Wondering How to Start Own Clothing Line in 2023?
Owning a clothing line is a dream of millions of people - are you one of them? Awesome! Starting own clothing line is easy. But at the same time this has also been a fact that 90% of startup clothing labels fail within 2 years of its operation. And the biggest reason of fail is - a bad start!
Hence the start has to be really well informed and well planned. With the right resources and knowledge, you can create a successful clothing line that stands out in the market. But internet is loaded with lot of bookish / copy paste impractical information which is of no use except landing you in trouble.
But you need not to worry about! As a clothing manufacturer for startups over the years we have come across endless number of clothing businesses - many of them got successful but unfortunately several got out of the business. We're here to share some secret piece of information, tips and tricks, real life lessons -- compiled from our 15+ years of learning -- no school will ever teach you!
We will also explore how digital tools can help simplify the process of starting own clothing line in 2023 from scratch. No matter whether you're just starting out or looking to expand an existing label, there is something here for everyone as we discuss all aspects of starting your own clothing line.
08 Mandatory Steps to Follow - How to Start an Online Clothing Brand
01 of 08
Identify Your Niche
You need to decide your niche by understanding what specific line of clothing you want to start with. Niche means a specialized segment of the market for a particular kind of product. Please note, this is the most crucial step and most of start up clothing label land in big trouble due to incorrect decision at this step. Your decision of clothing line will hugely impact on almost everything you will be doing from here onward and one wrong decision will simply kill everything.
Niche can be decided on various use-case basis.
Some of the common use-case of deciding the niches are - fabric type, print / color type, use typle such as - loungewear, yogawear, lingeries, sleepwear, sustainable clothing line, bohemian clothing line, hoodie clothing line, denim jeans clothing line and so on. If you contact us, we can give you a detailed line grid to understand it precisely and you can choose one to go ahead.
As a clothing manufacturer for startups, we come across the startup clients who provides their collection which consists - one style of skirt, another style of lingeries, few sweaters, some hoodie and so on. This is absolutely wrong approach!
You essentially need to go with one use-case (niche) at the beginning and develop your collection accordingly.
Once you have decided the clothing niche, now this is the time to understand the target group and develop the buyer persona. What does it mean? This sounds simple and you might be thinking that you know whom you have to target.
Let me tell you, this is something 99% of startups think that they're very well prepared. But this is wrong. You need to do lot of discussion with unknown people (possible customer to catch the insight) based on which your marketing campaign, brand story and product line will be developed.
Your ideal target group should answer the followings :
Age group -
Economic condition (purchasing power) -
What they like (in relevance of the product you're going to launch) -
What they do not like (in relevance of the product you're going to launch) -
Where they buy from (marketplace name, website etc) -
What problem they face while they buy -
What they do not get or expect from the brand they purchase -
The most unpleasant buying experience they have -
A detailed profiling sheet is with us and we can share it with you if you need it.
Hit the "contact us" and let our experts help you today!
02 of 08
Organise the Requirement Details / Outfit Design Ideas
This is the stage you need to organise your collection idea in the form of tech pack. A tech pack is a document containing all the technical information about your product. It's an essential document for both designers and production teams when producing new collections, as it helps clearly communicate every little detail about what you are making, to your manufacturer.
Many of the manufacturing problems start just because having no tech pack or a bad tech pack. Your tech pack must include the following information:
The placement and look of each component (neckline, pockets, frills, ruffle, sleeve etc) of your dream garment. Basically you need to direct your manufacturer how you want your design to look like after making.
The fabric material you want to use for your garment. In case you're not sure, you can leave it and discuss with your manufacturing partner which are the best fabric options.
Specify the color / print / embroidery / smocking etc
Garment factories usually do not provide the tech pack developing services. Hence do not insist or expect your manufacturer to develop tech pack for your concept. Tech pack is altogether a different service and skill. Ideally you need to hire someone who is specialised in tech pack making.
In case due to any reason, if you do not have tech pack then what to do?
Download the internet image which is near to your design concept. Take the print out and using a pen describe the each component.
Or, buy a physical sample and send it to your manufacturer and schedule a video call to describe what changes do you want in the sample.
Or, you can simply draw a sketch of your dream design and describe the each component and send your manufacturer
Basically there are multiple ways to describe your requirement but all manufacturer and all design may not be good to begin the sampling process based on any kind of input. But please make sure you describe your requirement as detail as possible.
Kindly also note few points while you are at the designing stage :
At the beginning stage, keep your designs in single solid colors. Because for single solid colors the minimums are always low than the print.
If you're incorporating print or embroidery in your design, please specify the size of design. For example you want a flower or a logo as embroidered or printed, then the size of your logo and flower should be specified well in advance. Don't simply say your manufacturer that you want a flower or logo (printed or embroidered) on the outfit. Rather specify the size of your flower and logo and also specify where exactly it should be placed on the outfit.
In case you're incorporating smocking or embellishment then this too should be will defined.
Make your mind in which all sizes (for new born / kids / toddler age-wise and adults size-wise) you want your styles to be made.
Make sure at least one size measurement you have. However it is good if you provide all size measurement. But in case you do not have all size measurements then do not worry. Your manufacturer can grade rest of the sizes.
Give a name (or code) of each style / design so that both you and your manufacturer can talk about same thing. This is important when you have multiple designs.
Concluding this, you basically need to have :
Tech pack for each style (or design). In absence of tech pack you can have drawing, or sample image (showing every aspect of design) or reference image (downloaded from internet) or a physical sample.
Measurement of one size at least.
Specify the fabric if you're sure. If not sure, leave it for apparel manufacturer to recommend
Quantity idea. To start, keep minimum 25 pcs per style (mix sizes) for single solid color and 100 pcs per style (mix sizes) for printed / embroidery / denim styles.
In case any trouble, feel free to hit us up.
03 of 08
Label Name, Domain, Website, Email ID, Social Media Presence
Your label name is not the business name. You can have multiple label within one business name. Please do not get confused. Bear in mind that over the years your label name could be the most valuable asset, but only if you choose well.
Well, so how to coin the label name?
Here are some takeaways while you formulate your label name :
Coin a name which is short and unique (Not Abstract). If it’s long, make sure an abbreviation is available (e.g. UC for United Colors, DKNY for Donna Karan New York, P&G for Procter & Gamble, AA for American Airlines, Mitsubishi for Mitsubishi Motors Corporation). However, we personally recommend try to avoid using acronyms. Many big companies use acronyms of their name, like IBM and KFC. But at the start of your business, when your goal is to establish your brand, acronyms will only confuse your potential customers. Also, there’s a great possibility that your business acronym will match with someone else, making it very difficult for you to rank in search engines.
It must have some sort of co-relation with your niche so that people can easily associate your label name with your product category.
It should be easily pronounced and easily spelled.
Always check whether the domain name is available for your label name? In case exact domain name is not available, try to keep it putting some prefix or suffix with your label name.
It is not necessary to put a monogram / symbol with your label name text.
Always check the availability of your proposed label name in trademark directory. Many often it happens that you launch your label but later you step in a lawsuit and you're bound to change your label name or stop doing business using your label name. If you're from USA, you can choose the availability of your label trademark here : https://www.uspto.gov/
For your label, always recommended to consider a word which is not available in dictionary. In such case, you will not get the domain name easily but also possible that you get the trademark easily.
Other than trademark, also do some desk research (googling) and make sure no similar name you choose which may create confusion in your customers mind.
Make sure your label name does not translate some slang / filthy meaning in other country or language. You may be starting your label in your own country but you never know you grow enough and start doing business in other country as well. In case your label name translates into a slang in other country / language, it will be difficult to do business in that country. Hence be sure from this aspect as well.
Scalability is another factor you must consider. For example, if you're starting as kidswear label and in future you have to scale it for womenswear or menswear then your label name must not be found irrelevant. It can grow with the company and maintain relevance—and be adapted for different products and brand extensions if require.
Unless you are an established brand, avoid using your own name. Your name doesn’t communicate anything about your business and won’t mean much to potential customers. This may even cause problems if you ever want to sell your business in future or even if you wish to expand.
Once you have finalised your label name, then you need to do the followings :
Get your logo creative and branding artworks
Logo which will come on website
Adaptation of your master logo for Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp
Banner for social media profile
Adaptation of same logo as Favicon
Stationary and Packaging (not recommended at the beginning)
You need to book a domain and build a website. For domain booking, please read our secret tips.
Build a website, we strongly recommend Shopify due to a large number of application (paid and free) and its compatibility factor with most of marketing tools. I know it is costly, but Shopify is the best ever due to several reasons. By the way, at this stage you only need to put "coming soon" page as the main page of your website.
Also create an email ID (email@example.com) and always communicate with your supplier / marketplace / retailers using your official email ID only. Please do not use gmail / hotmail / yahoo etc for business related communication. Refer our tool kit for creating email ID.
04 of 08
Find a Right Clothing Manufacturer for Your Line
Country like China, India, Bangladesh etc are full of clothing manufacturers and every manufacturer claims to be good for you. In such a scenario where you have plenty of option then how will you choose the right clothing manufacturer.
Let us simplify this. All you need to check 3 basic things and once you have positive answer then your search is over.
01. TAT (Turn Around Time) / Lead-time
Every clothing manufacturer has different lead-time for sampling or production. The general opinion is - shorter is better! But this is absolutely wrong way to make an opinion about a clothing manufacturer. Never judge a manufacturer based on lead-time. The one who remains transparent and says actual time is much better than the other who initially commits shorter lead-time and after taking the order delivers in delay.
Hint : Please note, 2 to 3 weeks of time is good for sampling and 8 to 12 weeks of time is good for production. Now you have a standard timeline. You can start an assessment.
02. Minimums / MOQ (Minimum Order Quantity)
Minimums are decided on two basics - One is factory minimum and another is design minimums. No matter whether a private label clothing manufacturer produces 25 pcs of garment or 2500000 pcs of garments - the process remains same. Now it's upto the clothing manufacturer how much minimum they prefer for their garment factory.
Secondly, there are certain styles (designs) which can not be manufactured in lower quantity. For example, if your style requires screen printing then your private label clothing manufacturer can not do it in lesser quantity. That minimum has to be followed because in less that 100 meters fabric, screen printing is not recommended. (However if you choose digital printing then it is possible but digital printing is costly and not all artwork and fabric is digital printing friendly).
Hence again, do not judge based on minimums you come to know. Please do check whether its factory specific or style specific.
Hint : At Billoomi Fashion Pvt. Ltd. we do accept as low as 25 pcs per style (mix sizes) if your style is in single solid color. If your style require custom screen printing or embroidery then 100 per per style (mix sizes) is the minimum.
03. Quality Orientation and Know-How
Not all manufacturer is good in manufacturing all kinds of styles. Hence do speak your manufacturer whether they do carry the required know-how for manufacturing your styles? For example, at Billoomi Fashion Pvt. Ltd. we do not manufacture lingeries, any outfit where leather is used a base fabric, socks, cap, belt, bag, footwear etc.
Our expertise is manufacturing printed / embroidered styles, single solid color styles (dyed fabrics), Styles in sustainable & natural organic fabrics, smocked clothing, all kinds of denim outfits etc.
Willing to explore the possibilities with us? Feel free to hit us up today!
05 of 08
Order of Sampling and Production of Collection
Once you have done with the initial discussion about skill set of your possible manufacturer and prices, you should place the sampling order with your manufacturer. Your manufacturer will send you the PI (Proforma Invoice) asking advance deposit to begin the sampling. Most of the manufacturer follow similar payment terms and they take the payments in two parts - AD (Advance Deposit) and BD (Balance Deposit). Once you make the advance deposit, the manufacturer starts the process.
After receiving the AD, your manufacturer first deliver you the samples. Once you're happy with the samples, you can place production order.
The process of production order too will remain same - Advance deposit + balance deposit. But in the case of production order, your manufacturer will / should first show you size set samples. Size set samples are very important for you as well as your manufacturer. With the help of size set sample you and your manufacture can fix the size issues. At the stage of sampling you have get the sampling done in one size only. Hence at this stage you can understand whether all sizes are upto your standard or not and also the production quality you're going to receive.
Once you approve the size set samples - you lock the production quality as well. What you will approve as the size set sample, the same will be followed as entire production because manufacturers blindly follow your size set sample. After approving size set sample, no changes can be accepted.
After receiving the "size set samples" you not only have to give the approval but also at your end you can start the photoshoot of samples so that you can start cataloging at your end.
Next to your approval on size set sample, the manufacturers starts bulk production. Once bulk production (whatever the agreed quantity) is ready, the manufacturer will send you PI (proforma invoice) asking balance deposit. BD (Balance Deposit) PI usually contains shipping charges as well because by this time manufacturer is aware about the actual weight. You should double check the shipping charges at your end and if you think you have better shipping price, you can tell your manufacturer to send you the BD (balance deposit) PI (proforma invoice) without adding the shipping charges.
Depending upon the situation whether you want the shipping to be arranged by the manufacturer or by yourself, the final payable amount is decided and that you need to pay. After receiving the BD (balance deposit) from you, the manufacturer will hand-over the shipment to nominated shipping company for the export of shipment to your country.
Most of manufacturer will give you FOB or Ex-factory price. FOB stands for (Freight on Board). In layman language, it means that shipping / freight price is not included. Shipping / freight price can be calculated at the time of shipping. Manufacturers do not include shipping prices because of two reasons :
At the beginning it is premature to confirm the weight of shipment and weight plays a pivotal role to decide the shipping charge. Hence if a manufacturer calculate the shipping charge right at the initial stage when actual product is not ready, there are the chances that either that manufacturer will charge higher than the actual or lower than the actual shipping charges. Hence as a solution it is always advisable to calculate the shipping charges once the consignment is ready to go.
Fuel surcharges keep going up and down very frequently. Hence if the manufacturer calculate the shipping charges at the initial stage they will either take access or short amount money from you in the name of shipping. Hence the best practice is followed that keep the shipping charges separate and calculate once production is ready.
Your shipment gets cleared by the custom of origin country's custom and then the destination country's custom. For origin country custom clearance, your exporter (manufacturer) is responsible and that gets cleared based on the documents provided by exporter. During the destination country's custom clearance your shipment gets accessed and depending upon shipment weight and total invoice value custom import duty is get calculated. The shipping company will approach to you for the payment of import duty. In 99% cases the shipping company pays the import duty on your behalf and they will bill to you which you will be required to pay at the time of delivery or in advance. After clearing the duty payment, your shipment reaches to you.
Depending upon your shipment weight and time availability you can decide whether you want your shipment to be exported by airways or sea ways. We recommend if the shipment weight is below 300KG then go with air ways shipment only. Sea Shipment is little cheaper but it takes lot of time.
Here ends the production stage!
06 of 08
Cataloging and Start Promotions of Your Collection
This is the time you need to start working on your website (webstore / e-store). The ultimate aim of any brand is that they're able to sell their products through its own website. This gives you more control, command and coin. Hence the website needs to be technically advance and user friendly.
We have already suggested you that, go with only one - Shopify when it comes to sell your collection. Please read our tips and trick to understand how can you start a traffic loaded website and can get huge traffic from day one.
While shipment is on the way, and size set samples are reached to you - you must start cataloging. Cataloging is basically a master sheet containing all your product details, price details, product name, article number, SKU Number etc.
Once your catalogs sheet is ready with you, you can start the listing of your products on own website as well as marketplace. This is also a possibility that you can start taking pre-orders on your upcoming production.
Altogether, this is the time to create a buzz on social media (mainly facebook, Instagram & YouTube) about your coming-up collection.
There are several ways to create buzz on social media but for anything as such you need content - video or static. The best that you create one video and post it. It is very simple, make a mobile video and speak yourself about your coming up collection, where you're getting manufactured, how your collection is unique, from where your potential customer can buy your collection, some story about why you started your venture etc.
People love real stories. This will help you to connect with your potential customers. You can collaborate with opinion leader / influencer and start a conversation. You can ask your manufacturer to provide you some making video or picture and post the same on your official social media pages. You can tag your manufacturer if you wish.
07 of 08
Understanding Order Processing & Logistics
This is the time to learn how you will handle most of the things after receiving the order from your customer. You can have a dry run to check how payment is being received, how you create the invoice, how you ship the product and how it reaches to the destination.
Since you're going to use Shopify, it already have the relevant set of app for almost everything you need to run your business. But the problem is that there are hell lot of app for the same thing and top of that you also need to learn how exactly it works.
A big part of starting your store is thinking about how you want to deliver your product. If you are shipping products yourself, you need to think about how you want to package and deliver your products. When your customer receives their package, do you want them to be bored or excited? Probably the latter!
Utilizing customized packaging is a great way to do this. It can be as simple as stamping your logo on the box, so customers know that the package is from your fashion brand. You could explore other options such as boxes or packaging with designs on them as well, but they will be more expensive.
You can instead spend the money on what's inside the box. Packaging the clothing neatly in tissue paper is a great start. But, you can take it one step further and do things like wrapping the clothes in branded paper or sticking it together with branded tape or stickers. This will show your customers that you care and thought about every aspect of their package.
Some brands also include little goodies inside their packages. This could range from something as simple as a sheet of stickers, or maybe a small gift if they ordered a lot. You may also include a note in your packages if you have time to handwrite or type something for them. If not, you could include a coupon for their next order to hopefully encourage them to become a repeat customer.
If you have business cards (and you should), you could include one in the box as well and encourage your customers to pass it on if they loved their order. There are plenty of ways to customize your packaging that will really show customers that you care.
With regards to shipping, you will also need to consider how much you want to charge before completing your online store. A high cost of shipping that customers were not expecting can lead them to abandon their order before finishing the checkout process. Being transparent and honest with your customers from the start so that there are no surprises is the best idea. Do this by advertising the price of shipping at the top of your store, so customers are aware.
Many fashion lines will offer free shipping if a customer purchases a certain amount, such as free shipping for orders over $50. The shipping fee will technically still come from their purchase, just specifically from your profit margins instead. This way, the customer will likely buy more items to get free shipping, so you both win in the end.
You will also need to pick a shipping company. There are plenty available, and many offer a business account that may have discounts when you ship in large quantities. Just as you shopped around for manufacturers and factories, look for a shipping company that suits your needs and can meet your demand.
Once your store is loaded with all your products and all your shipping options have been considered and decided, you're ready to launch!
08 of 08
Launch > Review > Scale Up
Your store is finally up or is ready to launch, and the last step is one of the biggest ones: marketing! Marketing is when you promote or advertise your products to garner customers. Not many fashion designers have experience in marketing, so hiring someone who does may be a good start. If that is not within your budget just yet, you can still market on your own.
Using social media is one of the best ways to market your brand in today's day and age. Most people have some form of social media, whether it's Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Creating a page for your brand on each platform and updating it consistently is a great way to build up an audience and advertise your product. You can also easily engage with your customers to help build relationships with them, making them more likely to want to invest in your brand.
If you didn't create a tagline when you created your brand, creating one to market your fashion line is a great idea. Let's think of Nike again. Most people know their tagline, "Just do it!" and can recognize it anywhere. Using a tagline is a great form of marketing as it helps customers remember your brand. They will likely not remember every piece of clothing you sell, but a short tagline is memorable and will help customers think of your brand when they read your tagline.
Another great marketing technique for a new fashion brand is to launch your brand with a giveaway campaign. Gaining exposure for your new brand is important, especially when you first launch. You don't want to launch your brand and have no sales for months. Hosting a giveaway campaign to celebrate your opening is thus a great idea as it will garner attention and bring in potential customers.
One way to do this is by asking followers to repost your Instagram or Facebook post to be entered to win a free piece of clothing. This will help advertise your brand for free and get you followers that may decide to purchase something even if they don't win your giveaway. Those who do win will likely be happy with the experience and can leave you good reviews or tell their friends and family about your brand. Word of mouth is still one of the best marketing techniques, so don't underestimate it!
In today's day and age, social media influencers garner tons of attention and are increasingly being utilized for advertising brands.
Try looking for influencers that you believe reflect your brand's values to hire to become a brand ambassador. As an ambassador, they will help advertise your brand, typically in a subtle way. If they have a big following, this will help bring more exposure to you. Being a startups clothing brand, you may not have big budget so collaborate with possible influencers on barter basis (you will give product and in return they will post about your product); instead of giving money.
Marketing is one of the most critical parts of getting your new clothing line started. If you don't market, people will not know that your brand exists, which would be a shame! You don't have to spend thousands of dollars on a marketing campaign to gain exposure, just be consistent in your efforts and post as much as you can (1 or 2 post daily). Customers can tell when a brand is being genuine or not, so just express your passion through everything you put out, and the exposure will follow.
11 steps later, you should now have your question ''how to start a clothing line'' answered and be ready to start your own clothing line!
COLLECT THE FEEDBACK & REVIEWS
Every business have happy and unhappy customers. We too have. You will also come across. But remember that every feedback matters be it positive or negative. Unhappy customers quite often write / speak many untrue / false things and happy customers may not even respond. Being a business, you need to personally call at least first 100 customers and collect the feedback and suggestions. Do the necessary changes in business / design / delivery process if required. Keep customers first always!
If any of your style is sold well, then try to understand why that particular style is sold well. Is it because of its fabric quality or measurement or color or style? Now you need to develop new sampling (for production) as expansion of your best sold styles. For example A dress sold well, now in same style (A), you can scale up and add more colors or different print pattern or in different fabrics. That's how you can scale up your clothing line.
This is a huge deal, and it can be scary taking the first step, but reading this article is a step in the right direction. If you are based in the United States and are looking for a manufacturer to launch your line, we could be the manufacturer for you!
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