Starting a clothing line is not for the faint-hearted. It is a very personal journey that could take up a lot of your time and energy.
It requires people who are brilliant creative thinkers, as well as people who can organize a workforce and delegate responsibility to others. You’ll also have to be adept at drawing up business plans and budgeting.
If you relish the idea of tackling many different roles within one company, building a brand and taking home a decent slice of the pie, then forming a business is undoubtedly the thing for you.
The clothing industry moved very quickly, but if you’ve got a unique idea or have spotted a gap in the market, then you should act fast before somebody else does it for you!
When planning to start up a business, you’ll need a blueprint that you can work from, outlining your short and long-term goals.
The fluctuating nature of business will require you to have something concrete that you can consult if you find yourself diverging from the path.
You’ll need to analyze the market as well as what you have to offer that your competitors won’t, your plans for hiring people, budgeting for their pay and how much your product your company is going to manufacture and distribute.
And that’s before you even decided on branding and a marketing strategy.
But how do you make sense of the topsy turvy, fluctuating world of clothing? What things do you have to meticulously plan out to start your clothing line on the surest footing possible?
How can you balance your budget with your output to get the most return on the investment of your time, your money and your passion?
Well, business-heads, you need not sweat, because we’ve got a run-down of everything you’ll need to have covered before embarking upon your fashion adventure.
We’re going to cover everything from your niche, the organization of your business, as well as the creation of designs and brand logos.
How To Create A Solid Business Plan For Your Clothing Line
Decide On Your Niche
As we mentioned above, the fashion game is one that is constantly evolving, with people keeping their finger on the pulse when it comes to innovation and the latest developments in trends.
There are many fashion moguls monitoring paradigm shifts in fashion, so you have to be as dedicated as they are when it comes to spotting a gap.
You need to define your niche, asking yourself whether you want to start a fitness clothing brand or something more upmarket, like evening wear. Maybe you want to centralize your line on one specific item.
You could also be looking to start a business that is based on a certain philosophy. Clothing that is cruelty-free for animals or babywear that is marketed for premature babies.
Draw on your own life experience - what clothing have you noticed in your life that isn’t readily available either to you or certain people you know?
If your clothing business ends up branching out and going wide of the mark from your original concept, then that’s fine. Just make sure you have a striking idea at the outset so that your fledgling brand sticks in people’s minds.
Building Your Clothing Line Business Plan
You might want to keep the business plan small, as you don’t want to invest too much money and resources at the very start. You want to set it up to the point where you make enough of a profit to carry on.
Related: Grab our Ecommerce Business Plan
However, you want to leave room for growth, so that if your business does take off very quickly, then you can scale up as fast as possible to cope with the demand.
You’ll want a vague plan in case this happens, although bear in mind that fashion is very unpredictable. It’s best not to set anything in stone.
Within the first few months of starting your business, you’ll want to keep everything very pared down and basic. You should have one basic design that you’ve developed, which is very easy to launch and you know how to manufacture.
It will help you to have a figure in mind before embarking upon the project, factoring in how much your estimate things like design, production and distribution will cost.
You’ll need to know what you want to achieve within these first few months and how your budget can best get you there.
You will also want to factor in whether you're going to plan the design yourself or if you’re going to buy a pre-existing design at a wholesale price.
You can save yourself a significant amount of money if you want to design your own clothing. Whatever you decide to do, keep it within a reasonable budget.
You don’t want to blow all your budget on the first launch. Ideally, you’ll want to invest in independent and inexpensive designers and basic materials and equipment and then review your outgoings after the first few months.
You’ll also need your business plan to secure funding from elsewhere if that’s what you have in mind. You’ll need a very definite idea of how your clothing line is going to start and progress over the first few months before you progress.
You’ll need to factor in any potential obstacles you might face along the way too.
Analyzing The Enemy
You want to include any target market and competitor analysis in your business plan too. You need to know what you have to offer that your competitors don’t.
You then need to stick to this ethos, especially in the first few months. It might be tempting to mirror what a competitor is doing and create a derivative product.
You need to make sure your analysis is based on solid data, spy tools such as SimilarWeb and Alexa are great starting points. You can’t just rely on your personal view of what is going on in the fashion world. No matter how much you think your finger is on the pulse, you could still get it wrong.
You should also include in your plan your employees, existing and prospective. Think about who you’ll need to hire and how much you’ll be wanting to pay them and whether that is reasonable or not.
You should also have a plan for design and branding, making sure there’s enough in the budget for that.
Remember, whoever you’ll be giving your budget to will only be concerned with money and how well it’s being spent.
You need to outline the current state of your business’ finances, even if that is prospective, and how you intend for it to grow over the first few months.
Organizing Your Business
Even if you’re only writing a plan for a startup, you’ll still want to approach it like a full-on business that is going to grow over time.
Even if you only have a sewing machine and a spare bedroom, this is still time and resources that you are dedicating to your business.
When putting in the effort and planning out goals for the future, you’ll want a clear plan for how your business is going to take shape, factoring in as many eventualities as you can envisage.
These are some of the crucial things you’ll be needing to bear in mind when formulating your new business:
- Location - Whether it’s in your bedroom or a small studio, you’ll need to factor in how much your space will cost as well as what rules apply to that specific rental property.
- How the business is going to operate - Are you going to be selling your wares from a local market stall? Will you be an exclusively online seller? Would you start on Etsy to establish some interest in your product? You could be looking to buy premises and selling your clothing out of there, although this is the more expensive option.
- Tax laws - research the tax laws of your area or country before establishing your business. The last thing you want is to get caught trying to avoid paying things like business taxes.
- Who are you going to employ? - Even if you plan on being the sole employee at the start of your business, who else are you going to depend on in those early few months? You’ll probably be wanting to assign an accountant, designer, friends to work in the store or making the clothes.
- Catalogs - you’ll be wanting to collate the number of products that you’ll be having in your store and keeping track of how many you manufacture and sell. Remember to try and keep everything as minimal as possible at first to avoid overspending.
- Sales and marketing - You’ll need to think of some strategies about how you’re planning on putting your product out there. Are you going to do physical billboard advertisements? Ads in fashion magazines? Ads in local newspapers? Don't forget influencers! The influencer market is set to be worth $15 billion by 2022 according to market research by Business Insider.
- Insurance - you’ll need to protect your essential equipment and product from damages, especially in these early stages when you rely on them the most. You can get tailored business insurance, clothing insurance or even retailer and fashion liability insurance.
- Funding - When it comes to starting your clothing line, it can’t hurt to source some additional funding from the public or private sector. You can get government loans for a startup business, which has minimal interest.
Creating Your Designs
If you have your eye on the more creative side of your clothing and want to use it as a springboard for your own unique designs, then this might be the most exciting part of the beginning stages for you.
If you don’t have a specific design in mind, then you’ll want to rough out some sketches on a piece of paper or perhaps a digital canvas. Once these sketches are in a shape that you’re happy with, you can start fleshing them out and coloring them digitally too.
Once you have a single concept or several concepts in mind, then you’ll want to create a tech pack to send to your manufacturer.
A tech pack should include the details and technical specifications of your product, including the material measurements and the materials you’ll be using, as well as any extra accessories.
Creating Your Brand
As well as the design, you’ll want to create a brand that will make an impact upon anyone who sees it, so you’ll want to develop a logo in much the same way as your design.
We would recommend having something bold and simple that you can place on several different types of clothing. You’ll want a logo that appeals to your target audience, incorporating some familiar shapes and colors that people will identify straight away.
Don’t forget, you’ll want a logo that people will immediately think about whenever they think about your clothing line. Think about famous brands such as Adidas or Nike and you’ll immediately recall the distinctive logos that go with them.
We would also recommend incorporating the name of your clothing line into your brand, again, to increase brand awareness.
Manufacturing Your Product
Now that you’ve sorted out your design and your logo, it’ll be time to turn it into the manufacturer. This is the stage where you can start sourcing the individual or team that will turn your inspirations and designs into a reality.
However, this doesn't mean that you can’t make everything from scratch in the beginning. This DIY approach is particularly helpful in saving money or if you just prefer that aesthetic.
This will also apply if you are planning on distributing ready-made designs and want to soldier on into the distribution process.
When it comes to looking for a clothing manufacturer, you’ll need to consider what style and feel you want from your product. If it’s an artisanal quality you’re looking for, then you might want to go to more independent manufacturers.
However, if you’re looking to manufacture your clothes in large quantities very quickly, you’ll probably want a commercial supplier.
Manufacturing is just as important as the design stage. If you rush into it, then your product might come away looking shoddy. Make sure you get several potentials of manufacturers for your clothing brand.
Once you’ve decided on who is going to make your clothes, you’ll want to have a sample made. Ask your manufacturer to provide a set of samples that you can wear or try out, even demonstrating them to friends or a select group picked from your target market.
Compare them to the products churned out by your competitor, do they hold up?
Once you’ve had adjustments and improvements made, you can plow ahead with a full product run.
Remember to think about the customer when you’re making your product. Who do you want to sell them to? Are you looking to introduce something new to them?
Ideally, you won’t just be wanting a good response to the clothing, you will want a lingering positive impression of the brand as a whole, from the shop floor to the packaging.
The last thing you’ll want as a brand is to alien your customer with unnecessary packaging or abrasive material. Trust in your own instincts as well as drawing upon market research.
Remember your budget: factor in some cash for packaging and collating customer feedback from your initial test run. You’ll need to maintain that consistency through those first few months.
Testing The Product
Make sure that you send your test samples as far and wide as you can, especially to individuals or groups that you know will appreciate them. If you have a clothing line aimed at surfers, send your designs to renowned surfing clubs and publications.
Facebook Remarketing is a great way to test products, as these ads can re-target existing customer lists, website traffic, or app activity.
Online samples can be a great place to test out your product too, allowing your market to give you anonymous and honest feedback without being biased toward you in any way.
You’ll always be testing your clothing line, as you introduce new products and lines, you’ll be wanting a steady stream of honest and in-depth feedback from your customer base, as well as branching out into new markets.
Feedback is the best way to fast-track the progression of your brand and allow you to figure out what you’re doing wrong.
Get Your Product On The Market
Even though this process never ends, with more products and lines being produced, this is what could be seen as the final stage in the initial setup process - getting your product onto the market.
Once you’re satisfied with the feedback from the test run, you can roll out the product and start selling, selling, selling! But before you begin boxing up your products, there will be a few more decisions that you have to make.
- How much will you be pricing your clothing line at?
- How will you be marketing your brand during the first few months?
- Will you be creating an online store to move your merch?
- What deals and promotions will you be organizing?
- What packaging will you be using for your products?
- How will you be shipping your products?
- How will you be facilitating customer returns and complaints?
- How will you plan with your manufacturer for busy periods?
So what are you waiting for? Once you’re satisfied with the feedback from the test run, you can roll out the product and start selling, selling, selling. Our Ecommerce business plan is a great way to kickstart your ecommerce journey!