How to start a clothing brand in 5 easy steps

Have you ever dreamed or thought about how to start a clothing brand? You know, exactly what you’d love to wear but can’t find? Do you always find yourself scribbling designs on your notepad? Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of starting your own fashion empire? You’ve probably seen the success of Sik Silk business model or found poor quality imitations and knew you could do better.

Starting a clothing brand can be an extremely rewarding business, though it takes a lot of work and dedication. It’s not a simple side gig you can do to rake in the cash. That said, with increasing online marketing opportunities as well as new technology and equipment, it is now easier than ever to bring your designs to life and create your own brand.

So if you’ve got a passion for fashion and you want to start a clothing line; now could be a perfect time! To help you get started, this guide will look at five simple steps you can take to get your fashion startup off the ground and become a budding entrepreneur.

start a clothing brand

Steps to starting your own clothing line

  • Pick your niche and products
  • Set your business plan and strategy
  • Stick to your budget
  • Build your brand
  • Start Selling and Scale and grow
  1. Decide on your niche or products

You may already know what types of clothes you want to produce, whether that’s T-shirts, hoodies, dresses, lingerie, accessories or a mixture of a few. If not, you’ll need to put some thought into where your designs would look best and what you would be happy to produce. Finding your niche is the first step to getting your business off the ground, and knowing the competitiveness of the market is crucial.

You may find it’s easier to pick your target market first. For example, what age and wealth are they? And will you be doing the sustainable angle, plus-size clothing or pushing a luxury range of high-quality material?

While it’s likely that you’ll want to produce a number of garments to give your clothing line some variety when you’re starting out it’s best not to cast your net too wide or you risk becoming overwhelmed. Instead, choose a few items that you can really focus on and perfect. Start by designing on CADs (computer assisted design) into collections which enables you to pick and choose which ones you create samples for.

You can always add new items to your fashion range as it becomes more successful. Take Fresh Ego Kid as an example, their success came from trucker and snapback hats which is a great starting point as they are cheap to produce and don’t take up much storage space.

  1. Know the market and put a strategy in place

Once you have a better idea of the types of clothing you want to produce, you need to do your research into the market and look at who your main competitors are. You may already have a good idea of some of the bigger name brands out there, but it can still be helpful to grow your knowledge of the industry before you start a clothing brand. You can do this by running an internet search and checking out the websites and social media accounts of fashion designers and clothing startups like yours.

Additionally, you may use a strategy like Wholesale and target retail stores to sell high levels of products at wholesale prices. This means you’ll only need a handful of customers who repeat-purchase on a monthly basis. Having a retail online clothing store however does give better profit margins per unit sold.

This will help you to start putting a plan in place for building your brand identity and marketing strategy for your clothing. After all, if no one knows about it how are you going to make sales? In the beginning, it’s likely that you’ll want to start small and market yourself locally to your target audience. Social media and the power of the internet can also be a useful tool for selling your products and getting your brand out there.

Put some careful thought into how you’re going to tell people about your clothing business and get a strategy in place. It’s OK if this changes over time, but in the beginning, it helps to give you some direction. And remember a crucial part of the selling process is the quality of the photography. Consider using a professional fashion photographer for your product shots, you will be amazed at the difference.

how to start a clothing brand by designing styles on CADS
You can use CADS to design your styles
  1. Keep your costs low

You might have a bit of capital behind you, whether that’s your savings, loan or a Kickstarter, but you don’t want to break the bank right away. In the early stages, you need to keep costs to an absolute minimum. This shouldn’t be too hard depending on how you plan to create your line, so you need to decide will you be having clothes printed? Will you be making any yourself? Or will you be buying in from other designers?

This will give you a good idea about the unit price of each item you want to sell. The clothing industry varies on manufacturing prices by country, but knowing import costs is essential as it can cost more than the clothes. And remember, cheap product will not build you a brand of loyal followers.

Other than the initial cost of clothes you should be able to keep your spending down. You can do your own marketing and the internet makes this much easier to do. And you’re probably operating a one-person business at this stage, so there are no real outgoings in terms of staff or office spaces. This might change over time as you expand, but initially, you want to keep your costs as low as possible until you begin making a profit.

Social media is a great platform for showcasing to your target audience. You can easily build an industrial clothing frame to showcase your clothing and learn how to be a fashion photographer. Just remember that if you are building a fashion brand on the cheap, it will take a lot longer than throwing huge money at marketing. Invest slowly, find what works, then reinvest earnings into more marketing campaigns. Self-propelling organic growth will take months and even years. You can use the Shopify ecommerce platform to easily launch an online store for your new clothing line.

If you are lucky enough to have a big budget, then consider PR. If you are considering going into the luxury brand market, then using a proven luxury public relations agency is essential. It costs money, but the level of brand awareness is not achievable with just social ads and customer recommendations.

social media marketing
Advertise your brand using social media to get to your target audience
  1. Build your brand and advertise effectively

When it comes to doing the branding and marketing efforts yourself you should make the most of social media and the internet. If you don’t already have one, it can be a good idea to set yourself up with a blog or website, as well as dedicated social media accounts for your brand.

Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to conquer every platform at once, choose one or two and stick with them. This might be Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok or Pinterest – find what works best for you and what others in your industry tend to use most, and stick with it. You can also use established marketplaces like eBay and Depop to go straight to market, although most successful fashion brands have their own online store to sell their clothing and apparel products.

Once you’ve done this you can share content about your business and products online. Facebook and Instagram both have sales tools via the meta business manager and it’s impossible to start a clothing brand without spending money on advertising unless your niche is very local. This will help to build your brand.

The fashion industry is bursting at the seams right now, so you want to do all you can to stand out. Make sure to always be authentic, share your dreams and goals with your followers, and give them regular updates from your business. While people might enjoy your clothing, they’ll also enjoy engaging with you and your brand as well.

It can also be a good idea to try and get yourself spots at local fairs, market days or events where you can market your business and your products. This can be very helpful in the early stages as word of mouth can be a very powerful marketing tool. Getting yourself out there in front of as many potential customers as possible is the key to getting your clothing line business off the ground.

blank clothing example to start a clothing line with made to order prints
You can start a clothing line with made to order prints on blank clothing

Pop-up shops are another way to get attention, and even offering local businesses a percentage of any sales will get your product in front of your target demographic. If you have a solid base and staff to handle storage and postage, you can travel around like a digital nomad selling via social media.

  1. Sell like crazy!

Unlike many other forms of retail, clothing isn’t as heavily regulated so you really can get selling right away once you start a clothing line. That said, you’ll need to make sure you’re aware of any regulations that can affect you and that you have the correct licenses if you plan to sell on the street or in a store. As stated above, social advertising can yield positive results, and there are plenty of sales techniques to drive sales and brand awareness.

You can use fairs and markets to begin selling and you can even set up a page on your website where customers can place orders. Being a salesman isn’t for everyone, but if you want your business to be a success you need to be confident in your brand and products and take up as many opportunities as you can to sell these. Consumers will become loyal repeat customers if you do it right.

How to start a clothing brand conclusion

Starting a clothing line takes a look of time and effort, so you have to be fully committed to making it a success. Reinvest earnings into new styles and collections to help scale and grow. Consider going wholesale with fashion retailers by finding those stocking your niche and then investigate how retailers choose brands before making a professional approach. These are the steps to how to start a fast fashion business, and success comes with drive and determination.

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Chloé Safilo
Chloé Saffio is our resident Fast Fashion Expert for the UK Urban and Streetwear scene. Her eyes have been constantly glued to social media for the last 10 years giving her an unrivalled insight. In her spare time, she used to like shopping and lying in the sunshine and making the pilgrimage to Ibiza. Now, she is a tired and grumpy new mother and back from maternity leave as the full time FFN writer. Chloe lives in London where she completed her journalism degree at the University of Roehampton. She lives in a small flat Putney with her fiancée Christian, daughter Sofia, and their French Bulldog Coco. And she's on the look out for a nice house and garden at a bargain price,