of 621 billion dollars. For menswear, the figure is 402 billion dollars. The sportswear market has a volume of 90.4 billion dollars and fashion for kids generates 186 billion dollars on an annual basis.
These are huge markets that feature thousands of small and big players. The fashion and apparel industry is incredibly cutthroat. Making your debut with so many well-established players to compete against can be nearly impossible if you don’t discover your niche.
A well-developed website can help your clothing line accomplish a couple of important goals:
- Reach a targeted audience of prospects
- Increase brand recognition
- Build a positive reputation for your brand
- Demonstrate the business as innovative, approachable and friendly
- Provide ecommerce selling opportunities that are independent of the apparel retail network
- Do effective marketing
- Provide loyal customers with announcements about upcoming events (sales campaigns) and new product launches for the purpose of generating some buzz
Currently, if you’re not online, it’s almost as if your business doesn’t exist.
It doesn’t really matter whether you’re targeting a more youthful or mature audience. A website allows you to communicate your own message in a unique way. Thus, you can increase customer loyalty, build a brand persona and reach out to new demographics in the event of an upcoming expansion.
Setting up a website isn’t as hard as it may sound. In-fact, many hosting providers have tailored their service around small businesses that may not be tech savvy. We suggest going with BlueHost to host your website. Their service is simple and easy to use/setup and they’re currently offering 60% off hosting, including free domain registration.
Additionally, creating a blog on your website is also a great way to attract organic traffic and expand your business. Check out our full guide on the best and easiest way to set up a WordPress blog here.
Get Ideas for your clothing line business name!
Marketing Your Business
Marketing is of paramount importance for the growth of your clothing line and the good news is that you can rely on multiple creative approaches to reach the right crowd.
Clothing lines are in heavy need of visual advertising. You want to entice potential clients with the elements of your designs that make the clothes unique, attractive and exciting. Pictures and videos are of paramount importance for accomplishing those goals.
Starting a YouTube channel, having solid presence on Instagram and even utilising the visual capabilities of Facebook will enable you to present your models.
These, however, aren’t the only marketing approaches you can be reliant on. Other strategies that can produce good results include:
- Partnerships with influencers and the publication of sponsored content via their account
Content marketing via your website (to set the tone and build the personality of your brand)
- Press releases
- Live events (whether held at your store or broadcast online via a live streaming platform)
- Pay per click and display advertising
- The creation of branded items (shopping bags, boxes, calendars featuring your models)
- The inclusion of paid publication or ads in fashion magazines (very, very important for reputation establishment since your audience is interested in such niche publications)
- Local marketing online (Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook Places, Google Maps inclusion), especially if you have a physical store or a boutique
Good marketing isn’t just about a single approach, it typically necessitates the utilisation of multiple channels and creative strategies. When you select the right opportunities, you will also have to make sure that the marketing message and the elements of the campaign are consistent to build a solid image for your clothing line.
Setting Goals and KPI’s
The term KPI stands for key performance indicator. This is one of the metrics you can rely on to determine just how well your business is doing.
The KPIs that provide the most relevant information vary from one industry to another.
In the world of apparel, there are several essential metrics that will give you relevant information about the health of your business and the ways in which you can improve it.
Some of the essential KPIs in the apparel world include:
- SAM (standard allowed minute): a key metric that suggests how long it takes to make a garment. The nature of the garment, the fabric used and the specifics of the manufacturing process itself will determine the SAM. SAM can be used to determine a factory or a small company’s production capacity.
- Labour productivity: the number of garments a single person can operate within a given timeframe.
Perfect order fulfilment: for clothing lines that have online stores, this KPI provides information about the percentage of orders that were delivered on time. The item should also correspond to the client’s requirements and it should arrive undamaged.
- Repeat order: how many clients are repeating orders after an initial purchase? An incredibly important KPI that demonstrates the quality of products/customer service, as these relate to customer loyalty.
- Accuracy of material planning: how accurately were fabric/material types and quantities selected? Where there shortages or a significant surplus?
- Sourcing time: the average time the business spent on sourcing materials. This KPI has a significant impact on production planning.
- Inventory turnover: the number of times the entire clothing line’s inventory was sold during a specified time period.
- Amount of dead stock: how much fabric and other materials get left behind after garments are made? If the amount of dead stock is very high, the production process can be considered quite wasteful.
- Return of defective products ratio
Plan your Finances
Apparel companies incur an array of expenses you have to anticipate when planning the launch of your clothing line.
The cost of starting a clothing company will vary from one brand to another. The types of materials you plan to source, the agreements you have with suppliers, your distribution network and revenue generation model will all play a role.
The average cost of starting a clothing line is set at approximately 25,000 to 50,000 dollars. Obviously, if you plan to open up an indie brand, you’ll need less investment. The scope, the reach and the revenue generation potential, however, will be limited.
If you need funding, you may want to try a few options for receiving financial assistance.
Crowdfunding is an excellent choice but you need to have a great story and a well-developed marketing strategy to reach a big number of people and to meet your financial goal.
Finding an angel investor is another possibility but for the purpose, you’ll have to build a strong pitch. You should also be prepared for giving up a company share and some of the executive control you’re currently enjoying.
A standard loan is another possibility but you may find it difficult to get a financial institution willing to provide resources to a brand new business.
Finally, getting your savings and help from your family into the business could give you the initial capital. If you have a well-developed growth plan, you will see a return on the initial investment within a reasonable time period.
Adopt an Entrepreneurial Mindset
Making your clothing line grow is all about a serious commitment. You need to build an entrepreneurial mindset that focuses on long-term goals, opportunities and eliminating weaknesses in your original plan.
Growing your business is about having a good concept but remaining flexible. You will make mistakes along the way. You will find better production, distribution and marketing opportunities as you gain experience. It’s very important to remain open to such opportunities – they can make all of the difference in the world.
It’s a good idea to learn from some of the best fashion entrepreneurs. Luckily, some of them have shared their wisdom with the world. If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: and Other Things Your Mother Never Told You by fashion publicist Kelly Cutrone is an excellent starting point. The Fashion Designer Survival Guide, Revised and Expanded Edition: Start and Run Your Own Fashion Business is another great choice. It’s written by Mary Gehlhar – a fashion consultant to stars like Zac Polsen and Rebecca Taylor.
Other things to consider when starting your Clothing Line
The legal and administrative requirements for starting your own fashion line vary from one country to another. You will have to choose the right company structure, register a name and eventually get permits and licensed. A consultation with an experienced attorney could save you a lot of time and help you pinpoint the best strategy for dealing with the regulatory authorities.
Accounting & Bookkeeping:
If you don’t have the money to sign a contract with an accounting company, you can choose a freelancer for the job. Freelance accountants have the knowledge but they charge a lot less than bookkeeping companies.
When you hire a freelancer, you’ll be free from having to worry about the accounting software. In case you decide to handle certain bookkeeping tasks on your own, you can get software like Xero. It features invoice templates, asset management tools, payroll management, bank account connectivity and various other essentials that will help you manage your finances.
Hard-working, professional and inventive employees will help your small clothing line grow.
The set of skills depends on the types of workers you need to employ.
Designers should be creative, flexible and open to adopting your vision.
Retail workers should be curious about the brand and they should have the right communication skills to get potential clients excited about your clothes.
The people who will be making the clothes (if you hire in-house workers instead of outsourcing the process) should be experienced, quick and they should also pay attention to details. These skills are needed to distinguish your clothing line from mass manufactured items.