If you’ve ever struggled to find clothing that matches up with the idea of how you want to look, then maybe you’ve considered making such clothing yourself! And who knows? There might be other people out there who also want what you have in mind–maybe you can sell clothing to them. It seems fun, and it is, but it’s also hard work! Here’s an outline of the process. Put who you are into your designs.
1. Write a business plan. Use this as an outline, you can deviate from it a little, but keep this as your map. The important thing is to be as specific and as realistic as possible!
- Funding – How much money will you need in order to launch your clothing line? Consider an SBA loan. Do you have money saved up for this, or will you need bank loan? To get a loan, you might need to have collateral. Read through the rest of this article, then make a list of all of your anticipated costs (materials, manufacturing, supplies, equipment, advertisement, marketing, etc.).
- Research – Who is your competition? Your target market? Get a retail job at a store that caters to your target market. See what they are buying. How much do you think you can sell your designs for at the retail and wholesale level? Ask around. Get feedback. Talk to store owners and potential customers alike. Find examples of clothing that is similar to what you’re going to design – where and for how much do they sell?
- Profitability – Do you want to do this full-time? How many years are you willing to wait before this company starts turning a profit, and then giving you a salary? Or do you want it to be a side thing, that if it makes you money, it’s a bonus, but you value your expression more than profitability? You’ll probably spend more money than you earn for the first four seasons (1 year) but once you’re established, you might be able to expand with funding from Angel Investors, celebrities, and pre-orders with store accounts.
- Legalities – Decide on your business structure (LLC? partnership? corporation?). In the US, you’ll need a tax ID number, a business license, and you’ll also want to fill out a DBA (doing business as) form at your local bank so that you can accept checks written out to your company’s name.
- Your brand name and company name can (and should) be different. Your company name, for example, can be your initials or a variation of your own name, while the name of the collection (the clothing line) can be something more creative and representative of the style you’re going for.
- Ask whoever is producing your line whether there are any restrictions, such as if they can’t print certain colors. If you are designing a t-shirt line, get the following information from the t-shirt printer: size specifications (specs) of the design (how big it can be), the type of shirt you want to print on, and the weight/quality of the fabric (e.g. choose thinner, less expensive fabric for summer clothing lines).
- Detail is everything. When you do your sketches, create a layout that shows every detail clearly and uses the proper terminology–if you don’t know what the terminology is, find a photo and show it to the manufacturer and ask what they call it. “Learn the lingo” and be prepared to properly identify the fabric you wish to use by weight (yield), content, and construction.
- Collections are usually designed by season. Most departments stores buy at least two seasons in advance, while smaller stores buy 1-2 seasons ahead. You’ll need to time your design, production, and delivery accordingly.
- To find manufacturers, do an Internet search for “clothing manufacturers”. Many people use garment manufacturers overseas because the costs are lower. Shop around, and ask for turnaround times and how fast you can get samples sent to you (they should provide samples before your designs are finalized for production).
- If you know how to sew, you may be able to create the patterns and prototypes yourself. Consulting with someone who’s an expert at sewing apparel is also an option.
- Write a press release, send it to local newspapers and magazines.
- Purchase ads in papers and on websites that people in your target audience read.
- Sponsor events that cater to your target audience.
- Get a celebrity endorsement (or get the most popular person you know to wear your stuff–give it to them for free).
- Establish relationships with websites and blogs that can bring attention to your brand and site.
- Use yourself as a walking billboard. Wear your own fashions and ask people’s opinions and record them; this will also aid you in designing a product people will like. Take every suggestion a person has to offer; it’s like having your own marketing and design team and it doesn’t cost you a thing. Starting out, money is going to be tight, so take advantage of every opportunity you can.