Interested in starting your own online clothing store? Well, you’re in luck, because now’s the perfect time to do it:
- According to Digital Commerce 360, U.S. ecommerce sales grew 16.0% in 2017, the fastest rate since 2011.
- The U.S. apparel market is the largest in the world, projected to be worth $390 billion by 2025.
- Owing to the rising popularity of ecommerce, there’s a host of easy-to-use tools to help businesses go online – from drop shipping services like Printful to ecommerce platforms and online marketing tools.
So if you’ve got the inspiration and the passion, we say, go for it. Read on to find out the basic steps of launching your first clothing line.
You’re going to be dedicating a lot of time working on your store, so make sure it’s something you really want to pursue. You have to know why you’re doing this:
- Is designing clothes or setting up a business something you’ve always wanted to try?
- Do you feel like there’s a product you’d like to see on the market but haven’t found yet?
- Are you aching to put your talent to the test?
- Do you wish to start a change with what you’re doing?
- Are you looking to make a little extra money on the side?
Bottom line is, everything you do, from your products to your motivation, has to be you – authentic and organic. If you won’t be able to explain your reason for starting your line, who will?
A few words on authenticity —
Let’s take a brief philosophical pause and talk about what “authentic” means. In the words of movie director Jim Jarmusch, “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination.” That doesn’t mean you can go ahead and put a Warhol on a t-shirt, that’ll raise some trouble with copyright law. What that means is, be smart about getting inspired. If you imitate wisely enough, you can end up with something far better than the original.
2. Be ready to commit
You’re motivated, the creative juices are flowing, and you can already see yourself sketching away into the wee hours of the morning, playing with patterns and combining colors. Beautiful.
Just remember – a clothing line isn’t just a creative outlet, it entails a great deal of work and plenty of risks and rewards. There’ll always be something to do. Like:
- Deciding what products to sell
- Creating new designs
- Advertising your products on social media
- Responding to customers’ emails
- Working on your business strategy
- Hiring a helping hand
- Dealing with technical issues
You’re getting involved in an ongoing process, but worry not. With the right attitude, the only way to go is up.
Already you can see that although they go hand in hand, there are going to be two sides to your clothing line – the creative side and the business side. To be on top of your game, you’re going to have to do some market research, find out who your competition is, and define how you’re going to make profit while limiting your expenses. There are a lot of parts that go into starting a business so know what to expect and be prepared.
You could be cut out to play both parts, the magic and the money, or you could be better off sticking to just one, in which case you need to find someone trustworthy to fill in the blanks. The only way to know is to test the waters and see what works.
3. Set up shop
But why go online? To answer this question, let’s look at a few figures.
Although the battle between online and offline shopping is still on, online shopping is becoming increasingly popular – 4 in 5 Americans make an online purchase every month, and it is reported that 51% of Americans prefer online to in-store shopping.
So, internet shopping remains a powerful force and it’s now moving to mobile devices. Mobile commerce – mcommerce – now makes up 63.5% of all global ecommerce transactions, and is projected to continue increasing. That’s why the next step for ecommerce retailers is to make sure online shopping is easy on any device.
But there are still pros and cons to setting up your business online as opposed to offline:
Pros to an online shop:
- No rent, no utility bills, and no staff – perfect for your debut and less of a risk and financial burden.
- Building your online store via an ecommerce platform will save you a lot of time.
- To make your life even easier, you could use a fulfillment service like Printful for your store. That way you don’t have to worry about stock or shipments, all you do is set up your online store and focus on creating and marketing your products.
- You can still make sales in person at physical, but non-permanent locations like trade shows or pop-up stores.
Cons to an online shop:
- If you’re building an online store from scratch – you’re facing some expenses. You’ll have to buy a domain name and develop your own website.
- If you go for an ecommerce platform, those have various pros and cons of their own, and usually come with subscription fees.
- There are also hidden costs for a self-hosted ecommerce platform if you don’t go with a hosted platform.
4. Design, sell, promote
Let’s take a closer look at the things that go into designing a product.
Say you’ve created your online store, you’ve chosen Printful as your fulfillment service, and you’ve decided to design a product. All you fashion lovers know what it takes to find something nice to wear, so imagine what it’s like to design it. Lots of things to take into account:
- The creator of the designs. Having a good idea is one thing, but if you don’t know how to execute it to make it shine, seek the advice of a gifted friend, hire an artist, or, in the case of Printful, turn to our in-house Design Services team. If you really want to make the designs yourself, there are still lots of tools to make it easier, like Printful’s mockup generator, which has a text tool feature to easily make text-based designs. And if you’re all about those visuals, create designs with our custom-drawn smileys and shapes.
- Your target audience. Think about you, but also think about your audience – they have to get your product and your design. Don’t be afraid to try out different colors/patterns/images – you might concoct a winning combination that’ll wow your customers.
- The cut and material of the garment. The stretch of the fabric and its effect on the design, the feel of the fabric against the skin.
- The final result. You have to be confident about everything from A to Z – the fit, the color, the design. You have to want to buy it, otherwise, well, it’s not worth selling. Be sure to order a sample before making it available to others. With Printful, samples come with a 20% discount and free shipping to select destinations.
- Marketing the product. Opening a store won’t guarantee sales, and no-one’s going to know about you unless you tell them. To attract customers, you’ll need to build brand awareness on social media and creating quality content about your products. While thinking about ways to promote your brand, also think about the skill-set of those around you – any aspiring makeup artists or photographers building their portfolios?
And you’re not alone in this, you can always seek advice from the online community. Even if you don’t need any help, it’s good to do some research on what your peers (and competitors) find particularly challenging or rewarding. For example, Printful users ask their questions and communicate their ideas via the Printful Insiders Facebook page. For more general, business-related discussions, you can also check out various Subreddits like /r/entrepreneur, /r/ecommerce, and /r/smallbusiness.
Final thoughts – take what you can
We hope the thought you’re left with after this article is that right now is a great time to follow your dream of launching your clothing line. Retailers don’t need to face the limitations of setting up a brick-and-mortar location. You can now easily put your design and sales skills to the test online, and there’s a wide range of tools to help you along the way.
You’re about to dive into a very interesting, creative period, so look around and take in as much as you can. Listen to advice, but take it with a grain of salt. The final decision will be made by you, though – you have to be happy with the outcome.
This article was originally published in July 2016; it has since been updated.