How to start clothing line business - Step By Step Guide
Fashion, they say, is wearable art. But it takes more than just an eye for style and creativity to turn your passion for clothes into a source of living. If you want to start a fashion brand, you need to think like an entrepreneur and be driven about the entire process.
But what steps do you need to take to start your clothing line? Let's take a look at the nitty-gritty of starting your fashion brand!
To begin your journey, you must follow specific steps and consider some factors. Start by being mentally prepared and being methodical.
1. Be Prepared for Challenges
Before you plan out your fashion brand journey, here are a few things you need to remember:
- Starting a fashion brand will take a lot of free labor investment into the project.
- You'll need to face unexpected challenges in the process, especially if it's your first venture.
- Despite all problems, you need to power through and follow your passion.
You will indeed face many hardships along the way. But what business doesn't present those? But as long as you are mentally prepared to deal with disasters, you might just be able to make it.
2. Identify A Market Need
Start by studying the market and think about how your design can take the market by storm and give people something new. Whether it's a clothing line for vegans or hoodies for curvy women, you need to figure out which fashion needs are not being met and how you can do something about it.
Understandably, you have an idea, and you are proud and excited to launch it. After all, your fashion line should be a reflection of your thoughts. But when you are starting a new business, it needs one thing - a target market. Start by recognizing the needs of the market to which you can cater.
3. Identify Your Target Market
Once you identify the market's needs that you would like to address, it will be easier for you to set your target audience. Consider the demographics of your possible customers and think about how to give them something they'll love. You have to match your design and purpose with them.
It will also help decide the marketing strategy, the platform on which you can sell them, and the price range. For instance, you can sell pure cotton dresses online to young women who like Boho fashion lovers and market the line on Facebook or Instagram. The same won't work for a middle-aged man.
4. Find the Purpose of Your Niche
Besides sellability and uniqueness, what is the USP of your design? Why are you invested in a particular style or design? Is it because you want to reclaim your indigenous culture? Are you creating a line for the physically disabled? Or do you want to offer cute tees for the plus-size men?
While customer demographics and market needs are necessary, don't lose yourself in your attempt to design something sellable. Yes, you need to sell to establish a business. But you must also be true to yourself. If your desire to sell surpasses your passion, you will soon be creatively saturated.
Decide What Clothing Product You Want To Sell
Now that you know the purpose of your clothing line, the customers you want to target, and the needs you wish to serve, it's time to select your canvas, i.e., the clothes you want to sell. There are many choices available a large number of options may overwhelm you.
Fashion products can include dresses, tops, shirts, lingerie, pants, sweaters, or anything that will be able to capture your creativity and serve your customers. Your brand can have multiple collections. Consider the challenges and opportunities of each while representing your brand's personality.
5. Plan Your Business
If you're serious about your business, you need a proper business plan, and you need to write it down. The business plan must include an overview of your plan of action, budget, marketing strategy, provisions to scale up and expand, etc. This will help you approach secure funding.
Even for a casual idea, a rough sketch may come in handy later. Your plan should be to remain simple and flexible, at least at the start, to deal with the unpredictable fashion industry. Decide on how to get feedback and alter your plans accordingly. So, a clear outline and proper analysis must be ready.
6. Budget Your Business
It will help to have a fixed budget in mind and allow room for flexibility to help meet unanticipated costs. The budget will vary based on the clothing you want to manufacture, whether or not you wish to design and manufacture them or buy them from others at wholesale prices.
Don't forget the costs of other essential factors like processing and packaging, marketing, delivery, disaster recovery, etc. Even then, you will not be able to predict all possible expenses, and therefore, you should always set aside a little something. In any case, it would be best for you to start small.
7. Organize Your Business
To take a disciplined approach, you must make sure that your resources are in place. This step is part of creating a business plan. It is essential to decide on the following aspects:
- Location of business
- Basic tools and amenities
- Planning and designing
- Manufacturing and storage
- Supply management
- Selling platform
- Marketing medium
- Executives and business partners
- Insurance and disaster recovery plan
- Licenses and permits
- Customer analysis… And more!
Most of these are standard for any establishment. After all, every business needs electricity and has to be marketed properly to gain attention. You cannot risk running any business without necessary permits, nor can you ignore taxes. In all of this, you may need the help of a business partner or have executives onboard to take care of different departments.
Choose Your Brand's Identity
It's time to decide how you want to represent your brand. By what name do you want people to know your brand? What will the logo look like? As a fashion designer, you won't need much help with these. But don't ignore the importance of a clear font and the right colors to attract attention.
This is also a good time to plan a public profile for your brand, especially on social media. Starting Facebook and Instagram business pages, opening accounts on e-commerce platforms like Shopify or Amazon, or starting your site to showcase your catalog - your online presence should grab eyes.
Get the Paperwork Ready
It's time to take care of the paperwork to get your fashion brand. Here's how you need to go about it:
- Figure out the type of business entity, i.e., LLC, S-Corp, sole proprietorship, etc.
- Register the business or its name based on the business entity type. You may have to file a DBA.
- Apply for licenses and permits like operating license, occupation permit, sales tax license, etc.
- Get your employer identification number (EIN) with the IRS to find help with taxes.
Filling out the necessary papers will allow you to pursue your venture legally.
Decide How to Manage Business Finances
Planning a budget for your business is one thing, but managing your finances is a whole other ball game. Thankfully, the first step begins with the registration of the business. But with an increase in your daily business activities, keeping track of your expenses, earnings, dues, etc., becomes hard.
To simplify matters, you can take the following steps:
- Open a business account at the bank to maintain a separate record for the brand.
- Apply for a business credit card to deal with expenses, avail rewards, and build credit.
- Install accounting software designed for a retail business to manage your finances.
You might consider appointing an expert in accounting and book-keeping to help you with all this.
Learn Digital Designing
Part of designing clothes is making sketches - and technology has made this a bit fun. You can shift from regular pen and paper and move to software like Adobe Illustrator to create digital sketches that are easy to save and customize. There are other platforms that you can learn to use for your digital designs. So, start having fun with everything from designs to patterns on these.
8. Find A Manufacturer - Or, Manufacture Clothes Yourself.
Your designs are ready and the groundwork has been. It's time to find a manufacturing partner who will help create the final products. You can hire individual service providers, like tailors or fabric suppliers. Or, you can take the help of a domestic or overseas factory to mass-produce products.
If your emphasis is not on quantity and you'd like to pull the needles and scissors out again, you can manufacture the clothes yourself. However, even if you start alone, you will eventually need to have a team to help you with the execution and tailoring. So start hand-picking your small team members.
Test Your Designs
Feedback is an essential part of starting something creative like a fashion brand. It will help you fast-track your business' growth and produce what people like. To use your designs, you can take them to the market. These can include trading spaces, fairs, online marketplaces, and social media platforms, etc. Make sure to use the reviews you get. The test stage continues throughout the business's life.
Price Your Designs
Setting the price of the product is a crucial decision for your business. You will need to cover all expenses, including variable costs like manufacturing, marketing, and delivery, as well as fixed costs like the price of equipment, office, and more. You also need to pick a price point that will suit your customers. Hence, this step will also require you to analyze and understand your target market.
9. Start the Marketing Process
Marketing your fashion products is an essential step in spreading brand awareness. Marketing can be anything from word of mouth from your customers to promotions by social media influencers who will agree to promote your new brand on a barter deal, i.e., in exchange for your products. Marketing will also involve establishing your brand character so you can connect with your target customers.
10. Seek Investors and Partners to Scale Up
After the soft launch of your fashion brand, it is time to use your concept, reviews, and sales to involve investors who can help you scale up. It can be a business partner that will invest capital into the brand in exchange for a cut of the revenues in the future. Remember that once your business takes off, you will need constant access to funds for large-scale manufacturing and better marketing.
Offer Benefits to Customers
Ever wondered why brands offer discounts and membership cards? Deals, gifts, personalized messages, etc. help to promote your new products. But that's not all. They help to attract those who have shown interest in your promotions, as well as in retaining customers. Exclusive deals for returning customers tell them that you value them. After all, happy customers will promote you!
Inspirations for creating wearable art are everywhere, and a creative soul will never miss them. But you must also be careful about cultural misappropriation, i.e., using elements of a culture or community of which you're not a part while ignoring the people to whom it belongs.
But design is not all that's important. To start a fashion line, make sure to be logical and analytical in your approach. Ultimately, it all comes down to one thing - using the tools available to build a clothing line that represents "you" and turns your love for fashion into a profitable business.