How to Start a Clothing Business: A Step-by-Step Guide
Get access to insider knowledge on the industry's best practices in the field of fashion and retail.
Starting a clothing line is an exciting endeavor, but it's also challenging. It would be best if you considered all of the aspects that go into starting and running a clothing brand before you dive in headfirst.
Take the following steps to make your clothing line launch a successful one.
Understand your audience and competitors
To start a new clothing business, you first need to research what people want in your niche. What are they looking for? What styles and colors will be in demand this season? Where can these products be found currently (both online and offline)?
When starting a clothing business, it is important to do some research. Work your way through the following questions:
- What are my competitors doing?
- Who am I targeting with my product and advertising strategies?
Create a business plan for your clothing brand
You need to create a business plan that covers your financials, business model and marketing strategy. This will be the framework for everything you do in the future. It's important to have both short-term goals and long-term goals written out on paper so you can work towards them every day.
It’s natural to want to start your business with a sole proprietorship. But it is worth considering an LLC or corporation to create long-term stability and avoid potential complications later on when it comes time to file taxes and open bank accounts, among other things.
Choose your niche or target audience
When beginning a clothing line, the most important decision is what niche your business should cover. Your brand can cover one or two different markets, such as clothes for certain seasons, like winter or swimsuits.
It can be more difficult to find success when designing for the entire spectrum of gender instead of just men or women. Narrowing down your target audience will help you create a more focused brand identity and business model.
Design your collection of clothing or accessories
Designing your first collection is daunting, but it doesn't have to be. You can start by sourcing and buying existing popular designs or creating a few original print designs for t-shirts. It's important to consider what customers want and how you will scale up the production of the design, if needed.
Find suppliers and manufacturers for your clothing line
It's not enough to have a business idea and some designs. It would be best if you had suppliers and manufacturers who can produce the clothing or accessories in your collection based on specific budgets, timelines, quantity requirements (minimums), quality specifications and more. A good place to look for clothing suppliers and manufacturers is Alibaba.
Choose a name for your clothing line and create social media accounts.
It's time to get your clothing line off the ground. One of the first steps is choosing a name for your online store and creating social media accounts, such as Instagram and Tiktok pages, that can help promote products in your collection. These are ways you'll reach customers who may not know about what you're selling yet.
Social media is a great way to get your business name out there. You can also use it as an avenue for customer feedback, which will help you improve customer satisfaction and business operations.
Pick your price point for products.
Starting a clothing line can be difficult, and pricing your items is one of the most important choices you’ll make to be successful. You will need to think about how your business will be profitable and what customers are willing to pay to purchase products from you.
There are various ways you can sell clothing, including online or at brick-and-mortar stores like department stores. Promotions and sales are common within the clothing retail industry, so be ready for them.
Reach out to creators, influencers and brands
It's important to build relationships with influencers and creators who have a large following and can be potential business partners. They can help you grow your business by giving their followers some insight into what it is like operating a clothing company or even mention your products on social media for exposure.
Understand how much you need in sales to stay afloat
It's important to know how much business you will need for your clothing company to stay afloat. After all, this is a business, and it needs to turn a profit at some point or else it won't be sustainable. Some retailers use customer lifetime value (CLV) as their metric for success.
The DTC subscription is another business model that could work, where customers sign up for recurring deliveries of products. You might already be buying things using the DTC model. Some of the more prominent DTC companies today include Casper, Dollar Shave Club, and The Honest Company.
Begin with a soft launch
Soft launches are ideal for clothing business startups because they're low cost and allow you to see how your business will do before investing a lot of time or money. You can also use the feedback from customers and social media reactions, which could be positive or negative depending on what you produce.
Starting a clothing line can be challenging, but it’s also rewarding. Successful entrepreneurs know that success in any industry is about more than just the product or service you offer. They understand their audience and competitors, formulate an actionable plan to achieve what they want to accomplish with their company, work hard on marketing themselves and their products effectively and keep learning from mistakes along the way.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor