Ready to be the next Coco Chanel or Ralph Lauren? Even if you don’t become a global household name, starting a clothing business can have big benefits for an aspiring entrepreneur.
This is especially true if you’re looking to sell online. According to Statista, fashion ecommerce makes up a solid 23% of all US online retail sales. That means almost one in four items anyone buys online is clothing related!
If you’ve been considering starting a clothing business, now is the time to get your hands dirty with research and action.
In this article, we’ll look at all the steps you need to take to get started. From choosing your store type and business model to launching your marketing plan, we’ve got you covered.
How to start a clothing line in 6 steps
1. Choose a clothing product to sell
In the noisy world of fashion, consider selling products that fill gaps in the industry. You might offer a whole collection based on a specific niche, like genderless clothing, or launch with one special clothing product, like a funnel turtleneck. To get more product ideas, devour fashion publications, follow style influencers, and listen to fashion podcasts so you can catch trends before they emerge.
2. Choose a business model
There are numerous business models you can use to launch your clothing business, each with its own pros and cons to consider. The right choice is often the one capable of balancing profitability with simplicity. Options include:
Making your own clothes
If you have sewing skills and production expertise, you can create your apparel by hand. This requires access to a sewing machine, which you can either buy or rent. As your business grows, you may decide to hire additional designers to help you scale up faster. Browse Shopify Experts to find creative and inspiring professionals who can bring your vision to life, no matter your firm’s size.
Working with manufacturers
Do you want control over your product’s design but don’t have the time or skills to make items yourself? Consider working directly with manufacturers to bring your unique creations to life. The right manufacturer will help you scale your production rapidly. If you have growth goals for the year, be sure to communicate them with producers so they have an idea of your inventory requirements. Without a manufacturer, it can be difficult or even impossible to keep up with increasing demand if you make apparel by hand.
Print on demand
Print on demand (POD) is a rapidly growing concept in the clothing industry. It’s when you outsource the production and order fulfillment to a third-party service. You make a custom design and your print-on-demand partner puts that design onto your product and ships it out to your customer each time an order is placed.
While POD typically has smaller profit margins than other clothing business models, it removes the need to buy or store inventory. Your manufacturer simply creates items whenever customers buy from your shop, making it a low-risk way to conduct business. Below are some additional resources to help you take the print-on-demand route for your apparel startup:
Dropshipping is another low-risk business model. Essentially, you add and promote clothing on your website, but a third-party supplier holds the stock and fulfills orders on your behalf. While it doesn’t offer the option of adding your own designs to the products, dropshipping gives you a selection of pre-designed clothing you can add to your store. Learn more about dropshipping with these resources:
3. Write a business plan
Starting a clothing business comes with plenty of considerations. You’ll need to determine how much to keep aside for launching your store, whether to pursue additional capital for your venture, and if outside help is needed to navigate the production, distribution, and legal aspects of the business. Creating a business plan will give you a roadmap for how to approach these things and launch successfully.
4. Build your online store
You’ve got a business plan, now it’s time to put that plan into action!
Translation: Create the online store you’ll use to interact with clients and sell products. There are various platforms out there to help with this process, including Shopify, which allows entrepreneurs to sell all kinds of clothing products with ease.
To set up your online store, create an account with Shopify and choose the plan best suited to your needs. Then:
- Choose a theme. A theme is the aesthetic or design for your online store. We recommend choosing a theme designed for fashion brands, like Spark or Broadcast, or a free theme like Boundless.
- Take beautiful apparel photos. The visuals on your website will serve as the North Star of your clothing brand, so make sure you invest in professional photoshoots. If you don’t have a large enough budget, your smartphone and some tricks of the trade can help you capture professional-looking DIY photographs. Be sure to capture key details: trims, closures, and fabric texture.
- Create product pages. Fill your product pages with images and descriptions of your pieces. With clothing, it’s crucial to mention details about the length, size, and fit. You can also include care instructions, so customers know how to prolong the life of their investment.
- Streamline processes. The Shopify App Store has a wealth of apps designed to specifically help fashion brands. For instance, Ombré gives customers styling advice based on a product, while Kiwi Size increases sales with a fit recommender that matches product size with the customer’s body size.
Remember to enhance your online presence by connecting your digital store with social media pages like Instagram and Facebook. You can integrate your social selling accounts directly with Shopify and even list certain items on marketplaces like Etsy.
5. Choose your marketing channels
Once you have your store set up, consider how you’re going to market your product line. Investing in content marketing through your website is a great way to improve your presence on search engines. You can also consider experimenting with influencer marketing by sending relevant people samples of your clothing to showcase online.
As your business grows, you can begin to invest more in promotional opportunities, exploring the benefits of paid ads, press releases, and even collaborations with other reputable clothing brands.
6. Sell via retail outlets
If you want to increase and diversify your customer base, consider opening your own brick-and-mortar boutique. This doesn’t mean you’ll be signing a 10-year lease on a retail space, but rather selling in a number of affordable and non-committal ways like:
- Subleasing a portion of a boutique to host a temporary pop-up shop
- Offering a mini pop-up experience on a shelf or in a section of a store aisle
- Applying for booth space at fashion, craft, and designer markets
- Selling at vendor booths at events like garment trade fairs
Time to make some moves and sell some clothes
Now that you know all the basics for starting your own clothing business, the next steps are in your hands.
Make sure you’re thorough in your research as you go through the steps of the process.
If possible, try to get in touch with people who have had success with their own clothing business, whether they’re friends, colleagues, or people you meet through networking, social media, or online communities.
And who knows—you might just be the next Coco Chanel or Ralph Lauren after all.