If you’ve been thinking (or dreaming) of owning your own line, now is the perfect time to learn how to start a clothing business online. Research shows that the online clothing industry is booming, continuously growing year after year. According to Statista, the retail eCommerce industry was worth $102.5 billion – and will explode to $153.6 billion by 2024.
That’s 50 percent growth in just a few years. Dang. Starting a business from scratch might seem intimidating. And I won’t lie: it’s a lot of work. But if you’re willing to stick with it and put in the time, resources, and effort, the reward can be incredible.
That’s why this article is loaded with helpful advice and resources on how to start a clothing line and market it successfully. We’ll outline 10 steps on how to run a clothing business, plus look at a few beautiful store examples.
Let’s get into it.
How to Start a Clothing Line or Brand in 2021: 10 Steps
1. Identify a Need in the Market
You might already have some ideas for what you’d like to sell. That’s great news, but don’t jump in just yet.
One of the biggest reasons that new business owners fail is that nobody actually wants what they’re trying to sell. And it would be a downright tragedy if you went through the whole process of learning how to start your own clothing line but never found the success you hoped for.
That’s why market research is your best friend at this stage. There are plenty of free and paid resources where you can make sure that there’s a market need for your clothing.
There are two types of market research: primary market research, which is data you collect on your own, and secondary market research, which is data you get from other sources who already did the research, like Nielsen, NPD, and MarketResearch.com.
2. Identify Your Target Audience
Identifying a need and identifying a target audience go hand-in-hand, because it’s a specific group or groups of people who will need or want your products.
And those groups are your target audience. These are the people who you’ll spend every day trying to engage and connect with. The better you understand those people, the stronger your chances of securing and keeping them as customers.
Do your research until you understand both the demographics and psychographics of your target audience:
- Demographics: age, gender, income, marital status, geographic location, etc.
- Psychographics: their likes and dislikes, hobbies, interests, lifestyle traits, buying behaviors including the companies they currently shop with and why, the problems they have in their lives and how you can help solve them
3. Write Your Clothing Line Business Plan
A good fashion business plan outlines:
- Who you are as a company, including your team, company mission statement, and what you sell
- What you’re trying to accomplish, including specific, actionable, and measurable business goals
- Why you think the company will be successful (this is where your market research comes in)
- How you plan to meet your business goals, backed by specific steps and strategies
4. Start Designing Your Own Clothing Line
Now for the fun part. Get your creative juices flowing and create your masterpieces. Here are some things to keep in mind when designing your clothing line:
- Keep a sketchpad on you at all times.
- Don’t compromise on materials and overall product quality.
- It’s a great idea to create your own samples.
- Start building your “tech pack” early.
5. Find a Clothing Manufacturer
On your journey to learn how to start a clothing company, finding the right manufacturer is a big deal. That’s why you should take the time to do your research and properly vet your options before you make a decision.
Here are some tips for finding a clothing manufacturer.
Consider whether you want a domestic or overseas manufacturer. You might save money with an overseas manufacturer, but find that it’s not ultimately worth the potential drawbacks, like longer delivery times or lower product quality.
Get creative with your search. Do a good old-fashioned search on Google, and look through social media sites like Facebook groups. You might also find industry meetups, directories, or networking opportunities.
6. Build Your Clothing Brand
It’s time to develop the creative materials that represent your clothing line: things like your brand name, logo, graphics and illustrations, product photography, and color palette.
Doing all the branding and design work can seem intimidating. If you don’t have any design skills or the budget to hire a professional developer, there are plenty of free, beginner-friendly resources to help you keep things affordable. Check out the online tools page to see what’s on offer, like their:
- Logo maker
- Business name generator
- Domain name generator
- Slogan maker
- Online video maker
7. Choose a Price Point for Your Items
To choose an appropriate price, you’ll need to have a good understanding of how much it costs you to manufacture the items, also called the cost of goods sold (COGS). COGS includes things like the cost of materials, labor, and production.
You’ll also want to consider the overhead for running your clothing line, like how much you pay in rent for your warehouse, shipping costs, and payroll for your employees. Once you know how much it costs to run the business, you can choose a price that covers those costs as well as makes you some profit after all the bills are paid.
One common pricing method is called the keystone markup, where you simply double the price. So if it costs you $10 to manufacture a blouse, you might sell it in your store for $20. Or, you can sell to wholesalers for $20 and sell in your online store for $40.
8. Begin the Marketing Process
Marketing is a critical part of learning how to run a clothing business online. After all, nobody will buy from your store if they don’t know it exists, right? Ideally, you should start setting up your marketing before your clothing store even launches. That way, you’re ready to hit the ground running.
You start setting up Facebook Ads, which is a popular advertising method for clothing companies to build their customer base. Facebook has incredible targeting capabilities that help you reach the right people.
If you’re tight on ad budget, you can start with organic social media marketing strategies, which focus on creating excellent content that engages and entices people to follow and shop with you.
9. Set Realistic Sales and Distribution Goals
You know that old saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” The same goes for anyone mastering the art of how to start a clothing business. In the early stages of your company, you’ll have a lot to learn. A lot of trial and error. A lot of testing and tweaking and testing again.
Make sure you’re going easy on yourself by setting realistic goals. It’s not realistic to say you’ll make a million dollars your first year (though it is possible!).
A more realistic goal might be to grow your revenue by 20% every quarter for the first year you’re in business. This kind of growth-oriented goal helps to make sure you’re not choosing arbitrary financial figures that just aren’t attainable.
10. Start a Soft Launch, Then Look for More Investment and Partnerships
Now that you’ve set up a presence and built up some anticipation, you can launch your masterpiece into the world.
This is when you can pull the trigger on all the marketing campaigns you’ve been working on. Keep working and building on them – just like everything else on the journey of how to start a clothing company online, you’ll need to keep experimenting and building as you go. And this is when you can turn your sights to growing on the business side by seeking out more investment dollars and partnerships with other companies.
Try pitching your clothing line to retailers who are already selling products to your target audience. Depending on the size of the company, you may need to reach out to multiple people before you can secure a meeting. Keep at it!
Should You Start a Clothing Business? Yep.
By now, you should have a solid idea of what it takes to learn how to start a clothing business online. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you won’t be a millionaire overnight. You’ll need to constantly try new things, keep track of your progress, and tweak what isn’t working.
Like I mentioned: it’s not a walk in the park, but when you have the passion and dedication to do it right, you’ll find that the rewards can be amazing.
You’ll never know if you don’t try, right?