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Blog / Marketing tips / How to Start a Fitness Clothing Line

Marketing tips

How to Start a Fitness Clothing Line

How to Start a Fitness Clothing Line
Lilija Karpjaka

By Lilija Karpjaka

13 min read

Activewear has outgrown its humble beginnings as sweaty gym clothes and has sprouted brands with a cult-like mass following. Fitness clothing like sweatshirts, hoodies, and polo shirts have become staple pieces of modern wardrobes 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 expected to grow 25% by 2025.

Ready to seize this demand and launch a fitness clothing line? We prepared some pointers on how to start a clothing brand with activewear products, so dive right in.

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How to start a fitness clothing line in 8 steps

Although starting a fitness clothing line business might seem daunting at first, let’s go through it step by step, and you’ll see that it’s manageable.

1. Research the market and select a niche

As with all new projects, the beginnings of a successful fitness clothing line will be rooted in research. Before designing or sourcing products, you must analyze the fitness clothing market and find your niche.

Look at other fitness apparel brands, their products, pricing, target audiences, and marketing efforts. You’ll get a good understanding of what works for your potential customers and what doesn’t. You might notice an audience underserved by current sportswear fashion, so this is where you can swoop in and fill the market gap. For example, there’s a growing interest in fitness clothing made of sustainable materials and more demand for plus-size athletic clothing.

A niche caters to specific needs or preferences, and it helps you focus and differentiate your brand. When you define your niche, all the other elements, like your product selection, messaging, and pricing strategy, will also fall into place.

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

Think of choosing your niche market as the first building block for your future success. This is the foundation that your fitness apparel line will stand on, so research the industry and target market thoroughly.

Later, when you work on your fitness clothing business, always keep your niche in mind. Ask yourself, “Is this going to resonate with my audience? Is this something they’d want to buy?” If you can answer that with a confident “yes,” you’re on the right track. If you’re unsure, return to the drawing board and refocus your efforts.

2. Pick your fitness products

Once you know what your fitness clothing brand is all about, it’s time to choose the products your customers will want. There are several categories you can look into.

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 create a gym apparel line with a new twist on designs. Offer rash guards to surfers, leggings to yoga enthusiasts, visors and polo shirts to tennis players, or create a 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 their needs. Think about how your new fitness clothing line can satisfy that.

Take a look at Norba, an activewear apparel brand founded by two sisters, Olha and Helen Norba. They sell minimalistic but trendy athleisure pieces to wear at work, home, or the gym. The main goal of their clothing business is to help their customers feel more driven and confident while staying comfortable.

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 recognize the need for size-inclusive apparel, although activewear manufacturers still can’t satisfy all the demand.

Read also: Athleisure vs. Activewear: The Ultimate Sportswear Comparison

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Athleisure as a trendy lifestyle

In popular culture, athleisure relatively recentlytransformed from a trend to a lifestyle . 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 and Y2K 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 to 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 2024 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.

athleisure look

Source: Vogue 

To know what the market demands, research what your target audience is interested in and is willing to spend money on.

3. Decide where to source your products

At this point, you might ask yourself, “I have my business idea, but where do I get the actual fitness clothing I want to sell?” There are two paths to choose.

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 fitness apparel, 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 doesn’t have strong enough equity. You’ll also need significant capital to invest upfront, which can be a major obstacle if you’re just starting out.

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 fitness clothing line.

POD fulfillment is also a much safer bet. With demand changing rapidly, this fulfillment method lets you focus on creating topical and trendy designs without dealing with clothing manufacturers or 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 covers the essential items you need to create an athleisure line and keeps expanding to include more trendy pieces. Some products have variations, like our yoga, capri, and plus-size leggings.

a woman wearing a sports bra and plus-size leggings

Source: Printful

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 5XL for sweatshirts.

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

To get more insight into Printful’s activewear, check out this product review video.

preview play-button

4. Create designs

When you know what you want to sell, the most fun part can begin—creating your designs. Whether you design yourself or hire someone else to fulfill your vision, this is where your creativity can truly shine.

Think of how you can combine your ideas with sports clothing in a way that makes sense for your brand. For example, streetwear is often associated with bright colors and bolder expressions, whereas a yoga apparel line might be more minimalistic.

If you want to create your own custom designs but you’re not familiar with design software, try Printful’s Design Maker.

a screenshot of the printful design maker showing a sports-themed design on a white t-shirt

Source: Printful

You can easily create patterns and text-based designs, use the available clipart, explore the ready-made quick designs and premium images, and more.

5. Build a brand

When the products are ready, it’s time to build your brand. You need to think about your fitness brand identity and values—what do you stand for?

Write down your story, explaining where the idea for your fitness clothing line came from, what your brand represents, what is special about your products and designs, etc. You need to convince your store’s visitors that they should buy from you rather than go elsewhere.

a screenshot of a fitness clothing line store

Source: Marine Layer

Create a consistent brand identity (both your visual style and brand voice) that you’ll use on your store and marketing channels.

6. Develop your online store

When you have the products and know what you want to say, the next step is to share them with your customers.

First, you need to decide on the platform where you want to sell. You can create your own store or join a marketplace like Etsy or Amazon. Printful integrates with over 20 ecommerce platforms and marketplaces, so take your pick and start building your store.

Don’t forget about more technical aspects like setting up shipping and taxes. Different requirements will apply depending on where you sell, so consult tax specialists if needed. Check if you need to get a business license or fill out some other paperwork.

When everything is set up, test your order flow to ensure a smooth customer shopping experience. If they enjoy their stay on your store, they’ll be much more likely to return.

7. 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 fitness apparel business. So remember what you want to represent and focus on selling these brand 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 photos and videos 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 your home, or during the commute.

  • Be sincere. A professional model might be the best choice for fashion apparel, but people representing your actual customer 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 products from your athletic clothing line is sure to travel further than you could reach on your own.

Build hype

Get your customer’s attention with limited custom clothing deals.

a collage of different clothing

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.

a woman wearing a sports bra

Source: Printful

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 custom hoodies and beanies during a heatwave.

8. Collaborate

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

Streetwear, for example, 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, like established fashionistas, up-and-coming underground musicians, and beloved gamers.

Follow your target community on the social media platforms they prefer and offer fresh takes on their favorite clothing items: custom t-shirts, hoodies, snapbacks, and so many more.

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Customer with received custom jacket
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Is it worth starting a fitness clothing line?

Now you know how to start a fitness clothing line, but you might still wonder—is all this effort worth it? The answer’s a resounding yes.

In addition to all the gym-goers, exercising from home continues to be a popular choice too, so activewear and athleisure are an essential part of many people’s 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 attire 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 fitness clothing.

  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 fitness clothing 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. Investing a lot of money in a certain type of clothing can be risky. 

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

The bottom line is that 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?

Learn more: When was Sportswear in Fashion? Answer: Always

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 clearly understand your target audience and their needs and partnering 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.

Frequently asked questions on how to start a fitness clothing line

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By Lilija Karpjaka on Jan 29, 2024

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.

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Lilija Karpjaka

By Lilija Karpjaka

13 min read Jan 29, 2024

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