Dreaming of New York Fashion Week? If you’re interested in learning how to start a clothing line, you don’t have to be a fashion designer—or any kind of artist at all. It’s true! All you need is an understanding of your ideal customer, a vision for your clothing, and a passion for developing your brand.
Who Can Start a Clothing Line?
In today’s digitally connected world, anyone can learn how to start a clothing line. How you bring that clothing line to life, however, can look vastly different from designer to designer. If you want to design and sew a collection of pieces from scratch, your path to launching a clothing line can be long and complex. If you want to launch a line of graphic t-shirts, on the other hand, you can get a storefront up and running in a matter of weeks.
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How Much Does It Cost to Start a Clothing Line?
For some aspiring designers, starting an online clothing business comes down to an important question: How much does it cost to start a clothing line? Fortunately, there are many options today that make it easy and inexpensive to design and sell a clothing line.
Do You Need a Degree to Start a Clothing Line?
Starting an online clothing business doesn’t require a degree. Many people don’t have formal fashion-related education or even experience in the fashion industry when starting a clothing line. If you intend to design and sew pieces yourself, you will need knowledge of fabrics, fitting, and sewing, of course. However, if you plan to pursue a more simple route—like designing graphic t-shirts to sell online—you can simply need a concept and an entrepreneurial mindset.
Learn how to start a clothing line online in the step-by-step tutorial below.
How to Start a Clothing Brand from Scratch in 5 Steps
One of the simplest ways to get started with a clothing line is with a few graphic products, like t-shirts, sweatshirts, or hats. Whether you create the design yourself or hire a designer to bring your concept to life, you can use a few online tools to get your clothing line up and running in just a few weeks. Here’s how:
Step 1: Brainstorm
Before you begin designing, take the time to brainstorm your vision for your clothing line. An important part of learning how to start a brand of clothing is thinking through all the details of your customers, your brand, and your individual pieces of clothing. Here are a few things to consider:
- Your brand: What’s your overall vision for your brand? If you don’t already have a name for your brand, that is an essential part of starting your clothing line. Also consider elements like your logo, brand colors, and even the wording you’ll use when you start to launch your marketing efforts.
- Your target customer: Who are you designing for? Try to get as granular as possible: Where do they like to shop for clothing? What do they do for a living? Where do they go on a daily basis? What pain points do they face when buying clothing? (For example, if you’re interested in learning how to start a fitness clothing line, your customers probably want lightweight, sweat-wicking fabrics and designs that don’t interfere with their workouts.) The answers to these questions will directly play into what pieces you create and how you design them.
- Clothing designs: What will the actual product look like? If you design t-shirts, for example, will the artwork be primarily graphics or phrases and typography? Also think about the colors and materials you’ll use.
While brainstorming is the time to think big and, in some ways, daydream about what your brand could become, it’s also important to be realistic. That might mean that instead of creating concepts for 11 or 12 designs, you focus on creating three or four really strong pieces.
As you brainstorm, seek feedback on your ideas. Run your concepts past friends or family, or seek constructive criticism in an online discussion group. Making adjustments at this point in the process will be much easier than down the line, when you already have the products in hand.
Step 2: Create Your Designs
If you’re a designer or illustrator, you can create your designs in programs like Photoshop or GIMP. If you don’t have those kinds of artistic skills, however, you can hire someone to create the designs for you.
First, mock up the design to the best of your ability, whether you create a rough sketch or gather a few photos to use as visual references. At this point, you just need to be able to convey to a designer what you have in mind for each of your concepts.
If you don’t already know a designer, check out websites like Fiverr or Upwork, which allow you to hire artists to create your designs. Search through the wide network of artists available, choose one that seems to jive with your brand’s style, and communicate your concept. The designer will typically provide an initial mockup that you can revise or adjust until you’re happy with the final product. Just make sure that the designer provides a 300 DPI file, which will produce the best results when printed on a t-shirt.
Step 3: Order Samples
While you’re finalizing your designs, think about what type of clothing you’ll print the design on—t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, etc—and look for websites that sell those pieces of clothing at wholesale prices. This will allow you to buy in bulk for a cheaper price than purchasing pieces individually or in small quantities.
When you have your potential products narrowed down, consider ordering a sample of each. To be confident in your clothing, you’ll want to know exactly how the material feels, whether it runs true to size, and how it holds up after washing and drying.
Step 4: Decide How You Will Print Your Products
Once you’ve finalized your designs, there are a few different options for how to print your items. If you have the skills and equipment, you can print the designs yourself. However, this means you will also need to purchase and keep an inventory of products in a range of different sizes and colors. This can be prohibitively expensive for someone who’s just getting started. If you’re wondering how to start a clothing line with no money—or at least, as little as possible—print on demand is a good option.
With print on demand companies, you can set up a virtual storefront that showcases images of your product. When someone purchases one, the company prints, packages, and ships the item directly to the customer. There are fees associated with print-on-demand options, but it is generally less expensive to get started with this option than ordering, printing, and maintaining inventory on your own.
Step 5: Set Up Your Online Shop
If you choose to print on demand, many companies offer the ability to set up your storefront directly on their platform. Alternatively, you can list your products on Etsy, Amazon, or your own website. Regardless of the platform you choose, you need a few core elements:
- Product photos: Potential customers are going to be enticed to buy—or not buy—based on your product photos. Make sure your images clearly show the product in good light and, ideally, from a variety of angles.
- Price point: Set a price point that will generate sufficient margins for you to make a profit and meet your business goals, while taking into account any hosting or printing fees.
- Shipping: Make your shipping policy clear on your storefront, whether shipping is included in your price or you charge extra to cover those fees. Some storefront platforms will also allow you to choose your preferred shipping company (e.g., FedEx, UPS, USPS, etc.).
Depending on your storefront setup, you may also need to integrate your print-on-demand platform. For example, if you create your storefront on Big Cartel, you can directly connect it to Printful, which will fulfil your orders.
Now, you’re ready to launch your shop! Promote your brand on social media, tell your friends, and get your name out there. As you fulfill more orders and get to know your customers better, you can expand your brand even further, introducing more colors, products, and designs.
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