Many people want to start a clothing line or clothing brand. After all, how difficult could it be?
The truth is that clothing brands become successful in part because they’re created by people who are passionate about clothing.
But, a clothing brand needs more than just an exquisite apparel design to create a lasting business. It needs all the trappings of a successful business as well. Apparel retailers need to master marketing, manufacturing, and retailing, among other things.
Shira Sue Carmi, the founder of Launch Collective, reminds us that the business of launching a clothing brand is as important as the artistry:
Fashion is amazing in the way it balances art and commerce, but it’s a business. Don’t start a business because you want to design. Start a business because you want to start a business.
So, are you a fashion designer or an apparel entrepreneur? If you are ready to start a business (whether part-time or full-time) and wondering how to start your own successful clothing line, let’s get down to it.
This is your definitive guide on how to start a clothing line, including design, sampling, production, packaging, building a web presence, finding partners or investors, and much more.
As we’ve previously discussed,
…your brand is your company’s public identity. Ideally, your brand should embody the best (and most essential) attributes of your company.
When you start your own clothing brand, you cannot understate the importance of your brand identity – especially in the world of fashion.
Clothing is very personal because our clothing choices are one way to define our identity – to both ourselves and the world.
As a result, the brands we choose to wear and the labels we display on our clothes become an extension of who we are and how we see ourselves.
In particular, the millennial generation has been shown to desire an authentic connection with their clothing brands. Fabrizio Moreira writes:
They want a brand “experience,” they want authenticity. It follows, then, that having a message that resonates with these consumers, and staying authentic to that message, is one of the few ways to break into the cutthroat fashion industry as a small brand…
So, before you sketch your first rendering and get ready to start your clothing company, ask yourself these important questions:
- Is my biggest challenge figuring out how to start a clothing line, or is my biggest challenge finding an innovative clothing line to launch and design the clothing items?
- What identity do I want my clothing brand or clothing line to project?
- Who will want to wear my clothes? What is my target demographic?
- How saturated is the target market for your clothes?
- What can customers get from my clothing brand or clothing line that they can’t get anywhere else?
- What makes my clothing line unique? Is it high-end?
- Is there a price point that hits a pricing sweet spot in my target market?
- What is the most important part of my customer’s experience?
Your answers to these questions (and others like them) will build the core of your brand and will guide your brand strategy. All of your future branding decisions should expand on these ideas. Your business name, your company logo, your website design should all grow from the concepts you laid out here.
ing a clear brand identity that resonates with their target customers, staying authentic to that identity, and knowing how to communicate it to the desired audience.
So, take the time to think – really think – about your brand from the start. Fashion is an exciting, fast-moving industry. You might have many business ideas for a clothing line, but you need to focus on one.
You can learn more about the nuts and bolts of establishing and maintaining a consistent brand identity in Grow Your Small Business with Consistent Branding.
There’s a lot to think about when starting a clothing company.
The first step in figuring out how to start a clothing line is to choose the business structure for your new apparel business (assuming you don’t already have an existing clothing brand). Sole proprietorship or LLC? Incorporate or register a partnership?
When starting a clothing line or new clothing brand, you should consider hiring an experienced business attorney to help you. But here are the basics.
We discussed these options previously in our article 15 Tips for Turning Your Craft Hobby Into a Successful Business:
A sole proprietorship is the “most basic type of business to establish” according to the SBA (Small Business Administration). You are the sole owner of the business; and, as such, are solely responsible for the assets and liabilities accrued by the business. This may be just the ticket for your brand new, baby crafting business as it is also the easiest to set up.
If you’re interested in a little more protection, an LLC (or Limited Liability Company) may be a better fit. The LLC business structure provides the limited liability features you would find in a corporation. The Small Business Administration has all of the details about these common small business structures and others.
To learn more about corporations, partnerships and other legal mistakes people commonly make when setting up a small business, take a look at our post and video: 10 Legal Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Small Business And How To Avoid Them.
After you determine your business’s legal structure, you’ll need to file the necessary paperwork.
The U.S. Small Business Administration tells us that some form of license or permit is necessary for virtually every new business type. Their website has all of the info you need to find out what sort of license or permit you’ll need to start a business in your state.
Remember that most states require you to register your new business if the trade name under which you operate your business differs from the legal business name.
For example, if your registered company is an LLC and is named Three Brothers, LLC, you cannot operate that business lawfully in most states if you’re selling products under the trade name Three Tigers. That’s because the registered name, and your trade name, are different.
Fortunately, this is not a difficult problem to overcome. You can simply register your actual trade name with your state (and or local government) by filing a “doing business as” (DBA) certificate. DBAs are also commonly called “assumed name,” “fictitious business name,” or “trade name.” Here’s a terrific resource that explains what a DBA is, the DBA state requirements, and how to file a DBA for your business in all 50 states and U.S. territories. And if you need to find a business name or DBA for your clothing business, take a look at this clothing business name generator.
Legal details squared away? Then it’s time to think about the Hula Global specifics of your business. Entrepreneur contributor Toby Nwazor advocates for creating a business plan: