The fashion industry is always growing, and becoming a successful fashion designer takes a lot of time and effort. It also takes some knowledge about the industry and some business skills. If you are thinking about starting a clothing brand, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s our step-by-step guide to starting your fashion business in the UK and building a profitable clothing line.
Pick a niche
Decide who you want to sell to. These people will be your target audience. There is always some customer group somewhere whose needs are not being met. Figure out what kind of clothes they would like to be able to buy but are struggling to find.
Carry out thorough market research to find the gap you can fill. The fashion industry is extremely competitive, and you need to offer something unique. You can even start with just one special piece to see how your target audience will react and later branch out.
Create your clothing line business plan
Whether you plan to start small or invest tons of money in your clothing business, you need to have a business plan, a document that lays out your goals, strategies for achieving them and a timeframe for doing so. Writing a business plan is an important part of starting a business since it compels you to consider and structure all the aspects of your future business.
Begin with the essential information about your company and then continue with a detailed description of your business idea. Include the following:
- your mission statement
- target customers
- analysis of the market and competition
- strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis (SWOT)
- information about your supply and distribution chain
- information about management and organisation
- financial projections
- marketing strategy
- and more…
Make sure your business plan is flexible. You may be starting your clothing line as a side business, but you should update your business plan along the way so that you are prepared when your idea takes off.
Initial and additional funding for your clothing line
When launching a new business, you need to consider how much money you will need. The best thing would be to invest your own money, but we all know this is often not enough. To raise finances for your clothing line, consider the following options:
- crowdfunding (such as Seedrs, Crowdcube or Crowdfunder )
- business angels (such as Envestors or 24Haymarket)
- government grants (Gov.uk)
- credit union loans
- bank loans
Even if you have enough money to cover your start-up costs, you may need to explore one of these options if you want to expand your clothing business.
Fashion’s most critical element is design. Making sketches is something you’ve undoubtedly done before and will have to do again. Some designers like to make rough sketches by hand and then turn them into digital ones later on. However, it’s worth investing in a paid software such as Adobe Illustrator or Digital Fashion Pro and start creating digital sketches right away.
Create a clothing brand
You will need to build a strong clothing brand that resonates with your target audience. Create a distinct brand identity and a compelling brand story that will set you apart from the competition. Tell your prospective customers about your core values and the benefits you hope to provide.
Choose a name for your clothing brand. Your name should be something that is easy to pronounce and remember. Make sure the name isn’t already in use or trademarked. This is something you can easily check on the UK government’s website. If you are struggling to come up with a cool name, find some online name generators and give them a try.
Once you have a name, check website availability. In order for your customers to be able to find you, it is crucial that your domain matches your business name.
Pick a colour palette that you will build your branding strategy around. Create a logo for your business and a consistent look across your website and all promotional materials.
Branding is a time-consuming task, but it’s important since it affects your sales and the prices you can charge for your items. If you are not sure how to do it on your own, consider hiring a branding agency or a branding expert to help you out with creating your brand’s identity.
After you’ve come up with a collection of designs, you’ll need to decide how you’ll make them into garments.
Your own production
To make clothes entirely on your own, you will need some basic equipment, tools and materials such as a sewing machine, thread, fabric, etc. It’s a good place to start, but there are limits to how much you can do on your own. If your business grows, you’ll either need to invest in additional equipment and hire people, or you’ll need to find clothing manufacturers to help you out.
You can design clothes and have them manufactured by somebody else. You will have to research manufacturers online to find the right one for you.
Typically, manufacturers provide three different production models:
1) Cut, Make, Trim (CMT)
CMT is a great option for designers that already produce some clothes but need to increase their output. Under the CMT model, you provide designs and materials and manufacturers cut, make and trim your designs into garments. CMTs are paid on an hourly basis, which makes them a bit pricy, but the fact that there is usually no minimum order amount makes up for it.
2) Full Package Production (FPP)
FPP is an excellent choice for those who are just starting their own clothing business. Under the FPP model, the manufacturer does everything for you, including digitising sketches and sourcing materials. The manufacturer can also give you advice on the most appropriate fabrics and order quantities for your budget. You’ll have access to resources and expertise that will help you grow your company. Of course, this level of support comes at a higher price.
3) Print on Demand (PoD)
With PoD, neither you nor the provider sews clothes, there are no raw materials involved. You personalise readymade white-label clothes from the provider’s catalogue. In a nutshell, you design artwork, create mock-up clothes with your artwork on them and add them to your online shop. Whenever a customer buys your garment, the provider prints your design on the garment and sends it straight to the customer. Unlike with CMT and FPP, you don’t keep and manage inventory, and you are only charged for what you sell. This is a great option for somebody who wants to get into the clothing industry without investing a huge amount of money from the start. Camaloon has been in the printing business for years, and we use only high-quality white-label clothes and the most advanced printing techniques available. We ship your clothes to your customers in a matter of days.
Whichever manufacturer and model you choose, you must be confident in the manufacturer’s ability to deliver. Look for reviews online, get samples from several manufacturers, and, if possible, visit the premises. Get all the manufacturing costs in writing to avoid misunderstandings.
One of the most difficult aspects of running your own business is setting the prices for your items. There are many factors to take into account, including design time, materials, manufacturing expenses, shipping costs, taxes, the type of brand you want to be, etc. Most importantly, your price should match your product quality. Customers can sense when they are being overcharged for something.
The rule of thumb is that your wholesale price should be two times the cost of manufacturing the item. Multiplying the wholesale price by two gives the retail price.
Take your clothing line to the market
You can sell your clothes in a physical store, online or through large retailers. To increase your chances of selling, you can use more than one sales channel.
Selling your clothes in a physical store
A brick-and-mortar boutique is the most traditional way to sell clothes. When starting a clothing business, most designers are concerned about finding a good location that suits their audience and brand prices.
Opening a physical shop is high-risk because it requires a large upfront investment. Aside from the clothes you’ll be selling, there’s the rent, as well as additional expenses like utilities and insurance.
It’s impossible to say whether or not your company will be able to afford the costs of running a brick-and-mortar store. Many people waste money on pricey location rentals only to discover that their business isn’t as profitable as they had hoped.
A more cost-effective way to sell your clothes in person would be at local markets. You can sell your clothes at a market stall for as low as £10 per day.
Online clothing store
More people than ever buy clothes online nowadays, and an online store is a great way to start selling if you are on a tight budget (and most startups are).
These are your options:
You don’t need advanced technical skills to build a WordPress site and all you have to do is add a WooCommerce payment plugin to it to create an online store. Most small businesses build their website with WordPress entirely on their own to save money. You just have to pay for site hosting and a domain. Of course, you can invest more into website development and hire an agency or a website developer to build a branded website for you.
2) eCommerce platform
You can build an eCommerce website on an eCommerce platform such as PrestaShop or Shift4Shop. These platforms charge a low monthly fee and offer free and paid templates you can customise to create your own store. It’s best to choose one with lots of features and tailor it to fit your brand (color palette, font and layout).
You will have to create compelling copy for your website and invest in high-quality photography to make your website look professional and instill trust.
Your clothing line on a large retailer’s shelves
One of the options is to try to convince a large retailer to sell your clothing line. This, of course, is a difficult task, but not impossible to achieve. What you are offering needs to be unique, but also fit the retailer’s offer. Retailers pay wholesale prices so you might need to negotiate to get a better deal. However, don’t oversell yourself, i.e. promise more than you can deliver.
Marketing your clothing line
Your marketing strategy is limited by your budget, and you can’t compete with giant fashion brands. However, there are a few simple yet effective things you can do to promote your fashion brand without breaking the bank.
Social media marketing
Use social media to raise awareness about your fashion brand. It’s completely free and only requires your time and effort. There is no need to use all the social media channels out there, just those where your target audience spends their time. Most clothing brands use Instagram, but there are plenty of options available. Create an account with your brand name and publish engaging content to attract followers. If you can afford it, try to use professional photography when creating your posts.
Use emails to keep customers informed about your brand and any news related to it. You can notify them about new garments being launched, upcoming deals and so on. Just don’t be spammy.
Start writing a blog to tell the story of your brand and the person behind it. Establish yourself as an authority in your niche by providing informative and educational content. Blogs increase your online visibility, help drive traffic to your website and increase sales over time.
Starting a clothing line is a complex process, and lots of people get discouraged at the very beginning when they see what’s involved. However, if becoming a fashion designer is your dream, we advise you to persevere. The fashion industry is a lucrative one, and you could earn a decent living with your talent. It’s just that success, like anything else, does not happen overnight. So, figure out the business model to go with, find reliable partners to help you out and get down to work!