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How to Start a Fitness Clothing Line

How to Start a Fitness Clothing Line
Lilija Karpjaka

By Lilija Karpjaka

14 min read

Activewear has outgrown its humble beginnings as sweaty gym clothes and has sprouted brands with a cult-like mass following. Clothing like sweatshirts, hoodies, and polo shirts have become staple pieces of modern wardrobes that are worn for all sorts of occasions. 

Following the hype of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop in 2008 and Kate Hudson’s Fabletics in 2013, consumers began to prioritize being healthy and practicing wellness in style. Roughly a decade later, the pandemic ushered in an era of comfort, as more people spent time indoors replacing jeans and office wear with sweats and yoga pants.

The concept of wellness has changed too.

Wellness means more than focusing on being in shape; it also encompasses mental, physical, and spiritual dimensions. Wellness habits seem to have stuck with society and are now influencing global fashion trends.

For many, activewear is the go-to choice for highly comfortable and practical daily wear.

With this mindset and lifestyle shift, the global athleisure market is booming and it’s expected to grow 25% by 2025.

We don’t have to be exercising more to be exploring the athleisure trend. So many of us are taking advantage of athleisure apparel being more accessible and incorporating activewear into our day-to-day outfits.

Ready to seize this demand and start selling activewear? We prepared some pointers. This post will go over the different strands of activewear, the steps to introducing your own activewear line, and the best ways to reach your target audience.

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The types of fitness clothing

Before we look at why you should start a fitness clothing line, let’s briefly define which terms refer to what type of clothing. Sportswear, activewear, athleisure, and streetwear in that order.

Sportswear

Sportswear refers to clothes designed specifically for sports purposes and sometimes for informal leisure activities. These sport-specific garments include tracksuits, shorts, t-shirts, and polos. Specialized garments like swimsuits, ski suits, wet suits, leotards for gymnastics, etc.

Activewear

Activewear is associated with outdoor sports and exercise. It’s made so that the wearer can move around freely and actively. The clothing materials are usually figure-hugging or airy. Unlike sportswear, activewear is a more general term that includes a broader range of sporty, comfortable clothes that are often designed to be intentionally stylish and wearable in casual settings. Think yoga pants, tank tops, jogger pants, sneakers, and polo shirts.

Here’s a bit of the history behind the evolution of activewear. 

Tennis shoes, today better known as sneakers, were made for lawn sport and tennis athletes. The shoes were worn by most students who joined sports teams in the early 20th century. Yet, due to a lack of funds, these students wore their sports shoes when attending classes as well. 

This is how sneakers transcended their target consumers and were worn as casual shoes. The same goes for polo shirts. Once specific to tennis, the polo shirt was popularized by Grand Slam champion René Lacoste in the 1920s. Needless to say that the polo shirt is now a staple of the preppy look.

 

Tennis players wearing Lacoste polo shirt
Source: Lacoste
Golf players wearing Lacoste polo shirt

Athleisure

Athleisure is a style of clothing that is comfortable and suitable for doing sports, but also fashionable and attractive enough to wear for other activities. This is the type of clothing that has evolved the most and has found its way into the wardrobes of many who, affected by the pandemic, had to work from home.

Streetwear

Streetwear is a style of casual clothing that spread globally in the 1990s. It combines characteristics of multiple subcultures, has a huge online presence, and, most importantly, a lot of activewear apparel like graphic tees, joggers, hoodies, and sweatshirts. The style was first led by Shawn Stussy and skateboarders of 1970s California, but later got adopted by the hip-hop subculture in the 1990s. 

The streetwear style took off with Supreme and A Bathing Ape reaching a cult-like following. And with the help of the internet and hype culture, this clothing style has now become the new luxury. We’ve seen Supreme and Louis Vuitton collaboration and Chanel introducing sneakers to their product range. Activewear is everywhere!

 

Why start a fitness clothing line

Now that working and exercising from home has more or less become the norm, activewear and athleisure are an important part of many peoples’ wardrobes. In fact, Allied Market Research expects the global activewear market to reach $451 billion by 2028. The largest sales share is predicted for the US market. And athleisure? It’s expected to do even better: $793.4 billion by 2028.

Here are some of the reasons for this market’s growth:

  1. The line between traditional gym clothing and casual wear has become less noticeable. Why? Interest in a healthy lifestyle and the popularity of urban fashion.  Brands like Lululemon and Nike offer athleisure that can be worn at home and when exercising.  

  2. The growing influence of lifestyle bloggers, social media influencers, and celebrity endorsers plays an important role. They help to popularize the appeal of athleisure products.

  3. The shift from spending all week at the office to working from home as a result of the pandemic. More of us now work remotely and prefer to be in comfortable athleisure while doing so.

  4. Sustainability in fashion. The opportunity for ethical and sustainable activewear is huge. Consumers want to spend money on fashion made from recycled or organic materials.

Even though there’s a global boost in activewear demand, brick-and-mortar retailers are struggling to adjust production to meet the changes in demand. It can be risky to invest a lot of money in a certain type of clothing. 

Ecommerce store owners using print-on-demand services face no such issue. That’s because product designs can be added or changed with little effort. What’s more, the dropshipping fulfillment method ensures that no store is left with heaps of out-of-style inventory.

The bottom line is, the ecommerce industry is on the rise, and the market for activewear, athleisure, and streetwear is no exception.

Learn more: What is Print-on-Demand?

How to start a fitness clothing line

Step 1: Choose a direction

There are two paths to choose. You can focus on designing and creating a clothing line from scratch that requires tailoring know-how. This approach would involve more high-cost risks but also could justify higher pricing. Or you can partner with a print-on-demand dropshipping company that produces and fulfills your apparel pieces while you focus on product designs and marketing only. 

Produce in bulk

The most growth in athleisure sales is predicted for premium brands with high-level technical capabilities. If you have the tailoring know-how and are willing to invest a lot of technical effort into making need-specific clothing, this is the time for you.

Keep in mind that due to the demand-focused market, this approach can lead to out-of-style products left in storage if your brand does not have strong enough equity.

Use print-on-demand services

If you’re not a professional tailor or fashion designer, partnering with a print-on-demand (POD) dropshipping company is the easiest way to start your own apparel line.

Print-on-demand fulfillment is also a much safer bet. With demand changing rapidly, this fulfillment method lets you focus on creating topical and trendy designs without worrying about the logistics.

There’s also a smaller chance of making high-cost mistakes. Most POD dropshipping companies follow market tendencies to offer the latest products that consumers want to buy.

Printful’s product range not only covers the essential items you need to create an athleisure line, but it keeps expanding to include more trendy pieces. Some products even have different variations, like our yoga leggings and capri leggings

Or, leggings with pockets. Consumers are eager to purchase products that combine both style and functionality. Pockets are a definite crowd favorite. 

Selling plus-size leggings is also a great idea since there’s growing interest in unique plus-size fashion. 

One thing to note is that POD products aren’t custom-tailored and are sometimes limited in size. However, some companies do offer a wider size range. For example, Printful offers sizes ranging from 2XS to 6XL for leggings and up to 3XL for sweatshirts.

Make sure to find a production and fulfillment partner that suits your needs, order product samples, and find people in your circle that can testify to the quality of the products.

Step 2: Pick your fitness products

The apparel industry is vast and activewear is no different. Understanding your customers is the first step when choosing your new activewear products. 

Market research will help you do that. Study what people are searching for and stay up to date with the newest trends and changes in demand. Also, think about finding a niche that nobody else has tapped into. Like, dolphin-themed fitness apparel.

Learn more: How to Find a Niche for Your Online Store

What your customers need

All of these sportswear categories together cover a broad niche. In the ecommerce world, focusing on a small niche is a better tactic.

  1. There’s less competition.

  2. You get a more dedicated audience.

  3. Targeting a specific niche means placing your store in front of online searchers who are almost ready to buy a specific product.

If your customer base is under a strong sports culture influence, you should choose and market your products with that in mind. Find a specific niche, choose sports-specific products, and give the apparel pieces a new twist on designs. Offer rash guards to surfers, leggings to yoga enthusiasts, visors and polo shirts to tennis players, or create a whole swimwear line for water sports fans.

Athleisure products

Custom activewear raglan shirts Custom activewear joggers Custom activewear tank tops Custom activewear leggings
Raglan Shirts Joggers Tank Tops Leggings

Don’t limit yourself to activewear that’s only meant for gym rats and sports enthusiasts, though. Athleisure, for example, is simply comfortable and casual clothing that can be worn in different contexts.

If you aim to offer products to the more general public, emphasize the importance of comfort in everyday life. Think of yourself, your friends, colleagues . . . and what their needs are. Think about how your product line can satisfy that.

For example, Joanna Dai, the founder of Dai, describes her customer as an active, professional woman who needs to deliver her best performance all day long. Joanna successfully merged the comfort of yoga pants with a style that looks fantastic on a CEO. Her concept is still novel in the industry, but you can imagine the possibilities of how you can market your products to your audience.

Streetwear products

Custom activewear t-shirts Custom activewear hoodies and sweatshirts Custom activewear jackets Custom activewear hats
T-Shirts Hoodies & Sweatshirts Jackets Hats

Streetwear transforms activewear products into opinionated and fashionable statements, and can be marketed to different audiences.

If your customer base is mainly the younger generation, surprise them with a hip and comfortable streetwear line. Not only are these products easier to design, but they also have great marketing potential. This is because most streetwear items are worn throughout the year and allow for experimentation. Streetwear is as broad as popular culture.

Plus size activewear products

Custom activewear plus size leggings Custom activewear plus size hoodies Custom activewear plus size sweatshirts Custom activewear plus size shirts
Leggings Hoodies Sweatshirts

Shirts

The activewear industry is finally catering to plus-size consumers as well. More brands are recognizing the need for size-inclusive apparel, although the market still can’t satisfy all of the demand.

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Athleisure as a trendy lifestyle

In popular culture, athleisure has transformed from a trend to a lifestyle relatively recently. Athleisure pieces fit in the current fashion scene and even in relaxed workplaces. Think yoga pants with bulky sweatshirts, platform sneakers, layered necklaces, and hats for winter sports such as snowboarding.

As for streetwear brands like Vans, Obey, Nike, and others—they’re benefiting from the ’90s retromania wave, flooding the city streets with trendified old-school clothing styles and designs.

Paying attention to what’s happening in the fashion world is a must. You can fit your niche within the existing trends, but don’t be afraid to innovate and stand out.

We suggest bringing in some bold prints and vibrant colors in your product collections. You’ll have access to broad design possibilities and space to experiment with the seasonality of the products. As a lifestyle, athleisure in 2022 is just as popular during the colder seasons. A hoodie and sneakers paired with a coat and a beanie is a standard look of choice around the globe.   

Source: Vogue 

To know what the market demands, research what your target audience is interested in and is willing to spend money on. Take advantage of print-on-demand services to experiment with different products and designs.

To give you a little more insight into Printful's activewear, check out this product review video.

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Step 3: Market your fitness clothing line

No matter how amazing your products might be, without a marketing strategy, it’s hard to grow an athleisure, streetwear, or any other kind of ecommerce apparel business. So think about what you want your brand to represent, and focus on selling thewse values to your customers.

Invest in visuals

No words can describe a design better than a great photo or a professional video. Consumers are driven by doing activities in style, so your visuals need to represent that.

preview play-button

Don’t limit yourself to stylized flat lays:

  • Show movement. Go to the track, the gym, or the nearest beach and take visuals while showcasing your products in action.

  • Highlight the versatility of the product. Get some shots of athleisure products in a professional setting, in the comfort of home, or during the commute.

  • Be sincere. A professional model might be the best choice for fashion apparel, but people representing your actual consumer base will make your line more authentic.

Take advantage of social media

The active lifestyle has long moved past gym walls. Your customers are active people and have gathered like-minded people around them. A single picture or a video of a customer using your products is sure to travel further than you could reach on your own.

Another great way to get the word out is to collaborate with influencers, instructors, and coaches. They have their own following and can raise your brand equity and reach by endorsing, promoting, or simply using your products in day-to-day life. This is especially important for sportswear-focused apparel lines.

Instagram and TikTok are the best platforms where to find these types of influencers as well as a youthful audience.

Collaborate

Athletes and sports instructors are great partners when selling sportswear. However, if you want to market your products as streetwear, turn to influencers. It’s how the style came to be and has risen in popularity.

Streetwear is closely connected with internet culture and multiple subcultures. Your best bet would be to approach online influencers and artists your customers know and love. Look for established fashionistas, up-and-coming underground musicians, and beloved gamers. Follow your target community online and offer them fresh takes on their favorite clothing items: t-shirts, hoodies, snapbacks, and so many more.

Build hype

Get your customer’s attention with limited deals.

Source: Vans 

Make your products exclusive! Create a collection that has a limited number of items available or items that can be purchased only during a specific time frame. Note that to justify hyping your product it also needs to be original. Be the first to jump on the newest trend or offer a fun spin on something no one has.

Follow the seasons

Although most athleisure items are used all year round, it doesn’t mean they have to be sold as all-seasons apparel. We’ve emphasized how much athleisure is driven by customer demand and how often it changes. You’ll have to think ahead of time and prepare collections in advance.

Mix up your product range so it’s more appropriate for each season, and create different designs for different times of the year. Also, be mindful of where your target market is located. Introduce light-reflective running attire for northerners or sweat-proof tank tops for southerners.

And don’t forget to check the weather forecast! Sending a sunny promotional email might not give you the results you want with a blizzard raging across the country. The same goes for beanies and sweatshirts during a heatwave.

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How do I start an athletic wear business online?

The best approach for new business owners to start an athletic wear business follows these steps:

  1. Decide if you’ll make the products yourself or work with a print-on-demand company.

  2. Decide who you’ll sell the products to.

  3. Prepare a business plan.

  4. Create your fitness products.

  5. Start an online store.

  6. Market your athletic wear products.

How much does it cost to start a fitness clothing line?

If you want to sell in a physical store and create products from scratch, you’ll need a starting capital that can range from $150,000 to $350,000. If you want to start a fitness clothing line online with a print-on-demand provider like Printful, you’ll only need to pay for an online selling platform subscription.

Where should I start with making workout clothes?

Invest time in sewing classes, learn about product materials, and watch online tutorials. If you want to design blank workout clothes supplied by a print-on-demand company, learn how to use design software. And if you want to design workout clothes ASAP, use Printful’s Design Maker

How can I sell workout clothes?

You can sell workout clothes by actively promoting your brand on social media. Create fun and engaging TikTok videos, showcase pictures of your products on Instagram, and create content on other relevant platforms to draw as much attention to your brand as possible.

Start selling activewear

If you’ve decided to start selling activewear on your online store, be sure to do your research first. We recommend making sure you have a clear understanding of your target audience and their needs and partner with a production and fulfillment company that meets your standards.

Most importantly, be as active as your customers are! Having the same interest and enthusiasm toward sports, fashion, and culture is sure to make your brand more authentic and desirable.

author

By Lilija Karpjaka on Nov 8, 2022

Lilija Karpjaka

SEO Content Writer

Lilija is an SEO content writer at Printful. She's passionate about ecommerce, and in her spare time, she's an avid reader of various book genres.

Lilija is an SEO content writer at Printful. She's passionate about ecommerce, and in her spare time, she's an avid reader of various book genres.