How To Start A Clothing Business: Everything You Need To Know – Forbes

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Published: Mar 10, 2022, 12:00pm
If you have a passion for fashion, starting a clothing business might be a great way to turn your skills and creativity into a career. It’s more accessible than ever for new business owners to sell their wares online and turn a profit. There are a variety of ways to sell clothes, from finding collaborators and wholesalers to providing great items for excited customers. Here’s what you need to know about how to start a clothing business from start to finish.
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Here’s how to start a clothing business in nine steps:
The fashion industry is massive, consisting of a myriad of different brands–all with very different styles and niches. It’s important to identify your niche and stick to it. This will help you to create a product line that resonates with your target market and build a solid brand. Remember that as appealing as it may be to try to be everything to everyone, the best brands have a very defined niche and they stay in said niche.
Here are a few examples of highly successful clothing brands that operate in different niches:
Picking a niche means playing to your strengths. If you’re a strong seamster, you’ll spend most of your time designing and constructing pieces. If you’re a visual artist, you might create art that can be printed on T-shirts or other clothing items.
Early on, it’s important to figure out your ideal customer. When you’re working towards establishing your business, fashion makes things both easier and harder at the same time. You can easily imagine who would wear your clothes, but you also have to find where they congregate (in brick-and-mortar stores and online) and how to reach them.
Here are a few questions to consider when determining your audience:
By answering these questions, you will get a better understanding of your target audience. This enables you to more strategically build your brand, develop products they’ll want, and distribute products so they’re easily discoverable by the people who will buy them.
After defining your niche and identifying your audience, the next step is to put together a marketing plan. While it sounds like a lot of work–it doesn’t have to be very comprehensive. But you do need to detail which channels you plan to use to sell your products (e.g., direct, Amazon, Etsy, boutiques, big box stores, etc…) as well as how you plan to market your businesses so that you get sales.
Here’s are the must-haves when creating a new business marketing plan:
A marketing plan essentially establishes how you will market your clothing line, and with that, can greatly guide how you go about product distribution and advertising strategies, which will impact your sales. Learn more about how to write a marketing plan.
If you don’t already have a business name in mind, it’s time to choose one. Clothing business names can vary wildly. For example, Under Armor, ASOS, Banana Republic, L.L. Bean, American Apparel, TopShop, Brooks Brothers, Dickies, Deus Ex Machina, Vardagen, Life is Good, or Salt Life. In short, your clothing business can be named just about anything you want it to be.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when naming your clothing business:
Once you have a business name, choose a slogan (optional), a brand color scheme, and create your logo. If you’re looking for an easy and affordable way to create your own logo, try using Canva, which is a free drag-and-drop design tool that has dozens of prebuilt logos you can customize. Alternatively, you can get a logo professionally designed for as little as $5 on Fiverr.
After choosing a brand name and putting together your brand assets, the next step is to register your business with your state. It’s not a fun step, but it is a necessary step–even for brand new clothing businesses as you will need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to accept payments for your products. And to get an EIN, you need to register as a business. Additionally, it also enables you to get wholesale pricing and work with retailers.
The process of registering your business will vary depending on your state, but you will register it with your state’s Secretary of State. Small businesses typically opt to register as a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) which costs around $100 on average but can be as little as $40 and over $250. If you’re not sure which is right for you, learn more about what an LLC is and how to set up an LLC.

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Chances are you already know how you’re going to design and source your products. However, if you’re on the fence or open to ideas, there are three main ways:
Of course, which you choose will depend on how you plan to sell your products. For example, if you’re planning to curate collections of clothing to sell online, say directly via your website or on Amazon, you could opt to purchase products from wholesalers or drop shippers. This is a great way to keep upfront costs low–especially if you are dropshipping products. However, it also means your products are not as unique and therefore might require more marketing.
Pricing products in fashion is largely determined by two key variables. First, the cost of goods sold (e.g., labor expenses and cost of materials) and second, by the niche you’ve chosen to target. For example, the average clothing line uses what is called the keystone markup strategy, where the price is calculated by taking the cost of production and doubling it. Though, it may be increased as much as 5x, depending on your niche (e.g., high-end clothing brands).
Here are a few key costs to include when pricing your products:
If you’re stepping into the luxury brand space, your products should be priced accordingly. Items that require a lot of attention, care and time in their creation should have premium prices.
On the other hand, a clothing company focused on high volume can have items with lower price points. Encouraging consumers to buy more means adding deals and flash sales to further incentivize purchases.
Clothing businesses have a number of distribution options available, from selling directly via their own website and selling on third-party sites such as Amazon and Etsy, to selling in-store, through local retailers, or national big box retailers. To maximize your exposure and increase your sales, it’s generally best to plan to distribute and sell your products via multiple channels.
Even if you do not plan to sell products directly or online, you still need to have a website. This helps build your brand and if you’re planning to approach retailers, it gives them a way to check your product catalogs and lookbooks. Learn more about how to make a website or check out the best e-commerce platforms that enable you to easily create an online store where you can sell your products directly to customers.
No matter how you plan to sell the bulk of your products, you should have your own website.
If you’re not ready to sell from your own website, you can look into Etsy or other highly ranked e-commerce platforms to lessen your workload. The less time you have to spend troubleshooting a website, the more time you have to work on designing clothing.
Last but not least, you need to market your clothing brand so that it can be discovered by your target market. There are a number of ways to market a clothing business, but ultimately you want to choose marketing channels that reach your particular target market. In other words, be where your target customers are.
Here are some of the most popular marketing channels and strategies for clothing brands:
When choosing the right marketing strategies and channels for your clothing business, remember to always keep your brand in mind. Consider if it stays on brand and if it’s likely to be a good use of your marketing budget. Just like choosing distribution channels, you will also want to use multiple marketing channels for maximum exposure.
Starting a clothing business is a great way to merge creative passion and business sense. It also gives you the opportunity to see your artistic work on people on the street, while turning your passions into a profitable business. On top of that, it’s more affordable than ever to start a clothing line, so you don’t need a huge investment to get started.

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Like any business of any size, the startup costs will depend on how large you want the business to start out. A small clothing business will need about $500, a medium-sized line between $1,000 and $5,000, and a large line might need up to $50,000.
With hard work and devotion, it can be. Estimates state that profits can be anywhere from 4% to 13%. There will likely be many changes because fashion cycles through trends so quickly.
While you don’t exactly need a business plan to start a clothing business, it’s a good idea to create one. The reason being is having a strong business plan will help you stay true to your original vision. Planning out your suppliers, goals and general growth plan will set you up for success in the future.
Julia is a writer in New York and started covering tech and business during the pandemic. She also covers books and the publishing industry.
Kelly is an SMB Editor specializing in starting and marketing new ventures. Before joining the team, she was a Content Producer at Fit Small Business where she served as an editor and strategist covering small business marketing content. She is a former Google Tech Entrepreneur and she holds an MSc in International Marketing from Edinburgh Napier University. Additionally, she manages a column at Inc. Magazine.

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