Starting a clothing line is an exciting endeavor. The proliferation of modern supply chains means all you need is a good idea and execution. Here are some things I’ve learned over the years to help you kick off with the best start:
1. Understand who you’re selling to and what your 1:1 competitors are doing
To say you want to sell to all women that wear dresses or all men who wear shorts is incomplete. You need to find and commit to a couple of niches. Be able to describe (profile) this person from head to toe and then research what this person wants, based on this persona. What are they looking for in quality? What styles and colors will they demand seasonally? Where can these products be found currently? Are your nearest competitors who are catering to the same persona doing a good job. If they are NOT, you’ve identified a business gap that you can fulfill.
Pro Tip; Be methodical about your approach. Create a checklist and iterate as you learn more and more. This checklist will be your best-friend.
2. Don’t just think it; write out a business plan
You need to create a business plan that covers your spending, operational, and go-to-market strategies. This framework will help you thaw out half-baked ideas and guide your decisions. If it doesn’t fit what’s on the paper, either your business plan missed something or you’re going off on a tangent. It’s important for you to evaluate actions instead of just executing. It will keep you focused and protect your assets.
Pro Tip: It’s important to have both short-term goals and long-term goals written out on paper so you can objectively work towards them. It’s also important to have a reason to feel good about hitting milestones and introspect/adjust if you consistently miss them.
3. Be concrete about what you’re launching
Before you invest money, think through and design what you’re launching with. It can be even 1 thing, but be prepared to justify to yourself why. If it makes sense, actually design and get a prototype ready to double-check your vision. It might cost you some cash up front, but it beat launching with a half-baked idea down the road.
Pro tip: Poll your friends and family. If you can’t even convince them, it’s probably not a good idea.
4. Choose a name for your clothing line and create social media accounts.
One of the first steps is choosing a name. It will stick for the rest of the life of your venture, so make it count. Take it from me; pivoting a name in between will confuse and kill your established customer base. Leverage this name all over. Buy the domain, create Instagram and Tiktok pages, and etc.. Leverage free promos as much as possible.
Pro tip: find micro-influencers who are willing to post with your brand by getting free gear from you. Chalk this up as cheap targetted advertising. Million dollar businesses are built off of this strategy.
5. Find suppliers and manufacturers for your clothing line
If you care more about getting your name out there first and then deal with the economy of scale, I’d recommend printful.com. Since you’re starting off, building your image, I’d recommend that you think about adoption and breaking even first. Eventually, you will have to deal with scale. At that point, when you have proved your concept and brand love, go to Alibaba and find yourself a nice reputable manufacturer.
I repeat, do NOT worry about making money. Just make sure you’re building brand love and a sustainable business. You can tweak profit levers later.
Pro tip: Order samples first and THEN buy wholesale. Never over-commit.
The power of soft launches
Soft launches are ideal for clothing business startups because they’re inherently cheap and it allows you to gather customer feedback. Use that feedback, and do another launch if you have to. You’re currently a nobody, so don’t be scared about soft launching!
Clothing brands are literally a dime a dozen. Be warned and prepared to care about it. Be passionate and methodical about everything! You have to be either passionate about the brand or passionate about the business of clothing. I’m going to guarantee you’re about to dump a ton of money into a dud.