How to start a fashion brand in 10 steps: Your step-by-step guide

The biggest brands in the clothing industry weren’t cobbled together in a piecemeal fashion. These brands always had a business plan even when they involved trial-and-error approaches. This is why they managed to scale to big brands.

The step by side guide below is going to help in structuring your own business model for a custom T-shirts business.

You need to be ready to deal with peaks and valleys as you get started on this journey. It is not easy to start a new business from scratch, but it is possible. Keep in mind the biggest brands out there started from somewhere.

1) Identify a need in the market 

A clothing line is not going to succeed from just the vanity of the founding designer. You have to look at a niche in the market that is not being filled currently. Is there an opportunity in making t-shirts that can be worn on formal occasions? Is it a hoodie that shows someone’s curves? Try to find out which product should exist but it is not offered currently by the big brands.

2) Develop a business plan

This is going to be your guide through the entire process as a clothing manufacturer and fashion designer. Some questions you need to ask yourself include; what is the ultimate goal for that product? Do I want the brand to be sold by big brands like Macy’s and Nordstrom?

Do I want to create a private label brand for companies like H&M and Target? Do I want a brand that is going to sell in boutiques on SoHo in New York City or Melrose Avenue in LA? You need to have a goal and keep it always in mind as you grow your brand.

3) Identify your target audience

This is an important step. The goal is not just identifying a clothing item that needs to be on the market, but also the target market for the product. A brilliant design is not going to be that successful if there aren’t any potential customers.

Look at the pros and cons of the demographic. Young people are style-conscious and can easily respond to online marketing efforts and word of mouth marketing, but they are limited when it comes to funds. Middle-aged customers usually have funds and can pay more, but they are not concerned that much with style and might be loyal to a given brand.

4) Start designing

This is your area of experience and this is where your creativity shines. The first collection you are going to release is going to say a lot about you as a designer. This makes it important to craft something that you are going to be proud of being your calling card. You also need to think practically. When designing, make sure the product is going to be produced in a cost-effective manner. A successful fashion designer is someone that can blend attainable and ideal.

5) Find a clothing manufacturer

You will need to get a manufacturing partner unless you plan on sourcing, cutting, and sewing all the materials on your own. Maybe you need to get someone to help in making clothes in your home studio. Maybe you need to find a fabric supplier. Maybe you need to find a big factory that is going to produce a limited supply of your goods alongside mass-produced items from big brands.

Most clothing manufacturing has happened outside the US for decades. The search for a manufacturer can force you to look outside the country at countries like China, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, or Bangladesh. You might have to visit the country and check out their factory.

If you are getting started on a budget, you have to vet via email and phone. If your goal is less ambitious – like printing a new logo on top of existing casual wear or streetwear – then you can manufacture locally at a printing facility offering print-on-demand services. 

An alternative will be purchasing your own machinery and supplies via trusted online retailers like EcoFreen, which provide a great variety of products necessary for your business. This will help to save money and time on finding manufacturers, as well as gain your brand independence.

6) Choose a brand name, logo, and market profile

Once you have determined that you can manufacturer your clothing items with reasonable production costs, then you can start to plan your public profile. This will involve picking a name for your business and a logo. You can use an online logo maker for designing an easy and quick logo in six easy steps. It can also involve designing a website with an eCommerce platform like Etsy or Shopify.

Customers prefer brands that have a compelling story, which makes it a good idea to weave it into your brand name, website, and logo. You need to be done with this by the time the manufacturing process starts. This ensures you will be ready when the goods are ready.

7) Choose a price point for your items

This step is going to tie with the one about identifying and understanding your audience. Find a price point that is going to cover your production costs without alienating your customers because you are going to need them when launching your business.

8) Begin the marketing process

Your business needs brand awareness at this point. Instagram has become one of the best platforms for this, and you will find many influencers there ready to promote your products in exchange for the product. 

9) Set realistic sales and distribution goals

It might be a great idea to partner with a business professional when it comes to this step. Having a fashion vision doesn’t mean that you know enough about clothing distribution. If you manage to reach your sales goals, you are going to grow.

10) Start a soft launch and then looking for more partnerships and investments

Once there is proof of concept – the clothing you managed to sell in limited quantities – you can now start looking for co-investors and partners. It might sound nice to own the business and keep all the profits to yourself. But you are going to need access to capital if you want to scale up. Taking a partner can provide you with capital.