Starting a clothing brand can be challenging. After all, how do you find your footing inside such a competitive niche? And is it still a good business idea to invest time and energy into the fashion industry? We’ve got some answers!
One of the big challenges that entrepreneurs who want to start an online business usually face is deciding what they’re going to sell. It’s understandable: After all, with so many products and niches out there, it can be tough finding out which item might be the golden ticket to a successful online store.
The trouble is, entrepreneurs tend to focus on trying to find a product that’s rare or difficult to come by, thinking that this scarcity indicates a market demand that hasn’t been properly addressed yet.
And while that does make sense, it’s not necessarily true ― it’s possible that people just aren’t interested in something. Or, even worse, maybe they’re just interested in a specific product for a short amount of time (remember fidget spinners?).
That’s exactly why there are times when deciding what to sell online involves looking into a different direction, investigating those products that people are constantly and consistently buying, mainly because they use them every day. We’re thinking of soaps, dishware, coffee beans, and… clothes.
Yep, that’s right: Starting a clothing brand remains a strong e-business idea worth pursuing. But you have to do it right ― and we’re here to offer you some strong tips on the subject.
So keep reading to find out how to start a clothing brand!
Is a clothing business a good idea?
Let’s start with the basics: Is starting a clothing brand really a good business idea? This is a question that will understandably pop into any entrepreneur's mind, especially the ones that are trying their hand at eCommerce.
It’s a valid question, not least because the fashion niche is continually growing. A Statista report on the state of global fashion, for instance, has indicated that the industry is expected to reach a value of 1.2 trillion USD dollars by 2025 ― and as impressive as those numbers might seem, they put entrepreneurs at a crossroads.
There are definitely people out there that are more than willing to buy clothes. But, at the same time, there are already plenty of other clothing brands selling to those people. So is it really feasible to start a fashion brand in this scenario?
The honest answer we can give you is… Yes. Yes, it is. But here’s the catch: You’ll need to focus on nailing different aspects of your business. Some of those include:
- How you’ll position not just the fashion brand and your branding as a whole, but your own clothing line
- The target audience and the prices they’re able to afford
- The quality of your clothing line and the uniqueness of your collections
- The visual assets you’ll present online
We’ll discuss all of that (and a whole lot more) in our last section when we talk about how to start a clothing brand in 7 steps.
How profitable is a clothing brand?
Profitability is something that should be in every entrepreneur's mind, whether they’re starting a clothing brand or not.
However, it’s something especially important for a potential fashion brand to consider, not least because you should be able to determine whether the profits you’ll be able to generate can justify the energy it takes to get inside such a popular industry.
To assess whether or not your idea of starting your own clothing brand is worth it, you might want to run some calculations and consider a couple of factors.
The first thing to consider, for example, is the business model you want to pursue. Are you a fashion expert who knows how to sew and is intent on building clothes from scratch? Then in this case the investment that you’ll need to make upfront will likely fall on the higher end of the scale because you’ll need to buy equipment, rent out a space and hire some people to help you create your own clothing line.
As a rule of thumb, you should always consider that the higher the initial investments you need to make, the more you’ll need to sell during the first months to keep your business afloat ― which means that the road toward profitability will be a bit longer.
That’s exactly why, when it comes to creating a profitable clothing business, the best course of action is to search for more diverse business models that’ll allow you to start with very little upfront investment without having to compromise the vision you have.
💵 Got money on your mind? Check out some recommended reads that can help guide your business decisions:
- What is ROI? Return on Investment Explained to You
- What is Profit Margin? Definition and How to Calculate It
- Break Even Analysis: A Guide for Your Small Business
How much does it cost to start a clothing brand?
Not to sound too much like a broken record, but the answer to this one will also depend on the business model you decide to pursue.
Here’s the thing: Starting a clothing line or a fully-fledged clothing business by yourself can be costly, especially if you’re planning on making your own clothes from scratch. But there are plenty of other ways to start a clothing line without having to invest a ton of money, and you don’t need to know how to use a sewing machine to make them work.
One of the business models you can pursue is dropshipping, where entrepreneurs sell products online but don’t hold inventory of those items. For a clothing line business, this basically means working with specialized dropshipping suppliers who are in charge of manufacturing the pieces for you and shipping them to your end customers.
While you won’t have a lot of creative input in the designs of the pieces, it’s a business model that will allow you to easily follow trends and quickly replenish your store’s online catalog without having to buy fabrics and then sewing them yourself.
The great thing about dropshipping is that it doesn’t require a lot of money to get started. And, because your supplier will be in charge of manufacturing, stocking, and shipping orders directly to your customers, you are free to focus on other aspects of your business ― like customer service, marketing strategies and campaigns aimed at increasing sales.
And get this: We can help you get your clothing business off the ground with dropshipping right away. Our ecommerce platform is an ideal fit for dropshipping since we work with plenty of established suppliers like CJDropshipping and AliExpress.
All you have to do is sign up, decide your store name and domain and start designing your online store. This is totally intuitive and code-free, so don’t worry! Then, you can integrate your store with our dedicated dropshipping apps and start importing a clothing line directly to your product pages.
We also offer a 7-day free trial and, after that, you can continue selling your clothing line in a dedicated online store for just $ 28/month.
🤓 If a dropshipping-oriented fashion brand doesn’t sound that appealing, then how about some of our other business ideas?
- How to Sell Plants Online: A Guide to Cultivate Your Plant Business
- A Hands-on Guide to Sell Crafts Online and Make Money
- “Frost Yourself”: Learn How to Sell Jewelry Online
How to start a clothing brand in 7 steps
Now that we already dealt with the three more pressing questions about starting a clothing brand, let’s dive into how to start a clothing brand.
1. Decide on a business model
We mentioned at least two business models that are available to anyone interested in establishing an online store, but there are also other avenues you can try out. Check them out:
- Second-hand clothing: Selling used clothes is a great idea if sourcing new clothes isn’t really your vibe and you’re more interested in creating a shop that has a strong environmental stand.
Fashionistas and budget-oriented customers alike are all drawn to a good thrift shop, so you can make the most out of the situation and create an online store with a solid green marketing strategy that highlights the benefits of thrift shopping for both customers and for the planet, as a whole.
- Vintage: If you don’t have the budget to start your own hand-made clothing line but you have a good eye for finding special quality pieces, then how about starting a vintage fashion business?
This is different from a second-hand store because you’ll be dealing mainly with high-end fashion, like designer clothes and accessories. This also means that you’ll be catering to a more specific audience, and that the quality of your pieces will have to be pretty high ― though, at the same time, this also means you’ll be able to charge more hefty prices.
- Custom-made: Already have a very specific vision for the store you want to build and your eyes are set on creating your own clothing line from scratch? That’s okay too.
While this is the more costly model in terms of initial investment, it’s also the best choice for people who are not willing to compromise their creative vision and already know the ropes of the fashion industry.
- Dropshipping: Like we mentioned earlier, dropshipping is the ideal solution for people who are intent on starting a clothing brand but don’t want to risk too much of their savings into a new business venture.
It’s also a good business model for entrepreneurs who want to experiment with different clothing items and collections, since all of the warehousing logistics are the supplier’s responsibility.
- Print on demand: If going overboard with multiple clothing items is not your thing and you’re looking to join the fashion industry with a simple, minimalist clothing line, then print on demand might be a good option for you.
Like dropshipping, it’s also a fashion business model where you don’t actually hold inventory of the items you’re selling ― but the main difference actually lies in what products you’re selling.
With print on demand, you can sell t-shirts, tote bags, hoodies, trucker hats, sweatpants and basically any other piece of clothing that can be customized with a special design (like your brand’s logo, popular sayings, memes, or even your own special designs).
🔥Hot tip on how to start a clothing brand: You don’t have to pick just one
The beauty of managing a clothing business is that, unlike many other niches out there, it’s incredibly flexible in terms of logistics and sourcing. You can easily start with dropshipping and then bring in some print on demand items ― or start selling only vintage clothes but expand your business with authentic, custom-made pieces later on.
2. Determine your identity as a clothing business
After getting the business model out of the way, the next step is to determine just who you’ll be in the fashion game. That is: How is your own clothing brand any different from the sea of fashion brands out there?
This is always a crucial stage in the development of any online business, but it can be especially relevant when you’re starting a clothing brand. As we mentioned earlier, people buy clothes all the time ― and while they do buy them because they need to, they usually decide where they’ll buy based on elements such as the aesthetics of the brand, the quality of the materials and the fit of each piece.
That’s exactly why you should not overestimate the power of a good branding strategy. The more visually coherent your brand is, the higher the chances that people will remember both the shop and the products you’re selling.
Take Muji, for instance. While the Japanese-born retailer now sells a whole array of household and everyday items, its clothing line is always on-brand. This means that the pieces are easily recognizable as being “Muji clothes”, by both customers who already trust the brand and by potential shoppers alike.
Other elements worth focusing on are your mission statement and your value proposition. There are a ton of fashion brands out there, so it’s important that you’re able to distinguish yourself and properly highlight what it is that makes your products so unique.
You can do that with a full statement or condense it all into a small but powerful sentence like Hatley did on its website:
3. Identify the target audience
Next up on how to start a clothing brand is figuring out your target audience, a group that comprises both people you want to reach and those you’d like to see shopping in your store.
This might look like an easy thing to do, but it actually involves a lot of careful consideration. Yes, it’s true that you’ll be looking mainly at groups that share similar demographic traits, like age, interests, income and hobbies ― but you’ll also work with less objective data, like lifestyle choices, political and/or moral values and personality traits.
Conducting market research can be a great way to nail down your target audience since you’ll be able to pinpoint your target market (i.e., the market segment you’re catering to) and your audience (the slice of customers that are part of that market segment and are more likely to shop from you).
4. Figure out the specifics, like sourcing and materials
Determining the specifics of how your clothing company will work is also a crucial step, whether you're dropshipping, selling vintage pieces or creating your own clothing line using nothing but your bare hands and sewing machine.
In this step, the most important thing you should worry about is sourcing. Ideally, you should look at this question in two different lights:
- Sustainability: Where are your materials coming from? Are your partners and suppliers working with raw materials that are being extracted and processed according to sustainable practices?
These are important questions you should be asking yourself, not least because it’s highly likely that your customers might ask that of you down the line ― especially if you’re targeting a younger audience that tends to be more concerned about environmental issues.
- Pricing and overall costs: How much are you paying to get the materials you need and in the quality that you need them? Depending on your business needs and budget, it can be cheaper to source internationally with a couple of selected partners and work with national suppliers only for a couple of specific collections or maybe for a special clothing line.
This Instagram post from Carter’s is a good indicator of how a business in the clothing industry can share their sourcing practices with their target market. While celebrating Earth Day, the brand also shared how they are committed to sustainable sourcing practices.
🔥Hot tip on how to start a clothing brand: Run a quality check
Remember that fabric can make or break a clothing line. If you’re dealing with dropshipping suppliers, the best course of action is to order some samples in all different shapes and sizes in order to verify if the actual product is as good as the picture says it is.
Also, because you’re dealing with clothing, wash those samples a couple of times to see if they’ll shrink or change colors. You don’t wanna risk having to deal with that later on after some unhappy customers start sending you emails.
The same goes for those small but important details, like seams, zippers and buttons. Run a proper check to make sure the seams were all properly sewn, the zippers are working as they should and the buttons are dutifully aligned.
5. Set your prices
Next up on how to start a clothing brand is pricing ― which is always a tricky aspect to tackle.
To decide which prices you’ll charge, you’ll need to take into consideration some of the aspects we covered earlier and bring some new elements into the mix.
- Evaluate your competitors: You know that boutique with a clothing line that caters to the exact same target market you want to reach? Now’s the time to dig into their website and see just how much they’re charging per piece. While you’re at it, check out their shipping rates, too, because that way you can work towards offering either a similar option or a faster one.
- Add up all of what makes your products unique: It’s true that a good price needs to be attractive enough to potential shoppers.
However, it also needs to adequately mirror everything that needed to happen in order for that product to be made ― and, for a clothing line, this means fabrics, buttons, embroideries, sewing techniques, dyeing techniques and other techniques that needed to be set in place so that one single piece is made available in multiple sizes and colors.
- Determine how much your target audience can pay: It’s no use spending a whole lotta time crafting the perfect brand and sourcing great designer pieces if you’re catering to a target audience that can’t afford a hefty price tag.
🔥Hot tip on how to start a clothing brand: Create a discount section
A great way to stand out from the competition and up the chances of your visitors making a purchase is creating a discount section within the shop’s site. It can be a fixed feature on the home page, like this one from Monki.
6. Take photos and/or create mockups
Clothing is one of those products that you really cannot sell and advertise without a good photo. And it makes sense: People want to see how a jacket will fit, the length of that skirt and just how bulky that winter coat actually is.
This is exactly why, after closing the deal on that clothing line ― and after personally verifying that your supplier is providing you with good, quality pieces ― you should center your attention around taking some photos of your products.
If you don’t have the budget for a fully-fledged professional photoshoot, there are always other options that might do the trick:
- Use mockups. There are a lot of free mockup generators online, and many can generate high-quality assets for entrepreneurs that are running a clothing company centered around t-shirts, hoodies, socks, sweaters and other similar items.
- Take photos with your own smartphone. If you’ve got a knack for editing, why not try taking your own product pictures? Most smartphones nowadays come equipped with powerful cameras, and you can always use editing apps to make the colors and the lighting really pop out.
🔥Hot tip on how to start a clothing brand: The world is a diverse place
Remember how there was a time, not too long ago, when the fashion business was all about skinny models and a total grand zero in terms of representation?
This might still be the case in the upper echelons of the industry, unfortunately, but it should not be a parameter for how you manage your brand identity and your own clothing line. The world is a beautifully diverse place, and your customers are probably normal, everyday people ― so be sure to position your store’s visual assets accordingly, to show how your clothes fit on actual people.
7. Try out different sales methods
The last step on our “how to start a clothing brand” guide is more of a suggestion for you to try out when the time comes.
After all, while you’ll be mainly busy with selling a clothing line through your own online shop, you can always explore other avenues to expand your organic reach ― and a great way to do that is by selling both on specific online marketplaces and in niched, in-person locations like bazaars and pop-ups.
Just remember that, with online marketplaces like Etsy and Amazon, your profits might get cut a bit short depending on the agreement you have with each platform.
What comes after you start a fashion brand
Now that we’ve covered the major 7 steps in creating a clothing company, it couldn’t hurt to mention just briefly what comes after all that heavy lifting is done. Actually, what follows is another round of heavy lifting (sorry!) ― only this time you’ll be tackling the marketing side of things.
Marketing strategies will be your greatest allies after you’ve set up your shop and your clothing line, since they’ll help spread the word about the brand, attract more followers on social media and get more potential customers to your website.
In terms of actual strategies you can try out, the best course of action is first to understand what can have a positive impact on your target market. That way, you’ll be better equipped to create campaigns that actually convert and are able to generate concrete results.
Generally speaking, though, you can always try working with user-generated content and, depending on your fashion niche, working with small or medium-scale influencers. If your brand is more youth-focused, you can also try cool and engaging TikToks like the one below, by Monki:
📱Now that you know all the steps on how to start a clothing brand, it’s time to up your social media game! Check out some recommended reads below:
- TikTok Ads Manager: A Guide to Advertising on TikTok
- What is TikTok for Business and How Can It Help eCommerce Merchants?
- Writing the Perfect IG Bio to Attract Followers
- Quick Guide: Get Ready To Sell On Social Media
- How to Use IG Hashtags for Likes and Traffic
Dress to impress
And there you have it! Now that you know how to start a clothing brand, it’s time to put all that knowledge to the test and take the fashion world by storm.
Remember to come up with a unique brand identity and business proposition, so you can show the world just what your shop can offer and why that offering is so unique. Also, don’t underestimate the importance of good visual materials on both your website and your social media.