How to Start a Clothing Line: The 5-Step Guide
Congratulations! You’ve decided to take the leap and become a fashion designer. After years of envisioning your clothing designs being worn by others, launching your own clothing line feels like a dream come to life.
Turning your ideas into reality — and getting paid to do it — can be exhilarating and rewarding. But in order to start a successful clothing line, you must have the right combination of business know-how and artistic creativity to produce fashions that people will love. To help you achieve your dream, use this step-by-step guide to learn how to start a clothing line.
Step 1. Define Your Demographic
The U.S fashion industry is valued at $368 billion and growing. This is a huge market and provides a great opportunity to introduce a startup clothing brand. Knowing how to start a clothing line first requires that you identify a niche and show that there’s a need for your garments.
The three key components to launching a successful clothing brand are:
- Bringing something unique to the market
- Awareness of what your specific audience wants or needs
- Building and maintaining a base of loyal customers
By providing unique new products that fulfill a need, the audience you’re marketing your clothes to — aka your target market — will appreciate your approach and are more likely to become loyal customers.
Finding Your Niche
When launching a clothing line for the first time, finding and catering to a specific niche is vital. If you try to appeal to the entire fashion market, you’re competing against well-established companies with much more exposure and brand recognition. Rather than putting yourself at a disadvantage from the start, build your designs and brand identity around a niche market that you can stay true to.
Lululemon is an example of how having a specific niche can pay off enormously. The brand initially focused on a seemingly narrow market: yoga wear for women. Today, Lululemon apparel sales pull in about $4.4 billion a year.
Choosing a niche allows you to create personalized fashion that caters to the needs of your target audience. Capture the imagination of your audience by crafting a brand story that resonates with them.
To help discover your niche, you’ll want to strike a balance amongst these main driving factors:
Your unique perspective
Doing market research can help pin down your clothing company‘s place within the fashion industry. Research larger social or industry trends that align with the unique perspective of your fashion brand. It’s an advantage if your approach to fashion is hitting a current trend. For example, perhaps you prioritize eco-friendly, natural fabrics for your women’s casual wear line.
Current social and industry trends
Finding fashion journals and blogs along with relevant industry research can give you a better understanding of popular trends. Celebrities and influencers are trendsetters you can look to for discovering the latest styles that’ll be popular with your target market.
A unique solution
Once you’ve gathered your research, you can create clothing items that are unique, timely, and target your ideal niche.
Step 2. Craft Your Brand
Once you’ve defined your demographic, it’s time to craft your brand. Crafting your brand identity upfront provides you with the opportunity to better communicate your message and story within your niche.
To craft your own brand you need to ask yourself: What kind of brand would speak best to my target market?
Your brand pillars are the foundations that will guide every aspect of your business model and decision making:
- Mission: Your brand mission is the essence of your goals and the philosophy underlying them.
- Values: Your values form your brand culture — they are the set of guiding principles that drive your entire business plan.
- Purpose: The driving force behind the creation of your brand and clothing line.
- Vision: Ideals that are essential to preserving the future you’re heading towards.
Your brand pillars act as a simple tool for ensuring your brand’s consistency throughout all the decisions you make for your small business.
Nike is one of the most recognized brand names in the clothing industry. The company is a master of brand recognition — a simple swoosh on a T-shirt or hoodie instantly identifies its products. Nike’s success is largely attributed to its brand pillars, which play a fundamental role in every aspect of business:
- Mission: “To bring inspiration to every athlete in the world.”
- Values: Community. Sustainability. Diversity. Social Responsibility.”
- Purpose: “Move the world forward through the power of sport – breaking barriers and building community to change the game for all.”
- Vision: “Building a creative and diverse global team and making a positive impact in communities where we live and work.”
Creating a Brand Aesthetic
Brand visuals are what most people immediately associate with a company. Your brand visuals are an integral part of how to start a clothing line and will include your logo, brand fonts, and colors along with your overall design and photography aesthetics.
Creating a mood board is the best way to start pulling together the visual style of your new business. Any images, designs, photos, colors, or other multimedia snippets that inspire your brand ideas will be in one convenient template for your reference.
The next step in the branding process is to narrow down a color palette to use. Selecting a color palette early on will keep your brand looking consistent through all sales channels. Pay attention to the dominant colors throughout your mood board as they will stay with you throughout the design process.
Finally, craft a logo for your clothing business. You’ll want it to represent your brand and speak to your target demographic. Though you’ll need to pay extra to trademark it, there are plenty of cost-effective options like Looka for creating a custom logo.
Step 3. Find Your Clothing Manufacturer
When it comes to the development and production of your clothing line, you’ll want to choose a clothing manufacturer carefully. There are a lot of factors to take into consideration, one of the most important being whether the manufacturing process will take place in the U.S. or abroad.
Where it was once much more financially viable for clothing stores and designers to manufacture abroad, recent industry trends have given rise to domestic factories. These cater to an affordable price point and specialize in small batch production services.
Made in the USA
Producing clothing made in the USA has become more popular with retailers and consumers looking to support domestic trade. It also gives you the opportunity to visit the factory and have greater quality control within your own business.
Working with a full-service in-house small batch production factory like TEG will ensure that you’re involved with every step of the process so that your exact specifications are met. When you produce a clothing line with TEG, your customers can rest assured that the items they’ve purchased are thoughtfully and ethically made in the USA.
Step 4. Development and Production
The development and production process is the heartbeat of your clothing line business. Your designs, quality, finances, and time will all be invested into turning your fashion business ideas to reality.
The development process is where your designs come to life. TEG offers the following services to our private label brands:
- Tour of the facilities
- Personalized contractors and delivery timetables
- Variety of fabrics and sourcing options
- Technical reviews with patternmakers
- Fittings and adjustments
- First samples and pattern duplicates
- Pricing based on order quantities
TEG Exclusive Services
TEG’s production process brings your entire clothing line to life by:
- Sourcing 60-70% of garment production costs towards fabric
- Supplying tech packs and spec sheets
- Grading and marking patterns with minimal fabric waste
- Providing specialists to cut your designs into shape
- Approving top of line samples through every round of production
- Preparing designs for mass production
- Delivering your new clothing line straight to you
Take a look at this handy infographic for you to share and use as a reference on how to start a clothing line:
Step 5. Market Your New Clothing Line
Now that you’ve learned how to start a clothing line, it’s time to produce the first run of your new clothing collection and start promoting it. There are a lot of components to a successful marketing plan, so let’s review some of the key tactics you can deploy.
Unless you have a substantial marketing budget, online marketing is the most effective and financially viable option to promote and sell your line.
Fashion e-commerce is projected to reach $153.6 billion in sales by 2024. With so many people buying from online businesses, it can be a real advantage to promote your new clothing brand online to reach your target audience.
Start with building a website that:
- Showcases clear images of your collection
- Displays your contact information
- Brings your brand to life
- Tells your story
It’s important to use high-quality images as potential customers, partners, or even funders will base their first impressions on these photos.
This is also a great opportunity to highlight your slogan, which will enhance your brand story and differentiate you within your niche.
For example, if you’re designing a line for solo female travelers, pick an empowering slogan to match your niche such as, “Travel With Attitude” or “Goin’ Solo.”
You need to constantly tell your story. Using social media is a great way to promote your brand and get people vested in it. Use every tweet, like, post, and social media interaction to share your brand and story.
Launching your line with a giveaway is a great opportunity to generate greater exposure. When done correctly, giveaways can be a crucial part of getting your name out there. Research social media contest ideas and then promote them on your website and social media channels.
Perfecting the Production of Your New Fashion Line
Finding a reliable and skilled manufacturing facility is a must for your new clothing line as it will lead to a better final product.
You want the value and visualization of your garments to be matched throughout development and production. As it turns out, TEG has helped countless business owners and individuals learn how to start a clothing line—and we’ll do the same for you.
TEG specializes in developing and producing clothing for independent fashion designers. Our in-house team of experts work with you through every step of the development and production process to ensure your end product matches your high standards.