How to Start a Clothing Business
Working out how to start a clothing business can be a daunting prospect. Unfortunately, having a great idea is only the tip of the iceberg and it takes a lot of research, business planning and determination to turn that great idea into a successful brand with a strong presence.
However, no one should be put off by this and everything you need to launch a successful clothing line is already within reach, you just need to know where to look and what to research.
Here we will take you through everything you need to know when you start a clothing line. Your research starts right here:
How to start a clothing business? Start with positioning
The first questions you should always ask yourself is ‘what is my brand about?’ and ‘what does make my brand unique?’. Every successful clothing line startup succeeded for the same reason – because their brand stood out from the crowd.
Being able to understand what will make your brand special will make it easier for you to carve out your own niche in the market.
Once you get this right, it is then so much easier to identify your target market and work out ways to appeal to them with your brand.
What is a niche market?
Choosing a niche market means making a decision to offer your brand – your products features services – to a small, specialised audience rather than a large one. You’ll find that it’s much easier to cater to a select group of people than a mass audience, as you can give them exactly what they want. It’s hard to do that with a big audience, as everybody wants something different from a brand, so by choosing a specific target audience, you have a better chance of giving them what they are looking for.
However, you need to do careful research to find a niche that will work for your brand, and one that would respond to your brand product and services.
What exactly does a niche target audience want? This is what research tells us:
- You need to target a specific demand. That brand, product or service must be exactly what that niche audience is looking for, and it must also stand out from the crowd.
- Look for something that would fill a gap in the market. Let’s take a popular market, like swimwear, and see if we can make it work. There are already lots of brands catering to kids, adults, men and women. But how about hypoallergenic swimwear? Or swimwear for sun-sensitive skins?
- Some points to consider when choosing a niche market include the price of the brand, the specific audience’s age, values and interests, who your target market is and where they live.
Differentiate your clothing brand: choose sustainability
There are many things that can make your brand different from the rest and not all of them are to do with your design or colourways.
For example, research has shown that sustainable fashion is a rapidly growing market, and the use of eco-friendly materials and ethical manufacturing processes in your brand can really appeal to a lot of people. You can read our guide on why sustainability in fashion is so important right here.
Check out your competitors
Whatever you identify as your brand niche, it is also worth really taking a close look at your nearest competition. There are several reasons for this.
- Firstly, it’s always good in a design business to know which brand or brand product you’re competing against customers with.
- Secondly, if you understand who your clothing line competition is and the customer sales tactics they are employing in their design business can also give you an idea of how you can promote your brand to customers in a way that they haven’t thought of, giving you more chance to get noticed and cornering your own section of the market.
- Research what your clothing line competitors are offering your customers so that you can come up with something better – a better price, perhaps, higher quality, or something that better meets the needs of every customer After all, what you’re trying to do is make a brand that will make those customers loyal to you, increase your business revenue and help you gain market share.
Start a clothing business by writing a clothing line business plan
No matter how big or small your idea, a clothing line business plan is essential when you start a fashion business. At the very minimum, this should cover the first year and should include things like your marketing goals, margins for acceptable losses and sales goals.
But, if you’re serious about the idea of starting a clothing line, ensure your business plan has more meat on its bones. Here are a few ideas to get you to start:
What type of company do you want to launch?
Is it going to be an LTD company or a sole trader?
In other words, are you going to run your business and clothing line completely alone or are you going to register as a recognised business? Both have their advantages and disadvantages and what works best for you completely depends on you, your business model, your budget and your ambitions.
How will your clothing brand work?
In other words, how are the logistics of your clothing line going to run? This includes everything from the logistical side of where you are going to source your products from right through to how you are going to sell them to customers via ecommerce.
Are you going to rely on the online marketplaces, your own ecommerce site or are you going to try and establish a physical retail presence for your customer base?
All these options will affect your overall preparation so it’s a good idea to establish them early so as not to waste your time and effort.
What is your budget for a clothing line?
It’s vital you remember that, just like every business venture, how to begin a fashion brand is a risk.
Because of this, have a clear idea of what type of budget you have for this project as it's not worth bankrupting yourself over.
But how much does it cost to start a clothing business? Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to that but the cost of registering your business, website development, marketing your brand, images, warehousing and materials all have to be considered in your overall budget to avoid any nasty surprises.
Don’t be put off by this if you’re not Mr or Mrs Moneybags, there are many brilliant household brands out there today that were once started on a shoestring. Just be clever, be sensible and be alert when you make your clothing line.
You need to make a long-term financial plan for your business. You need to work out a budget that includes what you think your commitments will be (rental, employees, machinery, materials required to make each product, etc). Your plan also needs to include predicted customer sales and expenses (like a mortgage for example), because you’re trying to make money, not just spend it.
Marketing your clothing line
You could design the best looking, most ethically sourced and unbelievably comfortable brand of clothes ever made, but it doesn’t count for much if you’re not able to get your brand designs out there to customers.
You can’t sell a product effectively to any customer if you don’t market and promote it, which is why a sales and marketing strategy is so important, especially for small businesses.
Marketing requires strategy and this can be tricky for a newbie to navigate. There is always the option of hiring a digital marketing agency who specialises in online marketing to do it for you, but this can be expensive.
Our sister business maakeAcademy believes that the best person to build the marketing strategy is the person who owns the business. You know your business better than any and you care more that anyone ever could. We provide step by step courses on how to grow and double your revenue within 6-12 months. Book a free discovery call and find out what we can do for your business to boost your customer sales.
We’ve also written an informative piece that gives you the marketing ecommerce essentials to make your business a success.
Another great read is our take on how the UK recession can benefit your business – check it out!
Why digital marketing is so important for your clothing line
What is the very first thing you do when you want to find out about a business brand or a product? You search for information online and then you compare the product or service with other businesses to see which works best for you and your customers.
This is why it’s so important to make sure your brand designs have a good online and ecommerce presence. You need a website, and your business needs to be active on Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, Pinterest, are all Social Media) so that every customer and prospective customer can see what you’re offering.
People on Social Media want to know what you’re offering, how much it offers and how it compares to similar offerings. They also want to see what other customers have said about it.
Communication is key, and there is no better way to communicate to each customer about your brand designs and products than by going online and making your business visible. That’s what digital marketing is all about. It’s effective online communication that reaches a huge audience that is hungry for new information. This incredible online marketplace is there waiting for them. And because your products are on a successful online clothing business platform, a great online store, there are no boundaries or borders. You can literally reach a customer who lives millions of miles away, no matter where they live on the planet.
When you communicate with your customers, they will respond in kind, and give you a lot of information about themselves. You can find out what products they really want, what they think of the products you’re offering them, and how you can give them products that have exactly what they need even if they don’t know it yet.
Using digital marketing to your best advantage
A recent study predicted that by 2025, general marketing will be outdated and online digital marketing will be companies’ most popular choice. So, as marketing is becoming completely technology-driven, it’s important to get your brand designs online in a store as soon as possible so that you can take advantage of our digital future.
And while we’re talking about online marketing, let’s not forget taking note of another whole side to digital marketing. By marketing your products and services via an online store, you will be able to track who’s looking at your website, not only offer your products online.
There are various tools and strategies you can use to reach your audience, including SEO (Search engine optimisation), which helps you get your content, your brand and your presence out there to the most amount of people. You can purchase software to assist you with this as well as other software that will help you set up your online presence.
But remember, all this important information on digital marketing will help you work out which type of advertising, communications and content work best for your brand designs and your online store. It enables you to put your small business out there and become known, and offers every single customer the opportunity to purchase your products and/or services.
Who is your target for your clothing line?
If you do decide to go it alone, then there are a few things to consider and research. Firstly, who is your target market and where are they likely to see your ads?
This has to be more detailed than just something like online media. Try to find out what platforms your key demographics are using most, build your avatar and focus on your target audience.
For example, under 18s use TikTok the most, so a Facebook ad aimed at them would be a bad placement.
Secondly, invest in high-quality visuals. Good photos and videos are a powerful selling tool and will do a lot of your work for you. Being thrifty here is not a wise move.
Also, try to consider what third parties could make a useful partnership for your brand? Are there any influencers or events happening that would help you showcase your product?
Insure your clothing business
Insuring your clothing business is another cost to consider in your budget and is essential for any business, not just when you start a fashion brand. Insurance protects you from life’s nasty little surprises and business insurance doesn’t always have to break the bank.
You can often get tailored policies for your clothing business that are engineered to fit whatever type of fashion company you start. They will keep you covered in case of any unforeseen emergencies.
Funding for selling clothes online
You should always know what budget you’re able to work with when selling clothes in an online store, but this doesn’t mean that you always have to go solo. You can choose a government loan from the affordable loans available to start up companies that can boost your starting capital.
On top of this, there are plenty of other third parties out there that are willing to lend funds and expertise to an exciting new clothing business This is not for everyone, but they can be a real boost to the right type of project. It’s something that is definitely worth thinking about.
Testing your product before you launch a successful online clothing brand
You don’t have to jump straight in at the deep end of the fashion industry once you design and create your clothing line. Even if you have big goals in mind, consider trying out a soft launch opening of your clothing line first.
This could be through simply using Instagram, Depop shop or Etsy store or on a marketplace or shop like eBay.
Simply, this is a cost effective way of testing out your clothing line and can highlight areas in need of improvement to you that you may not have noticed. It also gives you time to fix them before you up the ante. Word travels fast on these platforms as well, and they can be a great marketing tool when you start your clothing line.
When you feel ready you can open an online store for your brand with small expense and spread the word about how to shop.
Print clothing on demand
Not holding stock in a shop and testing your collections can be liberating. No big budgets needed for an online store if you print on demand and the investment you put in can be minimal. When you use digital printing for your collection you can use as little as 1 meter. You can test different prints and stay with the trends.
Print as you sell. Don't hold stock in your store and grow your brand as slowly or as fast as the market allows. maake has minimum order which means no more stock needs to be held or big investments into a design you are unsure will work.
The best way to hit a homerun is to test the market and what better way than to look at other options and see which one will work best without costing you the world. Without any risk.
Printing on demand is the future and it's the way to keep your brand sustainable and with minimal waste. Support slow fashion and become one of the design business people who brings a different product to their store that stands out in the crowd.
How we print at maake
We’ve put together a series of informative blogs on the way we print. We recommend taking a look at Printing on fabric: the right techniques as well as our definitive guide to sublimation printing. We also go into detail about the most popular methods for printing on fabric. Take a look and get a good idea of the different printing methods available.
Partnering with a clothing manufacturer
We’ve mentioned funding before, but the opportunities for collaboration with a professional clothing manufacturer or a number of manufacturers don’t stop there. Scour the market for other brands or a design manufacturer that is similar to your style. There’s always the chance that the manufacturer will be up for working together to make shared collections and you can bounce off each other’s creativity.
There are also industry leaders out there that are always willing to lend advice to great new startups. They’re not going to tell you how to begin to design clothes or give you templates, but they may be able to point you in the right directions in terms of business. Honestly, people are more friendly than you might think.
You can also reach out to us at maake, explore all the options we offer for our business partners, which include a manufacturer or two.
So, there we have it. These are our top tips for anyone who ever wondered how to start a clothing line, ie fashion business. Remember, if you’ve got a great idea for a great product, then you’re already half of the way there. Stick to these tips and the rest should fall into place.
Already have a company and want to find out how to set up a growing business? Take the free scorecard and find out your business' strengths and weaknesses. You will get a free report with details to help you focus on your weakness points.
Contact us if you need a partner to order your fabric printing with or to find out how to start a design business involving printing on fabric. You can also get wholesale prices from us.
Let us help your business succeed
At maake, we care about our customers. We know that many of you have your own small design business and are trying to make ends meet, just like we are.
And that’s why we provide all the tools our customers can get, including an article or blog posts like this one, that give advice on how to improve your business.
Visit our informative maakeAcademy website to see how we can help you start business successfully with our excellent product range and services, which include coaching as well as invaluable Accelerators that you can order to give you the clarity, focus and freedom to succeed.
You can start when you order the international best-selling book written by our CEO, Artemis Doupa, entitled Design&Grow, a product that has revolutionised design led businesses by helping every design entrepreneur get their design time back. Artemis created an innovative six-step method, The Storms Method, that teaches design businesses how to reach their creative potential. Read all about it to understand how it became an international best-seller overnight!