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Beginner's handbook

How to Design Your Own Sportswear Without Breaking a Sweat

How to Design Your Own Sportswear Without Breaking a Sweat
Liva Spandega

By Liva Spandega

9 min read

If you’re thinking of entering the custom sportswear race, you couldn’t have picked a better time. The enormous popularity of athleisure and fitness clothing has helped the global sportswear market reach nearly $400 billion in 2023, and it’s predicted to go over the $500 billion mark by 2027.

Despite these reassuring numbers, starting a fitness clothing line from scratch can be quite daunting, so we’re here to get you over the finish line. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how to design your own sportswear step by step.

Now that we’ve warmed up, let’s get started.

How to design your own sportswear in 5 steps

Step 1: Determine your target audience

Like with any challenge, careful planning of what you’ll do is always the first step. It’s no different if you want to create your own sportswear brand. Before you start creating designs, researching trending products, or setting up your store, you need to figure out who the buyers of your custom sportswear will be. During the planning process, this question is more important than any other. You could have the most original design idea in the world, but if there’s no one out there willing to purchase your products, you’re not going to achieve the results you’re hoping for.

Picture who you are as a brand and who your ideal customers are. Are you planning to sell apparel for a specific sports discipline or create athleisure clothing for everyone? How much do you think your customers are ready to spend on sportswear? What kind of designs would appeal to them the most? Are they buying for themselves or someone else (their kids, for example)?

Take a look at the sportswear brand Pas Normal Studios, which has an immediately apparent audience in mind. The brand focuses on cyclists, offering tees, jackets, socks, helmets, and other items that appeal to this niche.

Source: Pas Normal Studios

Source: Pas Normal Studios

Map out as many aspects of your business as possible before you start working with actual products. The more prepared you are at the beginning, the easier it will be to make decisions down the line. Whenever you’re unsure about a specific style, design idea, fabric choice, or anything else, go back to your ideal customer and ask yourself, “What would they like?”

You can also refine these details after you’ve already started selling and get practical insights into what your customers like (because our ideas don’t always perfectly align with people’s actual behavior).

With the prep work done, you can move on to the next step.

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Step 2: Choose a production partner

Let’s be real here for a second—you’re probably not going to be manufacturing the clothing from scratch yourself. That means you’ll need a reliable and professional production partner.

There are several ways to go about this. You can choose a manufacturer to produce the items in bulk or go the print-on-demand (POD) route, where a product is made only when a customer orders it. When you’re just starting, the second option is the perfect choice because it reduces the many risks you face if you order inventory in bulk.

One of the biggest benefits of POD is that you don’t need a huge upfront investment to get started since products are made only when someone orders them. This also means that you can freely experiment with different products and designs without worrying you’ll end up with unsold items that don’t turn out to be as popular as you’d hoped. 

You get more time to focus on your online store, marketing, customer care, and other aspects of your business. Meanwhile, the manufacturing partner takes care of fulfilling and shipping your orders. You can also rest easy knowing that no matter the order volume, your production partner will handle it. For example, if your sportswear line includes swimsuits, the demand will increase as summer approaches. Your manufacturer will be ready to fulfill all the incoming orders without any extra prep on your side.

Of course, POD has its risks. The profit margins will be lower than for bulk production. Since you don’t handle orders and each product yourself, you need a reputable partner with a rigorous quality control process—your brand’s reputation will depend on it. And, while the possibilities of creating different products are vast, you’ll be at the mercy of your supplier’s choices when it comes to new products and discontinuations. 

So take your time and pick your manufacturer carefully. The best way to test the reliability and quality of their services is to order a sample. You’ll see how well they manage your order, and you’ll get a proper look at the products, including their styles, fabrics, etc. Once you’re sure of their performance and ready to entrust your brand’s reputation to them, you can begin the collaboration.

And this is when the fun part begins.

Step 3: Pick your products

Once you’ve settled on your production partner, you can start to choose the products you’ll sell on your online store. Look at their sportswear collection and pick what best fits your sportswear brand. Keep in mind the vision of your ideal customer that you built during the first step of this process. When deciding which products to include, consider global industry trends, the cost of each item, how it will showcase your designs, and any other aspect that is important to you.

Here are some product categories you should consider for your sportswear store.

T-shirts, hoodies, and sweatshirts

These are wardrobe staples for almost all of us—not just for sports activities but everyday casualwear, too. With the athleisure trend still going strong, people often turn to sportswear brands to get comfy items for work, running errands, or hanging out with friends.

Custom t-shirts are a great starting place for your store. They offer many customization options, and as a garment, the good old tee has never gone out of style. Plus, t-shirts are relatively easy to design, and you can quickly expand your collection to custom hoodies or sweatshirts using the same designs. 

Leggings, joggers, and shorts

Like t-shirts, leggings are also a staple of many sportswear brands. Just look at Lululemon, which built an entire sportswear empire around yoga pants. Tees, leggings, and joggers are no longer just for the gym. As part of the athleisure trend, leggings are often worn when you know you’ll be running around all day and want to feel comfy.

Learn more: How to Design Leggings: 7 Simple Steps


Whether we’re talking beanies for jogging in colder weather or baseball hats for . . . well, baseball or any other sports activity, an embroidered or printed hat can be both functional and stylish. Hats are particularly nice for showcasing logos, names, initials, and other simple but eye-catching designs. 


When creating your sportswear brand, don’t overlook the appeal of accessories like headbands, scrunchies, bags, yoga mats, etc. An all-over print duffle bag could be the perfect addition to your sportswear store if your main target audience is gym-goers, for example.


You can either create an entire store based around swimwear or incorporate these products into your brand alongside other types of apparel. And you can think beyond just swimsuits or swim trunks—add rash guards, towels, and other items that appeal to swimmers.

No matter which products you choose, it’s always a great idea to test the quality of the prints and the products by ordering samples. When you get your sample order, you’ll be able to see how each detail of your design looks on the product in real life, if the quality is up to your standards, how quick the shipping time is, and any other details your customers would be interested in.

Step 4: Design your sportswear

Now that you have your manufacturer and items, it’s time to create the final products you’ll offer your customers. When creating your custom sportswear brand, research your competitors to see what they offer and what kind of inspiration you can take from that. We’re not talking about copying anyone else, of course. However, researching current apparel trends is a vital part of ensuring your sportswear brand is competitive and appealing to customers.

For example, one of the biggest design trends of 2024 in the sportswear world is neon. You’ll see bright and bold colors and fabrics everywhere.

When looking at other sportswear brands, you’ll also see a lot of abstract patterns, especially on items like leggings, sports bras, etc.

At the end of the day, the final decisions depend on your brand’s aesthetic and what your customers prefer. Just because something is popular among one audience doesn’t mean it would deliver a lot of sales for your niche. But it’s never a bad idea to know the current trends in your industry.

Step 5: Show your products to the world

Once you’ve created your sportswear designs and products, it’s time to share your ideas with your customers. You’ll need to set up an online store or join an online marketplace. Launching an online store will take some time since there are several components to take care of. You need to add product descriptions, determine how much your products will cost, create shipping options, and consider many other important aspects. 

During the setup process, you must test your platform before the big launch. This way, you’ll eliminate any unpleasant surprises for your customers when they visit your sportswear store and start shopping.

Read more: Ecommerce Store Launch Checklist: Start Selling With Confidence

When the setup is done and your online store is up and running, it’s time to spread the word about your sportswear apparel. These days, the first step in marketing is creating your online presence on social media. Think about the online spaces where your customers come together. Which social media platforms do they prefer? What kind of content do they consume?

If your audience skews younger, the place to be for you will be TikTok, for example. Instagram is one of the best places to showcase your beautiful custom sportswear via high-quality pictures. No matter which platforms you choose, always maintain a unified message consistent with your brand, vision, and values. Don’t forget to create a memorable and elegant logo for your brand—this is something that customers might be able to recognize you by immediately in the future (just think of Nike’s iconic swoosh logo).

Where to sell your own sportswear?

The decision to create your own online store with a website or join a marketplace might not be easy. There are pros and cons to each option, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer that we can give you.

Having your own website can help you establish your brand more quickly. You’ll have full creative control over all aspects of your sportswear brand, and you’ll get a lot more store customization options than in a marketplace. However, it can be quite time-consuming to manage a website on top of all the other things that are your responsibility when you have your own online store.

A marketplace, on the other hand, will take some parts of website management off your hands. You’ll also benefit from immediate access to a large audience through your marketplace’s customers. Your business can get exposure, reaching audiences you wouldn’t have reached yourself. However, you’ll be giving up part of your brand identity, and there can be additional platform fees to take into account.

So weigh the pros and cons, decide what’s best for your brand, and don’t be afraid to change things up if you see something is not working as you hoped.

Read more: 

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Ready, set, go—launch your sportswear brand!

With all these steps done and all the hard decisions made, it’s time to launch your brand and introduce it to the world. Maintaining a sportswear store will be an ongoing process. You must constantly be on top of things like customer care, marketing, design, new product launches, etc.

It’s a bit like going to the gym. The first day is hard and confusing, but as you keep working, you settle into a rhythm and eventually see results. Approach your sportswear brand the same as a fitness goal—as a gradual process. 

So here’s your cue to take that first step to success!


By Liva Spandega on Jun 27, 2024

Liva Spandega

Content Writer

Liva is a Content Writer at Printful. She enjoys making lists about everything and anything, starting with ecommerce tips and marketing advice and ending with the cuddliest cats and best movies.

Liva is a Content Writer at Printful. She enjoys making lists about everything and anything, starting with ecommerce tips and marketing advice and ending with the cuddliest cats and best movies.