Blog / Beginner's handbook / How to Start a Clothing Brand in 2023
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Outline your clothing ideas and go over what benefits you think they’ll provide your customers.
You should answer:
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.
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:
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.
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:
To find out what kind of income you can expect to make for each sale, do the following:
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 can help 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 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 bees’ 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.
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.
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.
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.
Use a color chart to figure out your combinations, or an online color scheme generator.
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:
When you have good typographic hierarchy, it’s easier for readers to understand the structure of your written content.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind as you add products to your store and plan out your social media strategy.
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:
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.
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.
Learn More: How to Start a Clothing Store Online
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Cloe Ann Montoya
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.
Printful is a printing and dropshipping service with fulfillment centers located all over the world. We help people follow their passion and turn ideas into brands and products.
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