Many people want to start a clothing line or clothing brand. After all, how difficult could it be? The truth is that clothing brands become successful in part because they’re created by people who are passionate about clothing.
But, a clothing brand needs more than just an exquisite apparel design to create a lasting business. It needs all the trappings of a successful business as well. Apparel retailers need to master marketing, manufacturing, and retailing, among other things.
Fashion is amazing in the way it balances art and commerce, but it’s a business. Don’t start a business because you want to design. Start a business because you want to start a business.
So, are you a fashion designer or an apparel entrepreneur? If you are ready to start a fashion business (whether part-time or full-time), let’s get down to it. Here is a step-by-step comprehensive guide for starting a successful clothing brand or clothing line from scratch.
- Design Your First Collection; Once you’ve decided on the right business model and niche for your clothing line, it’s time to start thinking about the garments themselves. Your first collection should reflect the core essence of your clothing line and properly introduce your unique design aesthetic. So, refer back to your brand concept for inspiration. You can branch out and explore new directions later, but your very first collection needs to preview what your audience can expect to see from you consistently as a designer. Do not be afraid of being unique.
- Develop your brand identity;
…your brand is your company’s public identity. Ideally, your brand should embody the best (and most essential) attributes of your company.
The importance of your brand identity cannot be understated – especially in the world of fashion. Clothing is very personal because our clothing choices are one of the ways that we define our identity – to both ourselves and to the world. As a result, the brands we choose to wear and the labels we display on our clothes become an extension of who we are and how we see ourselves. So, before you sketch your first designs, ask yourself these important questions:
- What identity do I want my clothing brand to project?
- Who will want to wear my clothes?
- What can customers get from my clothing brand that they can’t get anywhere else?
- What makes my clothing unique?
- What is the most important part of my customer’s experience?
Your answers to these questions (and others like them) will build the core of your brand. All of your future branding decisions should expand on these ideas. Your business name, your logo, your website design should all grow from the concepts you laid out here. So, take the time to think – really think – about your brand from the start. Fashion is an exciting, fast-moving industry. You might have many business ideas, but it’s important for you to focus on one.
- Fill in the business blanks; Once you define your brand, you can begin to think about the vitally important details of actually starting and running a clothing company. From choosing a fashion business structure to outfit pricing, licensing and permits to business plan…There’s a lot to think about.
First, you will need to choose the legal structure for your new apparel business. Sole proprietorship or LLC? Incorporate or register a partnership?
A sole proprietorship is the “most basic type of business to establish” according to the SBA (Small Business Administration). You are the sole owner of the business; and, as such, are solely responsible for the assets and liabilities accrued by the business. This may be just the ticket for your brand new, baby crafting business as it is also the easiest to set up.
If you’re interested in a little more protection, an LLC (or limited liability company) may be a better fit. The LLC business structure provides the limited liability features you would find in a corporation.
After you determine your business’s legal structure, you’ll need to file the necessary paperwork. Legal details squared away? Then it’s time to think about the specifics of your business. Entrepreneur Toby Nwazor advocates for creating a business plan
Any experienced entrepreneur knows a company without a business plan is like a fish without water. The plan does not need to be lengthy at first. Rather, it should be one or two pages, identifying the key elements of the clothing line’s business strategy.
Your plan should include (at minimum) a statement about your clothing brand, a general description of your products and a strategy for how you plan to sell them.
In a detailed business plan, you may want to include your anticipated pricing structure.
- Know your numbers; When starting any new business, it’s important to understand “the numbers.”But not all numbers are equally important to all businesses. For a fashion business, you’ll obviously want to track your sales and profits, but there’s so much more to think about before you can get there. You’ve got to start at the beginning – with your start-up costs. For a clothing line, these costs will include:
- your brand design (logo, business cards, and website)
- any license or permit fees
- deposits and rent for a physical work location if you plan to lease your own workspace
- basic infrastructural costs like phone and internet service, invoicing software, etc…
- marketing and advertising costs
- sewing or design tools (sewing machines, scissors, rulers. fabric printing accessories, etc)
- materials for your first collection (fabrics, notions, and embellishment decor)
- hourly wages to cover your design and construction time
If you plan to hire any employees, you’ll want to budget their wages into your start-up calculations as well. Once you know how much it will actually cost to get you started, compare that with the funds you actually have. Then plan how you’ll make up any difference.
If you’re starting a Cut-and-Sew line, you’ll need to get in the habit of calculating how many yards of fabric are needed to make your garments so that you can buy enough, but not too much. If you’re planning to work with pre-made wholesale garments, you’ll want to shop for the best prices at your quality point.
Running smart calculations to determine how much it will cost to create your collection, will allow you to plan ahead and think about pricing.
- Setting your pricing; To create a smart and effective pricing strategy, you have to start by knowing how much it costs you to produce your clothes – also know as cost-per-unit or “CPU.” The pricing strategy, in which the final cost to the consumer ultimately comes from the cost of producing that product.
But, the CPU is only a starting point. It’s important to come up with the cost of running your business, (and some profit!) into your clothing prices as well. Otherwise, it will be difficult to sustain your business over time.
You may dream of owning your own brick and mortar shop (physical building) – or maybe you fantasize about seeing your labels worn by famous celebrities. Either way, in order for an apparel business to scale and grow, it must have price points for both retail and wholesale. Profit is, after all, essential to your business’s success.
Once you’ve done the math, it’s time to start considering the less-tangible aspects of pricing – competitor pricing and perceived value. Your potential customers are shopping for more than just your clothes. They’re shopping with your competitors, too. And, they know how much those clothes cost. Consciously or not, they are gathering data about what they think a product like yours should cost. That means you need to be aware of what your competitors are charging, too. You might feel that your products are worth more, or that you want to charge less, than your competitors. And that’s okay. But, if you’re completely unaware of what your competitors charge, you may miss the mark entirely – either costing you profit if you charge too little or sales if you charge too much.
Starting every business might seem like a hustle for the first few years but once it’s done right, nothing holds back your business from achieving its maximum height.
Did you learn something from this article, let us know in the comment section below.
Until next time, stay fancy!
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