Working out how to start a clothing business can be a daunting prospect. Unfortunately, having a great plan is only the tip of the iceberg and it takes a lot of research, business planning and determination to turn that great plan into a successful start up clothing brand with a strong presence in the market and quality products for your customers.

However, no one should be put off by this and everything you need to launch a successful clothing line into the market is already within reach, you just need to know where to look and what to research when you start.
Here we will take you through everything you need to know when starting a clothing line. Start your research into the fashion market right here:

Start with a business plan

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 starting up succeeded for the same reason – because their start up clothing brand stood out from the crowd and appealed to their customers.

Being able to understand what will make your start up clothing brand unique 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 this market with your clothing brand.

What is a niche clothing line or market?

Choosing a niche market in clothing means making a decision to offer your start up brand – your products featured and services – to a small, specialised audience (group of customers) rather than a large one. You’ll find that it’s much easier to cater to a select group of people than to a mass audience, as you can give them exactly what they want. It’s hard to design something with that in mind for a big audience, as everybody wants something different from a brand or products, 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 clothing 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 your customers have. That clothes brand, product or service you want to design 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 clothing market. Let’s take a popular garments market, like swimwear, and see if we can make it work. There are already lots of swimwear brands catering to kids, adults, men and women. But how about if you design hypoallergenic swimwear? Or swimwear for sun-sensitive skins? A swim shirt range? You need to look for a specific group of people who aren’t being catered to before you design a product to suit them.
  • Some points to consider when choosing a niche market include the price of the clothes brand, the specific audience’s age, values and interests, who your target market is and where these prospective customers live.

    Differentiate your clothing brand: choose sustainability 

    There are many things that can make your clothing 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 clothing 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.

    Think about it… everything human beings do impacts the environment, so it makes sense that the garments that we wear also have an impact on our environment and on the planet as a whole. Sadly, the way we manufacture fashion clothing products has a very negative impact. In fact, according to statistics issued by a Swiss magazine early in 2023, the fashion clothing industry is known for around 10% production of annual global carbon emissions. This is much more than the combined amount of production by both the aviation and shipping industries. And that’s only the start: it’s expected that the emissions created by the fashion industry will grow by more than 50% by the year 2030!

    What causes these emissions? It’s the design, manufacture and production of fashion clothing, which has long supply chains and involves intensive energy. So now you understand why we need to be sustainable when embarking on fashion clothing production. In a blog we created entitled why sustainability in fashion clothing is so important, we mention a McKinsey study, which talks about how much greenhouse gas is created by the fashion clothing industry. It mentions that the fashion clothing industry emits about as much greenhouse gas every year as the entire economies of France, the United Kingdom and Germany combined!

    How a clothing business can be more sustainable

    So what do we do to start to combat these shocking statistics? More and more fashion clothing manufacturers are practising ‘carbon offsetting’, which involves reducing the amount of greenhouse gas and carbon emissions or removing them entirely so that they can reduce their carbon footprints. They let their customers know that they are doing this, so that they too can be more aware of the environment.

    Now, it’s not only about manufacturing sustainable fashion clothing products and reducing waste and pollution in the manufacturing process. It’s also about buying sustainable fashion clothing products, and making sure that the garment workers who work in the clothing industry work in safe conditions and get paid a fair wage for their market. Sadly, animals are also affected by pollution and waste – look at our oceans, which are full of plastic that is harming marine life! We have to consider every life form on the planet and how we can start to protect them and preserve them for future generations.

    How to start? Follow maake's lead

    maake insists on pioneering sustainability. This involves a number of important aspects of our design business:

    1.    We print sustainably: Fabric printing generally uses a lot of water, energy and waste, which has a very negative effect on the environment. At maake, we do our utmost to minimise the impact of our brand on the planet. We have chosen printing machines and methods that use 95% less energy than traditional fabric printing. In fact, we use less energy when we printing than an electric fan heater uses! Also, we use 100% renewable energy resources when we print, and very little water.

    2.    Our fabrics are safe: The textiles we use are sourced ethically from trusted local mills in the UK wherever possible. This way, we assist the local economy and reduce our carbon footprint. Every mill that we work with is REACH accredited, and many of them also hold accreditation from SEDEX.

    But that’s not all… The inks that we use to print with are all approved and have credit from Oeko-tex and GOTS, to ensure they are safe for kids. In addition, our fabrics are formaldehyde free and have passed stringent EN71-3 certification. For more information on all fabric certification, read our comprehensive Certification Guide.

    3.    We print on demand: To ensure that we don’t make excess or waste, we only print as much as our customers require – no more.

    4.    Another way we reduce carbon emissions: We offer a free pick-up service from our NW10 factory instead of delivering your order to you. That sets our brand apart from others in the same industry.

    5.    We believe in zero waste: Manufacturers have to deal with a certain amount of waste, and what we do when we have any excess fabric is donate the fabric to charity and educational institutions. In addition, our maakeless fabric waste initiative offers our customers the opportunity to give fabric a second life and become more sustainable at the same time. We do this by offering free upcycling bags containing plain fabric. There are 3 different size bags to choose from – a small bag (approximately 1kg) a medium one (about 2kg) and a large item (up to 15kg), filled with fabric offcuts from our factory.

    This fabric is either white, ivory or natural in colour, and is yours to use for whatever sewing projects you may have. Most of the material is at full width (140 to 150cm wide) and it varies in length from 20cm all the way to 2 metres. If you cannot collect your upcycling bags from our NW10 mill, we will deliver them – and all you will need to pay for is the delivery. The fabric is completely free!

    Print clothing on demand

    Not holding stock in a shop and testing your collection can be liberating. You don’t need big budgets for an online fashion clothing store, especially if you only print on demand like we do. And the investment you put in to your brand can be minimal. When you use digital printing for your collection you can use as little as 1 meter of fabric. 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 a minimum order policy which means no more stock needs to be held and you don’t have to make big investments into a design for your brand that you are unsure will work or not.

    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. And yes – you can do this 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 from the crowd against everything else on the market.


    How we print clothing 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 to your brand.

    Check out your clothing line 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 for 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 business plan for your clothing line

      No matter how big or small your idea, a clothing line business plan is essential when you start a fashion clothing products business. At the very minimum, this plan 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 and want to start a clothing line, ensure your design business plan has more meat on its bones. Here are a few topics to get you to start:

      What type of business do you want to set up?

      Is it going to be an LTD businessor 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. So do your homework on this before you launch your business model and you’ll start much wiser.

      How will your clothing line 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 online.

      Are you going to rely on the online market places, 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 plan to establish them early so as not to waste your time and effort.

      What is your budget to start a clothing line?


      It’s vital you remember that, just like every business venture, how you start a fashion clothing 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 starting an online fashion clothing business cost? 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 once had a start on a shoestring. Just be clever, be sensible and be alert when you make your clothing line.

      You need to make a long-term finance (accounts) plan for your design 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.


      Map your ideas


      Marketing your clothing brand 

      You could design the best looking, most ethically sourced and unbelievably comfortable brand of clothing 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 a small design business.

      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.

      Work on a clothing business strategy before you launch

      Our sister business maakeAcademy believes that the best person to build the marketing strategy is the person who owns the business. You know your design business better than anyone and you care more that anyone ever could. They 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 they can do for your business to boost your customer sales.

      They have also written an informative piece that gives you the marketing ecommerce essentials to make your business a success.

      It explains:

      • What ecommerce marketing entails
      • How to build a sound marketing strategy
      • 10 tips on ecommerce marketing to get you on the right track.

      Another great read is our take on how the UK recession can benefit your business check it out! You will learn about the opportunities that are available during an economic downturn and how you can use these to your advantage to grow your clothing business.

      In our positive approach to running a clothing business, you will learn how to turn things around and make the recession work for you. It’s all about attitude and taking advantage of what is available at any given time. For instance, office rentals will be cheaper at this time, suppliers may give you extraordinary deals to keep your business on their books and sourcing qualified staff is a lot easier when many companies have closed down.

      Find out how you can run a successful clothing business in a time like this. maakeAcademy is here to assist you start and run your clothing business successfully.

      Why digital marketing is so important when you start your clothing line

      What is the very first thing you do when you want to find out about a business brand or a product? The first time, you search for information online and then you compare the product or service with another business 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 clothing 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 design and fashion products than when you sell online and making your clothing 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 market place is there waiting for that audience. And because your fashion products are on a successful online clothing store 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 and provide them with their fashion wardrobe.

      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 fashion 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 for your clothing business

      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 design online in a store as soon as possible so that you can take advantage of your 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 fashion products and services via an online store, you will be able to track who’s looking at your website, as well as offer your fashion 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 business 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 design and your online fashion clothing store. It enables you to put your small business out there online and become known, and offers every single business customer the opportunity to purchase your fashion products and/or services, no matter where they are located in the world.

      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 using something like online media. Try to find out which platform your key demographics are using most, build your customer avatar and focus on your target audience.

      For example, under 18s use TikTok the most, so a Facebook ad aimed at them about your business would be a bad placement.

      Secondly, invest in high-quality visuals. Good images 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 which 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 business brand

      Insuring your clothing business is another cost to consider in your budget and is essential for any business, not just when starting a fashion brand. Insurance protects you from life’s nasty little surprises and clothing 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 clothing business you’re starting. They will keep you covered in case of any unforeseen emergencies.

      Loans and funding for selling clothes online

      You should always know what budget you’re able to work with when you sell clothing in an online store, but this doesn’t mean that you always have to go solo. You can choose a government loan from the myriad affordable loans available to start up companies that can boost your business start up capital.

      On top of this, there are plenty of other third parties out there who 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 and investigating.

      Test your brand before you launch a successful online clothing business

      You don’t have to jump straight in at the deep end of the fashion industry once you create and make your clothing line. Even if you have big business goals in mind, consider trying out a soft launch opening of your start up clothing line first.

      This could be through simply using Instagram, Depop shop, an Etsy store or to sell on a market place or shop like eBay.

      Simply, this is a cost effective way of testing out your clothing line and it can highlight areas in need of improvement to you that you may not have noticed. It also gives you time to fix these before you up the ante. Word can travel fast on this sort of platform as well, and they can be a great marketing tool when you’re first starting to sell 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.

      Partner 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 when it comes to production. There’s always the chance that the manufacturer will be up for working together to make a shared collection 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 business startups. They’re not going to tell you how to start to create clothing or give you templates, but they may be able to point you in the right direction in terms of business. Honestly, people are more friendly than you might think.

      You can also reach out to us at maake, review all the options we offer for every business partner, 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 clothing business. Remember, if you’ve got a great plan for a great product, then you’re already half of the way there. Channel your energy, stick to these tips and the rest should fall into place.

      Already have a business and want to find out how to set up a growing business? Take the free maakeAcademy scorecard (see below) and find out how your business stands regarding its strengths and weaknesses. You will get a free report with details to help you focus on the weakness points of your business.

      Contact us if you need a business partner to order your fabric printing with or to find out how to start a design business involving printing on fabric so that you can create products for your business. You can also get wholesale prices from us – so you’ll add to your savings, too.

      Let us help your business succeed

      At maake, we care about our customers. We know that many of you have your own small clothing 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 require, 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 a 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 many a design-led business by helping every design entrepreneur get their design time back so that they can create while they grow their business.

      Artemis was innovative enough to create an innovative six-step method, The Storms Method, that teaches every design business how to reach their creative potential. Read all about it online to understand how it became an international best-seller overnight!

      Then order your own copy of Design & Grow right here!

      How to take your clothing brand to the next level

      Before you start your online clothing line, Artemis suggests you take her carefully curated score cards/questionnaires, which will reveal exactly where your business strengths and weaknesses lie, and tell you how to fix them efficiently. It also explains how to boost sales and increase revenue in your clothing business when you create your start up.

      Fill in your intuitive Design & Grow Report online now!

      It will only take you a couple of minutes…


      February 08, 2021 — Artemis Doupa