Clothes will never go out of fashion — it’s a basic human need. So if you’re a creative entrepreneur and have been wondering how to set up a clothing business, we’re here to help.
Whether you’re looking to launch a range of printed t-shirts or create a whole collection of seasonal outfits, we’ll show you how to get started.
The broad strokes: how to start a clothing business
You may want to dive right in there and start selling, but do yourself a favor and do some planning. Follow these steps to start.
- Decide on the products you want to sell.
- Choose a business model.
- Craft a business plan for your clothing line.
To be successful, you’ll need more than a sense of style. You’ll need good business sense as well.
1. Decide on the products you want to sell
There are a lot of choices when it comes to fashion lines. Fashion brands can focus on everything from lingerie and handbags to high-end formal wear.
And it’s not just which articles you plan to produce; you also need to decide on your vibe. Will your designs be modern street or preppy, boho or jock?
Unique designs and an authentic tone will help set your clothing line apart in a crowded field.
It’s likely you may have some idea of what products you’re passionate about and interested in creating and selling. Here are some niches to consider:
- Women’s dress clothes
- Men’s socks, ties and belts
- Shoes and handbags
- Children’s clothes
- Underwear and sleepwear
Your very first collection should show what customers can expect to see from your clothing line going forward.
2. Choose a business model
Once you have an idea of what sort of products you want to create and sell, have a think about what type of model you’d like to use. As a rule of thumb, the more involved you want to be in the sourcing and production of the clothing, the more money it will take up-front.
There are three main models:
Print-on-demand clothing line
This is the easiest way to start your own clothing line, especially if you’re on a tight budget.
This option usually involves printing your designs and logos on a piece of clothing such as a t-shirt. It’s perfect for low order quantities or one-offs.
It’s hard to differentiate your line from others because you’re using standard wholesale clothing.
Another drawback of this model is that there are lower profit margins — so you won’t get rich doing this. But it’s an easy, low-risk way to start experimenting with fashion design and sales.
Private-label clothing line
This option is similar to printing on demand but with more room for personalisation and higher profit margins. The drawback is that it’s likely to cost more initially and will take slightly longer to get started.
This method involves you purchasing blank clothing products in bulk where, then customising them by adding your own print design, tags and labels.
While this option requires more money to start, there is a higher perceived value to your products so you can differentiate much easier.
Custom cut and sew clothing line
This option means you’re doing everything — sketching the designs, turning them into patterns, sourcing the right fabrics and manufacturers and paying for a full production run.
This is a labour-intensive process that requires more capital. So it’s not for the faint-hearted.
Depending on the clothing products you’re looking to produce, you’ll need to get a few samples done first to test the products. Once you’re confident with the finished product, you’ll need to:
- Produce a full run with your manufacturer
- Think of how and where you’ll store your products
- A shipping strategy to get your products to your customers
eCommerce site builders like Online Store come with all you need to manage inventory, process payments and ship products anywhere. You can even sync your inventory with Square's point-of-sale inventory management system.
3. Craft a business plan for your clothing line
It’s important to develop a business plan for your clothing line. Having a business plan will ensure you always have something to reference back to. Crafting this plan will help you:
- Identify your target customer
- Understand your strengths and weaknesses compared with others in your niche
- Business strategy and structure.
- Get a loan for startup funding or working capital
- Financial outlook, including costs and profit margins
You can download a free business plan template to help guide you through the planning process.
Elements of a successful clothing brand
Other than a passion for clothing and textiles, there are a few factors that make a successful clothing brand. The ones that do well all have:
A well-defined niche or target market
In an already saturated market, selecting a niche is important because one size doesn’t fit all. Blindly trying to target everyone means you’ll appeal to no one and set yourself up for failure.
By clearly identifying likely buyers or ‘target audiences,’ you can more easily capture buyers’ attention because their needs and goals are front and centre.
The main questions to ask yourself in defining your niche are:
- Who is going to purchase your product?
- What specific value will your product bring to these people?
- What is different about your product?
Whatever niche you choose, just make sure you’re passionate about it. Passion is contagious.
Many of the world’s biggest clothing lines are built on a strong brand. A brand is a combination of words, colours and images designed to appeal to your target customers. Why should they buy from you, wear your products or gift them to a loved one?
Clothing is very personal — make sure your branding talks directly to those for whom you’ve designed it.
Aesthetically pleasing graphic design
Great design is critical to ensure the success of your clothing line. From the design of your logo to your website and packaging, it needs to connect with your audience and make them feel like part of a tribe.
Consider having a lookbook to feature your products — this will give customers a chance to pore over your designs before they buy.
Good quality fabrics and materials
The devil is in the details. If you have fabrics that fade or shrink after one wash, you might end up with a bunch of returns. This is why it’s so critical to test your samples to ensure they meet quality standards.
The quality and composition of the materials you choose will affect how the clothing wears, washes, shrinks or fades.
In a world where fast fashion is a common, differentiating your products can often come down to quality. Ask lots of questions along the way and educate yourself on the materials. When you’re starting out, it can be tempting to sacrifice quality for higher profit margins. Think about your branding reputation and the likelihood of repurchasing later down the track.
How to set up a clothing business
Hopefully, this post has provided you with an overview of how to create your own clothing line.
Your options range from the low investment on-demand model to one where you manage the whole design and creation process.
It’s really up to you on where you see your brand heading, the level of risk you’re comfortable with and, of course, access to funding.
If you’re serious about creating a successful clothing business, you’ll want to invest as much time and resources you can into creating something people can be proud to wear.
Good luck and all the best with starting your clothing line!