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Beginner's handbook

How to Start a Clothing Brand in 2022: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide

By on March 3rd, 2022 Reading Time: 16 minutes

Launching a successful business that stands the test of time is a challenge to get right. Where do you begin?

Every few decades the tech industry comes up with new business models to help people start their own stores.

But even with easier options like print-on-demand available, traditional business planning and brand identity development are still vital parts that influence your success.

When these two areas are carefully researched and planned, it becomes easier to make smart decisions that benefit you over time. It also provides a solid base on which to build strong and deep connections with your customers.

In this complete guide, you’ll learn all about deciding on a target market, making a simple business plan, building your brand identity, and creating your own clothing line.

Decide on a target market

Your target market is the group of people you want to sell your products to.

Knowing your target market is important because your customers form a core part of your business plan and branding. After all, understanding is the first step in building a good relationship with anybody. Knowing your audience helps you make smarter decisions when it comes to every detail in your business.

A great example of a business with a clear target market is Alba Paris. They promote a cruelty-free and vegan lifestyle, and their target market consists of people with similar values.

Alba Paris and their custom clothing
Alba Paris and their custom clothing. Source: Alba Paris

To stay true to their goals, they make the most of the eco-friendly benefits that print-on-demand provides. Their products have designs that raise awareness about the cruelty-free lifestyle and values that the vegan community promotes, which fosters a sense of belonging and understanding with their customers.

To figure out your target market, use the questions below to get an idea of the person you want wearing your clothing. You don’t have to answer every question in detail, and you can always adjust them later when you learn more about your customers.

When you’re done with these questions, think about what desires or problems your market has that your clothing brand can help with.

  • Location: Are they local, national, or international customers?
  • Demographics: How old are they? What’s their gender, job, or income bracket?
  • Psychographics: What are their values? What are their hobbies and lifestyle? What kind of personality do they have?
  • Market trends: What kind of trends do they follow? (You’ll learn more about trends later in this guide).
  • Buying habits: How much do they spend on clothes a year? Are they loyal to one brand or more? What kind of stores do you think they currently buy from?
  • Pain points: What kind of issues do your customers face? What problems currently affect them when it comes to clothing?

Make a simple business plan

Behind every successful fashion brand is a business plan.

Your business plan helps you form an overview of all the things you need to do to make your business come to life. It helps you understand what kinds of costs you should expect, and what obstacles you need to tackle. Overall, this forms the practical part of your clothing business and lets you see whether your ideas are realistic enough to carry out.

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

—BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

The sections below are helpful if you’re making a plan just for yourself. If you’re planning on requesting investments, you may need to go into more detail or use a different business plan structure.

1. Clothing business overview

Your overview helps you get your ideas out in one place without going into too much detail, and it also helps you understand your business at a glance.

You can include your mission or vision statement here too.

To create your overview, briefly answer the following questions:

  • What are the overall goals of your business?
  • Who is your target market?
  • What kind of products will you include in your clothing line?
  • What methods will you use to produce your clothing line?
  • Where do you want to sell your clothing line?
  • When do you want all of these things to happen?

You might not have all the answers yet, but as you go through the guide you’ll be able to define each of these in due time.

2. Products

Outline your clothing ideas and go over what benefits you think they’ll provide your customers.

You should answer:

  • What kind of clothing lines do you want to make?
  • What is your value proposition?
  • How will you produce each clothing item?

A value proposition is what benefits your products provide your customers.

To figure out what your value proposition is, think about why your customers would want to buy from you. This reason roots back to what problems or desires your business fulfills for them.

3. Competitive analysis

Competitive analysis helps you figure out where your fashion brand stands against competitors in the clothing industry. Here are a few steps to help you start.

  1. Make a list of your main 3-5 competitors
  2. Note down their products, pricing, and designs
  3. Break down their brand story and customer base
  4. Think about what they do and don’t do well
  5. Figure out if you can do something they can’t

Overall, you want to do this because it’ll help you figure out if there are any opportunities your business could take advantage of in the industry—and it helps you plan ahead and avoid any potential threats too.

4. Financial analysis and projections

A financial plan helps you figure out how much money you’ll need to start your business and what to charge for each product to make the profit you want. You can manage your finances yourself, but hiring an accountant is a good idea if this isn’t something you want to manage alone.

To figure out basic expenses, fill out a monthly breakdown with this information:

  • Expected recurring costs—ie. subscriptions or website maintenance fees, planned monthly marketing campaigns costs, etc.
  • Variable costs—ie. material expenses for producing products, shipping costs, etc.

To find out what kind of income you can expect to make for each sale, do the following:

  1. Figure out the total cost for producing each product, taking into account variables like shipping and tax obligations.
  2. Decide on how much you want to earn for each product. Combine the expenses for one product with the amount you have in mind.
  3. Check if this amount is justifiable with your competitor analysis, target market, and value proposition in mind.

5. Operations plan

Now that you know what your goals are, what kinds of products you want to make, and your basic expected costs, you need to outline what your business operations look like.

Decide on your fashion business model

The most common models are:

  • Do-it-yourself (ie. artisan)
  • Dropshipping (ie. print-on-demand)
  • Manufacturing in bulk

Do-it-yourself

This type of business model revolves around you handling the entire production process of your fashion business.

When you make products yourself, your production time is tied to your actual time available for sewing and cutting. If you ever want to expand, you’ll need to hire more people to grow your production.

Overall, this type of clothing business needs more time and investment upfront than other business types, but offers limitless creative possibilities for handmade clothing designs.

Dropshipping

Dropshipping is a newer type of model where you use an external company to manage your stock and shipments. It costs less money and time upfront than making things yourself, but comes with more competition because of the lower barriers to entry.

You can apply your designs to ready-made products directly using a print-on-demand provider like Printful. When you work with Printful, you’re only responsible for making your clothing designs, handling your online store, and advertising your products to customers. Printful does the order fulfillment and shipping.

With dropshipping, you have the opportunity to experiment with designs and product ideas much faster. If you work with a global print-on-demand provider, you’re also able to grow your business much quicker because they handle your order fulfillment internationally.


Start your clothing brand with Printful!


Manufacturing in bulk

Manufacturing relies heavily on mass-producing a clothing line and maintaining a stock that sells over time. This means a person must either invest in their own equipment or work with an existing clothing manufacturer to produce their own clothing line.

Working with a clothing manufacturer means having to make minimum quantity orders (MOQ) for every clothing line product, which demands more upfront investment and time to careful planning and organization.

Large fashion brands, such as clothing company H&M, use manufacturing to create each clothing line—and they also lease out warehouses to store their products while they wait for sales.

Clothing companies might save a lot of money per product by ordering in bulk from a clothing manufacturer, but they risk losing money because it’s hard to predict what sizes, designs, or products will sell. They also need to handle the cost and logistics behind storing and shipping their items.

Your business operations form a large part of your business. You should feel confident that you can manage and organize the business model you pick. In this case, print-on-demand offers an easier way for people to run their own businesses alone.

Create your brand identity

Your brand identity connects your business with your customers. It influences how they perceive your brand and sets you apart from your competitors.

Your brand also reflects the standard of quality that you promise your customers and acts as a reference for your own clothing line planning, online store design, and marketing. Having a good brand identity goes a long way to improving customer loyalty and trust.

Anybody can launch a business, but your brand helps you stand out and form long-lasting connections with customers—which helps you build a solid customer base. Once you have your business basics established, such as your target market, products, and business model, you’ll be in the right place to start putting together your brand.

Develop your brand statements

This is where your vision, mission, and positioning statements come in. Brand statements help you understand what your long-term goals are, what you currently aim to achieve, and what you want to provide to your customers.

Your statements represent the core of your brand, and you can mention these in relevant places such as your website’s About us page or social channels. If you choose to share these with customers, it’ll help them understand what’s special and unique about your business.

Creating a positioning statement

A positioning statement describes your target market, what you want to do for them, and why your product is different from your competitors. It speaks directly to the desires or pain points of your customers and answers why they should consider buying from you.

To start making your positioning statement, answer these questions with the information from your business plan:

  • What will you provide?
  • Who is your target market?
  • What is your value proposition?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • Why are you different?

Once you have your information, you can condense it to fit into a sentence similar to the one below. It’s okay if your statement isn’t exactly the same as this structure—what’s important is that you express your ideas clearly.

We’ll provide (products) with (value proposition) to (target market). Unlike (competitors), we’re different because (reason).

Your statement doesn’t have to be as short as this example either, but for internal use—such as for planning and strategizing new clothing line ideas—it’s more convenient to reference from if it’s straight to the point.

Positioning statement on a clipboard
Source: Olya Kobruseva

Decide on your mission and vision statement

Your mission and vision are important because they narrow down your goals and help you understand your long-term aspirations. Refer back to your business plan, and keep in mind your niche, personal goals, and positioning statement.

Your statements should be simple, less than 50 words each, and they should be memorable.

  • Mission: What are you here to do? What are your values?
  • Vision: What do you aspire to be once you achieve your goals?

Create your brand personality

Your brand personality covers the human characteristics of your business. It helps customers relate to your business and fosters trust and understanding with them. It also influences the tone of your voice and design.

For example, if you’re creating a serious and conservative business, then you probably wouldn’t use emojis or neon colors in your content.

To come up with your brand personality, write down the human traits and colors you want your brand to represent.

Take a look at other brands similar to what you’d like your brand to feel like. Put this together and check if your idea is something that would appeal to your target market.

Write out your brand story

People relate to stories, and it’s human nature to want to understand and empathize with others. Your brand story ties together your positioning, vision, and mission statement in a way that is meaningful and memorable for your customers.

You build trust with your audience by sharing your brand story with them, and as a new business, it’ll take time to convince people to buy from you. Telling customers who you are and what your business is about, helps you build that trust and connection.

When you’ve written everything out, you can create your About us page and use this space to tell your story and show why you’re different. Make sure your language, whether that’s formal or casual, matches your brand identity.

Burt's Bees hand salve and flowers
Burt’s Bees Hand Salve! Source: Emily Gillingham

Burt’s Bees uses storytelling to convey their brand’s message to customers in a powerful way.

Founded in the 1980s by Burt Shavitz and Roxanne Quimby, two people who valued nature and the environment, they hit it off during a hike and came up with the idea to use bee’s wax to make natural products for people with similar ethics. People loved the idea, and 40 years later their business is still going strong.

As they’ve grown their business, they’ve stayed true to their unique brand and worked to raise awareness for the planet, shaping their entire business plan as they grew around their environmentally-friendly branding goals and vision.

Decide on your brand name

Your brand name represents your business and gives customers an idea of what your brand is about. To figure out your brand name, grab a notebook and get ready to think.

Learn more: How to Come Up With a Brand Name

Write down everything that relates to your brand: whether those are adjectives, verbs, or abstract ideas. With the information you’ve compiled, make a few brand names that you like. You can use a name generator. Find out what current customers, friends, or family think about these brand names and pick the one you think is best.

Don’t forget to check that your desired brand name isn’t already in use by an existing business, and find out if the domain name is available. Go to any domain registration site, like Godaddy, to check.

Design your brand identity

Your brand design affects the way your customers experience engaging with your business, and it helps convey your values and personality. When you have a cohesive design, your brand is more recognizable and memorable to customers.

Doing this well helps strengthen the connection between your customers and your business too. You want your brand visuals to align with your brand personality.

Decide on your brand color scheme

A brand color scheme should match your brand identity and what appeals to your customers. You need at least 3 colors to make a color scheme.

Ideally, your first two colors should complement each other. You use these for general text, background designs, and other repetitive content that your customers view.

Your last color is your accent color. This should contrast with the rest of your color scheme so that it stands out, but it should still complement them. You use this to emphasize website buttons, links, titles, or other things that you want customers to notice.

Printful's website showing their brand colors
Printful’s website showing brand colors in use. Source: Printful

Use a color chart to figure out your combinations, or an online color scheme generator.

Use HEX codes to save your color scheme. This allows you to insert your color codes into your website and reuse your colors in design software.

Choose your brand typeface

A typeface is a set of characters, such as words, using a specific design. A brand’s typeface is important for a number of reasons:

  1. It conveys your brand personality to customers
  2. It affects how readable customers find your text
  3. It can affect your website or store loading speed

When you have a good typographic hierarchy, it’s easier for readers to understand the structure of your written content.

  • Your first typeface should be noticeable—if you want it to be the same as your paragraph typeface, then it should be larger in size and/or bold. You use this for titles, headers, or other text you want customers to pay attention to.
  • Your second typeface should be easy to read—if you’re using more than one typeface, then this must compliment your first typeface. You use this for paragraphs or longer bodies of text.
Typography Options
Examples of different font combinations. Source: Printful

If you decide to use a custom-made typeface on your website, then make sure that it loads properly on different types of browsers. Also, check that the font you chose isn’t hurting your store loading speed. If your site has different languages, then you’ll need to check that it works for each language your site offers.

A logo helps customers recognize your business because it uses the color scheme and typeface of your brand visuals. If you need some help, Printful offers a free Logo Maker.

Usually, a logo is broken down into two things:

  1. A symbol: Something that represents your brand
  2. Text: A typographic design based on your brand name
Printul's logo broken down
A break-down of the Printful logo. Source: Printful

Conceptualize your clothing brand

Now that you have a better idea about how you want to represent your fashion brand, you need to put your visuals, design information, and everything else that relates to your brand together in one place. This is your brand book. Once you’re done, you’ll have a guide that you can always refer back to.

Your brand book helps you by becoming a reference point for future clothing line designs and marketing efforts. You can use free resources like Canva to make a small booklet or catalog of your designs and branding together in one place. Remember, it doesn’t have to be super professional when you first make it.

Below are examples of what you can make. You can include more information about your brand personality, voice, and tone.

Apply your branding to your store

Once you have your brand book, you can start applying your brand colors, typeface, and logo to your store. The most important thing to remember is to make your branding consistent across not just your website, but on every channel you use, like social media accounts, ads, and emails.

Consistency creates a smooth customer experience, solidifies your brand, and adds credibility to your store.

Create your own clothing line

Now that you’ve decided on your own fashion brand, your clothing design ideas, and your business plan, you’re ready to start learning how to create your clothing line.

Understanding the clothing production process

You might already know what this part contains depending on the type of clothing business you want to run.

However, every clothing brand requires the following general steps. We recommend that you start off creating only one clothing line at first so you can focus on learning how to do everything properly.

1. Creating your designs and mockups

To come up with clothing line design ideas, learn about fashion trends through magazines, TikTok, or fashion shows. Pay attention to the designs your customers might like and compare these ideas with the value proposition you want to offer them.

Fashion designer working on a sketch
A fashion designer working on her own clothing brand products. Source: Ray Piedra

Put your clothing line ideas in one place and design them to suit the clothing items they’ll be on. You can use software like Adobe illustrator or try Printful’s Design Maker (it’s free!) to create mockups of your designs on clothing items.

The quality of your design is one of the most important factors behind how well your clothing looks in real life. We recommend reading this article to learn more about how to prepare the perfect print file.

2. Ordering and testing samples

If you’re using a print-on-demand service like Printful—or working with a clothing manufacturer—you need to see what your product designs look like in real life before you start selling the goods to customers.

Ordering samples usually costs a small amount of money upfront, but seeing them in real life saves you more time and funds down the road in case you want to make edits in the design or product descriptions. You can also use your samples for photoshoots to share on social media.

Start selling your clothing line

There are a couple of things to keep in mind as you add products to your store and plan out your social media strategy.

Add products to your store

You can build your store using an ecommerce platform or a marketplace. No matter which platform you use, they all come with their own guides and videos to help you start.

Overall, there are three things you need to cover in order to make it possible for users to buy from you:

Add photos and videos of your products

Customers want to be able to see what they’re buying before they put money down, so make product listings with good quality photographs or videos that show off your clothing line online.

A fashion designer preparing a model for a shoot
A fashion designer preparing a model for a shoot. Source: Ron Lach

If you’re working with Printful, we offer photography and videography services. You’ll receive professional photos and videos of your products on models to use on your website.

If you’re arranging the shoot yourself, you need to make sure you get good photos, videos, and write detailed descriptions of your clothing line so customers understand what they’re buying. They can’t see your clothing line in real life, so they’ll rely on your media to understand if your product is right for them.

Make sure to also include information about the sizes, materials, cuts, and anything else that your customers should know about before they buy from your online store.

Decide your marketing and sales channels

Getting your first sale is hard and growing your customer base after that is also a challenge. A marketing and sales strategy helps you plan how you’ll get customers to hear about your fashion brand, how you’ll encourage them to buy, and outlines what methods you’ll use to keep them coming back.

When you start, you can experiment by selling through different channels to find what works for you. You can tell friends and family about your business, advertise online on social media, share your store products on marketplaces like Etsy, or look for pop-up shop opportunities in your area.

When you get your first sale, try to get a review from that customer to start building your social proof. This helps ease any tensions future shoppers might have about buying from a new store such as yours.

Don’t forget to update your financial projections depending on what channels and form of advertising you start working with.

Social media advertising

If you want to reach your customers through a social media channel such as Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest, then you need an account or business page for the social network you want to use.

Focus on the platform that your audience uses the most, and stick to it. It takes time for ads to work, and people are hesitant to spend money on brands they’ve never heard of before.

Make sure that your branding is consistent across your page. Add or request social proof, like reviews, onto your page and website so customers trust you more.

To start reaching your customers, learn about what ads work best for your platform and prepare them properly. Use Canva to create ads. Start small and experiment with different copies and visuals to find out what works best for your customers.

Learn more: 10 Effective Ways How to Market a Product

Set aside an amount of money for testing your ads before committing to larger and more expensive campaigns: this way, you’ll be able to pick the ones that perform best and save yourself trouble in the future!

Selling offline

Sometimes opportunities in your region appear in the form of pop-up markets, trade shows, or business conferences.
Though these require carrying stock and may be costly if you have to travel, they present a chance to network with others in the fashion world—which helps you expand your knowledge about the clothing industry. You also get to meet your customers face-to-face, which can help boost your own morale and improve your relationship with them.

What to do now

There’s a lot of information in this guide, but you should know that there are even more things you’ll learn along the way as you build up your own brand.

Your brand is the heart of your business, and it affects almost every planning decision you make. It influences how customers perceive and relate to your business while conveying the personality and values of your brand.

Even though there are many options available for making your own fashion business, as long as you keep your goals in mind you’ll be able to stay true to your customers.

After all, the tech industry comes up with new business model solutions every few decades—but what won’t ever fully change is your brand and what it represents to your customers.


Ready to start your own fashion business online?


Answers to the most common questions

There are a lot of things to keep in mind when starting a fashion brand, so here are some of the most common questions answered.

How much money do you need to start a fashion business?

The amount of money you need to start your own fashion brand depends on what kind of production you expect your business to rely on, and where you plan to sell your products. If you’re hand-making your fashion products and selling them in a physical store, expect to spend more money on materials and rent than if you were using dropshipping.

How do you legally own a clothing brand?

To legally own a clothing brand, you need to set up a business and register it in your state and country of residence and operations. You can also buy an existing clothing brand and sign over the business to yourself, but consult a lawyer before buying a business to be safe.

How to start a small clothing line from home?

You can easily start a small clothing line from home on your computer. Ecommerce stores don’t require a physical location, so you can create your shop using Shopify or Wix by yourself without paying a lot of money upfront.

How to start a clothing line for free?

You can create a clothing line using free graphic design software and use Printful’s Design Maker to create product listings showing your designs on your online store. You still have to pay for your website subscription, but you won’t need to pay for any of your clothing line products until you make a sale.

Read next: How to Run a Successful Clothing Line in the 21st Century

Cloe is a Content Marketing Specialist at Printful. Her educational background includes a Bachelors of Science in Management and Economics and a Masters of Science in International Governance and Diplomacy. Besides her work, she loves reading fantasy books and going for long hikes with her dog, a rambunctious jackadoodle.

Comments

  1. Gio

    Great article. I really enjoy it and got inspire to start working on my new line. Looking forward to more articles

  2. Heather Davis

    Hello My name is Heather,I was wondering if you can upload purchased fonts from creative fabrics to the design maker on Printful.If so how do you do this ?

    1. Esther Everson

      Hey, Heather!
      You’d need to create a design with your purchased fonts on another creative software program like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, and then upload the design file in our Design Maker. Purchased fonts cannot be directly uploaded to Printful’s Design Maker.

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