Starting a clothing line can be a very rewarding experience for
a creative entrepreneur with a vision. Whether you’re looking
to create a simple line of printed apparel or you want to
create an entire cut & sew collection featuring various
pieces and seasonal additions, this post will show you how to
start a clothing line.

Depending on what kind of clothing line you want to create,
there’s likely going to be many different steps involved in the
process. The more involved you want to be in the sourcing and
production of your line, the more time, effort and money you’ll
have to invest. If you’re just interested in starting something
quick and easy, there’s options for that too. In this post,
we’re going to show you step-by-step how you can start your own
clothing line whether you have a small budget of $100, or if
you have more than $10,000 to invest.

If you’ve ever been thinking about starting a clothing brand,
look no further. This post has been in the works for nearly a
year and along the way we’ve included the knowledge and
experience of dozens of entrepreneurs and companies from the
clothing industry. This industry knowledge ranges from a small
brand that managed to launch a successful crowdfunding campaign
that raised them $300,000 to put towards manufacturing their
high-end merino wool clothing line, to a private label
wholesaler of blank apparel who targets the B2B market, to a
pattern maker and tech pack designer who works with aspiring
clothing line creators to help bring their visions to life and
finally we’ve gone right to the source to get insight from a
factory that dyes yarn and weaves textiles.

There’s a lot involved when it comes to starting your own
clothing line, so let’s jump into it.

Deciding Clothing Products You Want To Sell

You have a lot of choices when it comes to creating apparel and
fashion products. If you’ve always wanted to start a clothing
line, you likely already have a good idea of the particular
products you want to create and sell. For others, creating a
clothing brand may represent a unique and interesting
opportunity to design a product that represents their personal
style and personality, but they may be unsure of which products
to sell.

Regardless of which person you are, it’s important to carefully
consider all clothing and apparel options before deciding to
move forward.

Some clothing and apparel products you may want to consider for
your brand are:

Short Sleeve Shirts

Long Sleeve Shirts

Hoodies

Pants/Leggings

Dresses

Lingerie/Underwear/Socks

Each of these clothing products present their own
opportunities, challenges, and available options for building a
clothing business and brand around them. Below we will look
into some of the most common clothing line business models to
get a better sense of the work, time and monetary investment
required for each.

Choosing a Clothing Line Business Model

If you’re ready to start your clothing brand you’ll have some
important choices to make at this point. There are several
directions you can take to create your own brand that are
pretty different from each other. Furthermore, and most
importantly, the difficultly, costs and time input vary
dramatically.

Let’s take a look at the most common options:

Print-On-Demand

Private Label Clothing Line

Custom Cut & Sew Clothing Line

Let’s dig into the advantages and disadvantages of each one
below:

Type

Difficulty

Cost

Time Input

1. Print-On-Demand

Very Low

$

Very Low

2. Wholesale/Private Label

Low

$$

Medium

3. Custom Cut & Sew Clothing Line

High

$$$$

Very High

1. Print-On-Demand Clothing Line

The first and easiest option for starting your own clothing
line involves printing your designs or logo on standard blank
apparel. This is an attractive option for people with a low
budget (less than $1,000) and those wanting to benefit from
being able to set up a nearly fully-automated business. The
biggest drawback to this type of business model is the lower
profit margins and the lack of ability to differentiate your
product on things like material, stitching and fit since you’re
using standard wholesale clothing.

The print-on-demand or direct-to-garment printing process uses
a special digital ink-jet printer to print ink directly onto
clothing and apparel.  These digital printers are able to
produce full color images with extreme accuracy.

Print-on-demand printing produces high quality printed apparel
quickly and efficiently. Because of this, there are no setup
costs, unlike screen printing. This means that it’s easy and
cost effective to print small orders (including just 1 unit).

Pros

No set-up costs

High quality prints

Unlimited color options

Perfect for low order quantities or one-offs

Many clothing options (shirts, leggings, socks, dresses
etc.)

Cons

Not cost effective for large production runs

Generally no volume discounts

Limited print product selection

Limited finishing options (tags, labels, etc)

Timeline: DaysCosts: $0-$500Time & Energy Input: Very LowOther Notes: We recommend Printful and Shopify. When utilizing a
clothing & apparel print company like Printful (which
seamlessly integrates with your Shopify store), you can be up
and running in a matter of hours for under $50. Once you
receive an order for your online store, Printful will also
receive the order automatically and begin the printing process
and ship it to your customer on your behalf. Read more and
learn step-by-step
how to start a t-shirt business in under 24 hours.

2. Wholesale/Private Label Clothing Line

This option is similar to the option above, but a little more
involved, giving you more options for personalization and
higher margins, while costing more and taking slightly longer
to get started.

This method involves you purchasing blank clothing products
that you would then need to customize by adding print, tags,
labels, etc. Since you’re purchasing bulk inventory upfront,
you’ll also need to figure out warehousing and shipping for
your products.

By purchasing blank clothing and apparel items upfront and in
bulk, you get better pricing which allows for greater margins.
As an additional benefit, by purchasing inventory upfront and
not printing/shipping directly from the printer, you have
greater control over the final product allowing you to add
additional details like tags and custom labels. This allows you
to further increase your brand’s perceived value to achieve
greater margins. Finally, purchasing inventory upfront allows
for more cost effective and equally high-quality printing
processes like screen printing (as opposed to digital
direct-to-garment printing as noted in the above method).

Screen printing is an old technique that has stood the test of
time. As one of the most popular methods for printing onto
clothing and apparel, screen printing can produce durable and
long lasting result. However, it has a labor intensive setup
process which means screen printing is its most cost effective
when printing in bulk.

Pros

Cost effective in large batches

Volume discounts

Potential for increased perceived value from customers

Potential for increased margins

Cons

Not cost effective for large inventories of designs, colors
and sizes

Can only print simple images and designs (not photographs)

Usually minimum order starts at 10 units per color/size

You’ll have to manage inventory and shipping yourself

Timeline: WeeksCosts: $2,500+Time & Energy Input: MediumOther Notes: We recommend ThreadBird and Just Like Hero. ThreadBird is pretty much a
one-stop shop, providing you with the blank apparel, the
printing, as well as an array of clothing line finishing options like adding
sewn tags, hangtags, folding and bagging of your apparel.
Minimum orders begin at 25 pieces per size/style. Just Like
Hero only provides the blank apparel which you would then have
to find a printer for. While they currently offer a much
smaller selection, the quality is much better, and the pricing
is cheaper than lower quality blanks from large manufacturers.
Furthermore, there are no minimum orders, making Just Like Hero
ideal for someone looking to start a smaller, high quality,
more custom and hands on apparel brand without the high startup
costs.

3. Custom Cut & Sew Clothing Line

Custom cut & sew clothing means you’re doing everything.
We’re talking about designing sketches, turning them into
patterns, sourcing fabrics and manufacturers and paying for a
full production run (which could be thousands of units).

Making your own clothing isn’t for the faint of heart. This can
be an intensive process that can take months at minimum to get
up and running. You’ll need to find a manufacturer that is
willing to do smaller runs, you’ll need to work with a pattern
maker, you’ll have to source and test fabric, and create many
samples before you even come close to a finished product.
Depending on the exact clothing items you’re looking to
produce, just to get a few samples as finished products can
cost thousands.

Once you have a finished product, you’ll need to produce a full
run with your manufacturer, you’ll need to stock your inventory
and develop a shipping
strategy to get your clothes to your customers.

Pros

100% custom product

Potential for increased perceived value from customers

Potential for increased margins

Cons

Very high startup costs

Complex process involving several moving parts

Can take months or more to launch

Timeline: 3 months – 1 yearCosts: $10,000+Time & Energy Input: Very HighOther Notes: The second part of this post will
focus on all the steps and resources involved in developing
your own cut & sew clothing line. Read on.

The Elements of A Successful Clothing
Brand

Great clothing brands are great for a reason. Usually they do
one thing very well, and sometimes they do multiple things
really well. Before starting your own clothing line, there are
four important factors to a successful brand that you’ll want
to consider:

Niche

Design

Quality

Brand

Let’s dive into each one of these elements a little more
below:

Clothing Niche

Selecting a specific niche is important, and many times vital,
for success in the clothing & apparel industry. Blindly
trying to target large groups of people will leave you with a
brand that speaks to no one.

Focusing on a specific group of people has several major
benefits:

Easier to Market

More Affordable

Less Competition

Greater Customer Loyalty

Generally, clothing with funny slogans, or hoodies for men are
going to be too broad to attack since the markets for both are
very developed. Niching down will help you better target your
market, allow you to reach them more easily and be able to
create more value for them. For example, instead of clothing
with funny slogans, you might cater to a specific and
passionate market like clothing with slogans for nurses or
firefighters. Or, instead of hoodies for men, you could focus
on manufacturing ultra thick/warm hoodies for people in cold
climates.

Clothing Design

Your designs- whether they’re printed, embroidered, or the
design of the actual garment itself- are critical. Not only
does it need to look great, but it also needs to look great
specifically in the eyes of your target market.

Ultimately, you’ll lose if your clothing designs aren’t
aesthetically pleasing and relatable to the buyer. Your designs
don’t necessarily need to be complex, in fact many of the best
selling clothing brands are very simple, however, they do need
to connect with your specific audience/niche.

Clothing Quality

You can fool someone once, but you can’t fool them twice. A
pattern that fades and cracks or comes apart at the seams after
one wash won’t create raving fans that come back and
repurchase.

Not all clothing is the same, there can be huge variances in
the quality of clothing items. The quality and composition of
the materials you choose will affect how the clothing wears,
how it washes, how it fades, shrinks and ultimately how long it
lasts. As we mentioned above, quality is paramount to your
brand and its success, so it’s important to educate yourself
and choose your materials carefully.

It will always be tempting to sacrifice on quality for higher
profit margins but you need to consider how the quality will
affect customer’s decisions to share your brand with others and
repurchase in the long run.

Clothing Brand

Many clothing brands are built on a strong brand. Beyond the
clothes themselves, a strong brand encourages and reinforces
your target market to purchase, represent, share and repurchase
your clothing line. Your brand extends way beyond the product
itself and encompasses what the brand stands for and the
lifestyle associated with it.

Differentiating Your Clothing Line

The clothing design and apparel industry is one of the most
saturated industries to be in. In order to effectively compete,
you’ll need to have a point of differentiation that sets you
apart in the market from all the rest.

Working out of a factory has also given me an upfront view of
how many people get into this industry with absolutely no
clue what it’s going to take to build a brand that is even
remotely successful. Blaming ignorance isn’t entirely fair…
we had absolutely no clue how hard it would be either.
However, we started Stock with a clear reason of what
differentiated us, why people would be interested in buying
our stuff, and how we would go about selling. This is a step
that I see a lot of aspiring makers skip. – Jim Snediker | Stock Mfg. Co.

The good news is that there are multiple ways to set yourself
apart from the crowd including:1. Design – If you plan to have graphics or
images on your clothing pieces, the designs (the style of
designs and quality of designs) can help set you apart from
others.

Example: Blackmilk Clothing made their name
known and became one of Shopify’s largest merchants by creating
uniquely designed leggings, while also partnering with major
brands, in the case below, Dr. Who:

2. Fit/Style – If you plan to create your own
clothing from the ground up, the actual fit and style of the
clothes can be an important point of differentiation.

Example: Sharp Casualwear provides upscale
clothing to men 5’8” and under who are seeking stylish staples
that fit well. Perhaps the original online brand that became
famous and known for a better fit is Bonobos. Bonobos decided that they
wanted to create a better fitting men’s pant. Their better fit
helped establish them early on and turned their brand into a
100 million dollar company.

3. Brand – With all else being the same,
people will buy from the brand who’s story they can more relate
to. Furthermore, a strong brand alone that connects with
consumers can allow you to demand a higher price point, even if
quality is relatively the same as other common and less
expensive brands.

Example: Billionaire Boys
Club throughout the early 2000’s sold t-shirts for nearly
$100 that simply said “Billionaire Boys Club”. Although
arguably their’s were the same quality as hundreds of others on
the market, consumers bought into the young, urban brand and
its story.

4. Niche – The niche you choose to operate in
and your target market, if defined well enough and if it’s
under-served, can be in itself a point of differentiation.

Example: See Ya Never
targets digital nomads that work via the internet and travel
the world. Even with thousands of clothing brands on the
market, there’s very few, if any targeting this particular
group of people.

80’s Tees sells
exclusive designs from 80’s movies and TV shows. Not only are
the designs appealing and nostalgic, but many of the designs
are licensed making them exclusive and nearly impossible to
find elsewhere.

Finally, Canada Threads focuses on clothing &
accessories that uniquely resonate with Canadians including
designs relating to the beloved Canadian House Hippo.

5. Performance/Material/Quality – The type of
material plays a part in differentiating your clothing pieces
from the rest out there, how they perform for the wearer (are
they comfortable, itchy, restricting, warm, light, airy, do
they wrinkly easily, etc.) and their overall quality including
any seams, buttons, the weight of the fabric etc, will all play
a role in your consumer’s satisfaction.

Example: Unbound Merino 
ran a successful crowdfunding campaign raising $300,000
and are building their brand based on the performance of their
clothing: Casual wear made from 100% super soft merino wool
which has superior breathability and odour blocking abilities,
allowing this line of travel clothes to be worn many times
without washing.

Developing a Business Plan for Your Clothing Line

With some of the basics out of the way, the next step is for
you to develop a basic (but critical) business plan to map out
your decisions and the direction for your clothing company.

Some of the major elements you’ll want to consider when putting
together your
ecommerce business plan are:

Your Business Model

Customer Personas

Competitor Strengths & Weaknesses

Costs & Margins

Bonus: We
recommend our exclusive
One Page Ecommerce Business Plan to help you build your
business plan and strategy for your clothing line. Including a
full-page worksheet and a 40 page accompanying ebook, the One
Page Ecommerce Business Plan is formulated to guide you through
the 12 main areas of your business’ foundation so you don’t
miss any important steps or overlook any important numbers.

Crafting a Brand for Your Clothing Line

The next step is to develop a brand persona for your new line.
Crafting a brand for your new clothing company is paramount.
With so many clothing companies and brands out there, you’ll
need to differentiate yourself. Your brand will be a big part
of that.

Ultimately, every business has a brand and every new business
will have a brand. Crafting your brand upfront gives you the
chance to better define and communicate your message and story.

If you’re planning on a custom cut & sew clothing line you
may want to consider a dedicated branding agency to help you
craft your brand. If you’re planning on a print-on-demand or a
private label brand where you’re investment and budget is much
smaller, developing your own brand can be a worthwhile and low
cost option.

At this stage you need to identify:

Who your market is

What brand would speak best to this market

Below, we will quickly introduce you to several key elements to
develop your clothing company brand, however, for a complete
breakdown of all brand elements, as well as the guide and
worksheets to define all your brand elements, please download
our branding guide,
A Better Brand.

Defining Your Market

Defining your market is important for any brand, but especially
for brands in the clothing and apparel market because it’s
extremely saturated. By broadly targeting large groups of
people, you’re setting yourself up for failure right from the
beginning. What you want to do is niche down and create
segments.

Some critical questions to ask yourself at this stage is:

What type of clothing and apparel products do you want to
make?

Who is going to purchase your product?

What specific value will your product or brand bring these
people?

What will be unique about your product?

Who is your competition?

Creating Your Brand Pillars

Brand pillars are a few key words or attributes (usually 3-4)
that embody what your brand is about and serve as a starting
point for developing your brand persona. Later, these words are
used as a check point against most activities of the brand. For
example, when creating your website, an advertisement or even a
conversation with your customer, you should check it against
your brand pillars. Ask yourself: does my
design/website/ad/conversation represent the essence behind
those words?

Your brand pillars act as a simple tool for keeping your brand
consistent throughout all of your activities and serves as the
foundation for your brand.

Developing Your Brand Visuals

Your brand visuals are the common brand elements that many
people immediately think about when they think about a
particular brand. This includes your logo, brand colors and
fonts, as well as your overall design and photography
aesthetics.

Creating a Moodboard: A moodboard is the
perfect way to start pulling together the visual style you’re
going for. Essentially a moodboard is a collection of images,
photos, designs, colors and and any other snippets of
multimedia you find from around the web that serves as an
inspiration for your brand. While there are many tools
available online to help you collect these elements, the
easiest way tends to be using Pinterest.

Selecting a Color Pallet: Your next step in
the branding process is to narrow down a color pallet to use.
Selecting a color pallet up front will help keep your brand
looking consistent through all channels. You’ll want to start
by paying particular attention to the dominate colors used in
your moodboard since these are likely colors that immediately
caught your eye. From there we also suggest you use a tool like
Adobe Color to review other
community inspired and voted color pallets to get some
additional ideas. Finally, Adobe also offers a tool for helping
choose and refine your color pallet, check it out here.

Crafting a Logo: When it comes to crafting a
logo for your business, you’ll want a logo that not only
represents your brand well, but one that speaks to your target
demographic. While we always recommend working with a respected
design to craft the perfect logo for your brand, those with
smaller budget can get started for almost nothing with a tool
like LogoJoy

Bonus: Check
out our free exclusive
ecommerce branding guide to help you develop all the
critical components of your brand including your brand persona
as well as all of your brand visuals like your moodboard, color
pallet, logo and photography style. This guide includes a PDF
ebook as well as several worksheets to help you craft the
perfect brand for your clothing line.

 

 

 

 

 

Note: At this point, we will continue on the
path of talking about creating your own custom cut & sew
clothing line. If you’re planning on creating a print-on-demand
clothing line, you can skip several sections and go to Creating Your Online store. If you’re
planning to create a private label/wholesale clothing line, you
can skip to Branding Your Clothing &
Packaging.

 

 

 

 

 

Product Development Process for Your Clothing Line

For someone completely new to the fashion business this is an
important step in the process: consider partnering with a
professional who knows what they’re doing and how to do it
properly. Professionals such as pattern makers, tech pack
creators, design partners, materials partners and production
partners are highly experienced in their respective fields and
it’s their job to make your clothing line a reality in the
most efficient way possible. Without the help of professionals,
things like pattern making and tech packs can be a nightmare
for not only you but for the future manufacturer you plan to
work with.

This is where researching your manufacturer in advance pays off
for you though: some manufacturers offer professional product
development services, some will only manufacture for you if
they have done your product development and others don’t
provide these services but they have partners who they prefer
working with. All of this information will be outlined on
the manufacturer’s website or by contacting them directly.

When it comes to the product development of your clothing line,
there is generally going to be a common path to follow with
some common terminology no matter what types of clothing
products you’re developing. First we will look at a what the
general process of clothing product development looks like,
then we will discuss the process in more detail.

Designs – This generally refers to the
initial design concept and are usually represented as
sketches either on paper or digitally. While your patterns
might start out as concept sketches, eventually you’ll likely
turn them into digital sketches using a program like Illustrator.

Tech Pack – A Tech Pack is essentially a
blueprint for your apparel product, providing a manufacturer
with all the details and technical specifications for
production. This includes the design, measurements, materials
and any accessories (zipper, buttons, etc.).

Pattern Making & Grading – Pattern
making is the process of turning your technical drawings into
patterns that can be used for production. Grading is the
process of taking a single pattern and grading the pattern up
or down to create the additional patterns for all the other
sizes in your apparel line.

Sourcing – Sourcing involves finding,
communicating, vetting and working with multiple
manufacturers to determine which one is best suited for full
production of your particular products.

Samples – This involves a manufacture
producing a small batch of samples to provide you with a
proof of concept as well as to identify potential issues and
improvements prior to a full production run.

Production – A full product run is the mass
production of your apparel products. Depending on the
products and the manufacturer, this can be hundreds of
thousands of units.

Below, we will go into greater detail about each of these steps
in the process and provide you with more content and resources
to get you started. However, it’s important to note that there
are resources available that will help guide you through the
full process, helpping you each step of the way.

Some of the most popular are:

Designing Your Clothing Line Concepts

Your clothing line will begin as sketches. Most likely simple
sketches in a notebook. This is usually the best route to go to
get the ideas out of your head. As you begin sketching your
ideas, also think about adding any specific notes or unique
ideas you have for your clothing as well as any special
features and functionality.

The initial goal is just to start developing your ideas and
bring them to life.

Furthermore, the benefit of sketching out your ideas is that
they can be shared. This is important because unless you’re a
clothing designer (you’re not), you’re going to likely need to
enlist the help of a fashion designer or illustrator to help
you pull together and refine your sketches into something more
realistic and thought out.

Creating a Pattern & Developing a Tech Pack

You will need to enlist the help of a qualified pattern maker
to take your idea and turn it into an actual pattern that can
then be turned into an actual piece of clothing. A pattern can
then be used to help create a tech pack.

A tech pack is essentially a blueprint for each garment. Your
tech pack tells your manufacturer all the information required
to transform your design into a final product. A proper
and complete tech pack will reduce errors in production, save
you money, prevent miscommunication, and ultimately bring your
product to life, exactly how you envisioned it.

Your tech pack should include all possible details about your
product including (but not limited to):

Design

Fabrics

Measurements

Trim

Stitching

Artwork

Label & Tag Information

Packaging Instructions

Here’s an example of a tech pack for a better understanding:

Here are some Pattern Makers and Technical Designers that have
been vetted and provided by Maker’s Row to get you started:

Additional places to hire freelancers to help produce your tech
packs:

Clothing Manufacturer Research

Once you’ve researched your own brand the next step in
this process is to research potential clothing manufacturers.
Find out things like their location, capabilities, heritage,
reputation and what other brands they’ve worked with to get an
idea of what they can offer you. It’s important at this stage
to really be thorough as small things such as location can have
a massive impact on communication, turn around time and
shipping when it actually comes to working with a manufacturer.
Not every manufacturer provides the same services so it’s
important to know the pros and cons of as many manufacturers as
possible so you can find the services you’re looking for
without compromising your brand values.

Clothing Manufacturers

Starting with a specialized clothing manufacturer can get you
up and running in the most efficient way possible. All of the
clothing manufacturers on this list are leading industry
clothing production companies and with 49 verified
manufacturers there is a clothing manufacturer to suit any job.
With factories that specialize in activewear, women’s clothing,
men’s clothing, kid’s clothing, lingerie, and more there are
plenty of options and a variety of companies to choose
from so you can make sure you pick the right one that
suits your needs.

Maker’s
Row – Maker’s Row has nearly 10,000 factories to
explore, including over 3,000 in apparel, all based in the
USA.

Sourcify – Sourcify has
relationships with hundreds of Chinese manufacturers and will
work with you to find and vet the right one for you.

Sqetch – Sqetch is similar to Maker’s
Row but focuses on connecting you with European
manufacturers.

FactoryFinder – FactoryFinder
can help with material selection, samples and production by
connecting you with the right clothing manufacturer.

SourceEasy – SourceEasy is a complete
platform to help you with the full clothing production
process.

Bonus: Check
out our exclusive
Clothing Manufacturers Directory to help get your search
started. The Clothing Manufacturer’s List can be the first and
best step you take to creating your own clothing line so have a
look and get started creating with industry experts.

Contacting Clothing Manufacturers

By now you should have been able to narrow down a long list of
potential clothing manufacturers into a shorter list of
manufacturers who meet your needs when it comes down to what
you require in terms of professional services, which
manufacturers are actually able to create your future garments,
manufactures in an accessible location and ones who meet your
budget requirements. Now is the time to contact your potential
manufacturers, but that may be easier said than done. Response
rates for manufacturers differs, but producing a well thought
out initial email can increase your chances of actually
receiving a response back from potential manufactures. Here are
some general DOs and DON’Ts when it comes to contacting a
manufacturer:

DON’T Come across as a “tire-kicker.” If
your interest in manufacturing doesn’t seem to be serious or
genuine you may not get a response. Manufacturers don’t want
to waste their own time working with people who aren’t
serious when they could be working with people who actually
want to build and grow their business.

DO Be polite. You and your manufacturer will
be working together in this processes, they don’t solely work
for you so treat them with respect and be mindful of their
requirements, services and processes.

DO Be clear. In the best interest of
yourself and your future manufacturer it’s best practice to
be clear about what you’re looking for, the services you
require, your timeline, etc. Be upfront about what you need
and don’t leave any room for ambiguities in the event that it
will create more confusion down the road.

DO Follow up. It’s okay to follow up after
your initial email to ensure the factory received and read
the message, so be prepared to send up to three follow up
emails spaced apart by a couple days to prompt a response
from a factory. This will make you seem eager and serious to
the factory which, if you’re new to this process, is what you
want.

DON’T Give too much information. Introduce
your company, the products that you’re looking to create with
them, what services you’re looking for and ask what further
information they need from you. Give them enough information
to know your intentions and that you’re serious about the
inquiry, but don’t overload them yet with your brand goals,
material choices and timelines.

Click
here to learn more about how to construct the perfect
initial contact email.

Screening Potential Factories

If you’re lucky, by this step you’ll have received responses
from some of the factories you’ve contacted and now it’s time
to narrow down your search. Even if you only received a
response from one factory, it is still important to make sure
it’s the right fit for you. At this step you should communicate
further with the factories and learn more about how they
conduct business and the quality of their products. You should
be looking to evaluate whether or not you will get along with
them personally and professionally in order to gauge your
potential for success as colleagues. Things to look out for:

How they prefer to communicate with their clients (by
email, phone or personal visits)

Ask for references from other clients (to get a first hand
evaluation of what they are like to work with)

Ask for samples of products they’ve made (to judge if the
quality of their products is at the level you’re looking for)

Understand how they charge for samples, services and what
constitutes extra charges

Get a feel for their timeline and availability

Now is the time to learn more about the factory, see their
workspace in action and to communicate further with the
manufacturer. This stage will give you an initial glimpse of
what it will be like to work with this factory in the long run
so it’s important to identify your
respective strengths and weaknesses now so you can reduce
the possibility of headaches and potential miscommunications in
the future. This is the time to let the manufacturer in on
your brand goals, where you see your brand starting off, what
you see your brand scaling to and let them know how you want
them involved in that process. All the time you spent defining
your brand in the first step should be communicated to the
manufacturer to see if they understand where your brand is
going and if they can get excited for your brand too.

Sampling

Now that you can see yourself manufacturing your clothing line
with a factory or two it’s time to get some samples made so you
can truly experience what your potential product will be like.
No matter how well your designs, patterns and tech packs have
been there’s always opportunities for adjustments and
corrections so it’s strongly encouraged that the sampling step
is never skipped. It can be easy to want to jump straight into
production, especially when time and money are on the line, but
in the end a whole line of garments that don’t fit properly
will cost you more than just having a few samples done right
from the start. At this stage it is appropriate to have more
than one factory make samples of your garments. Feel free to
shop around so you’re absolutely sure the factory you pick will
be producing the garments you want at the quality level you
want.

Full-Scale Production

The final step of the manufacturing process is really just
the first step to building your own clothing brand so now it’s
time to work with your manufacturer and produce your garments.
At this stage it’s important to stay five steps ahead of
everything: make sure deadlines are adhered to, be available to
answer any questions your manufacturer may encounter at this
point and be diligent with quality control. Once production for
one season of garments starts the planning for the next season
begins, so now that you have the right manufacturer for your
business let their skills and services help build your brand to
where you want it to be.

Pricing Your Clothing Products

Budgeting out product development and production costs is
something you need to determine prior to contacting factories
in order to be able to understand all aspects of production
such as what fabric you’ll be able to use and whether producing
overseas or in your home country is your best option.

Costs to consider in your budget include:

The price of professional product development services such
as pattern making, tech packs, design development, etc.

The cost of making samples, bearing in mind that more than
one sample is usually made

The cost of materials such as fabric, buttons, zippers,
hardware and any other pieces used in the construction of your
garments

The cost of transportation between you and the factory for
meetings/visiting the factory

The cost of labor (determine the difference in labor cost
between your home country and overseas labor cost requirements)

The cost of shipping between you and the factory and the
cost of shipping the necessary materials to the factory

The cost of production and actually creating the clothing
items themselves

After considering these factors you’ll be able to communicate
your budget to your future factory and find one that fits your
requirements. Pricing out all of these factors is also
helpful in determining whether or not producing in an overseas
factory is more realistic for your business, bearing in mind
that while the cost of labor may be cheaper, the cost of
shipping between you and the factory will increase, as
will turn around time. Nonetheless, understanding the cost
of product development and production helps you and your future
manufacturer make the best choices for your business.

Branding Your Clothing & Packaging

The branding of your clothing line has everything to do with
how you’ll be perceived by your customers. Branding tells the
story of your company and your packaging is one of the few
parts of your brand – besides your clothing items themselves –
that your customers will actually be able to touch, feel and
see. It engages your customers, it can make them feel valued
and thoughtful packing can increase the perceived level of
quality your customers associate with your brand and your
clothing items. This is why it’s important to seriously
consider how you package and present your clothing items, no
matter what items you’re selling.

There are plenty of different ways to enhance your brand’s
packaging and presentation and to make it unique and true to
your brand. Let’s learn more:

Branded Packaging Options

There are two different types of options when it comes to
branding your packaging: the actual elements that you use for
the packaging itself, and the additional extras you can include
with the package to elevate the unboxing experience. The
package elements are the more functional items that are
required to actually ship your clothing pieces, whereas the
added extras enhance the experience and help to make your
customers feel valued.

Elements of a Branded Package

These are the functional parts of a shipping package that
you’ll need in order to ship your items from you to your
customers. You won’t need every single one of these items, but
they’re all options that you can use depending on what you want
your packaging to achieve.

Shipping Boxes

Depending on the clothing items you sell, you may have to ship
them to your customers in a shipping box. Shipping boxes are
sturdy and are a good option for shipping heavy or bulky items
(such as coats) or delicate items that need to be protected
throughout the shipping process (such as beaded clothing
pieces, or items with 3D appliqué). Shipping boxes, however,
can add weight and size to your package making it more
expensive to ship, but if it will protect your clothing items
while they’re on their way to your customers, it’s a small
price to pay upfront that should decrease future damaged items
and returned products.

Keep in mind that your shipping boxes don’t have to be boring
cardboard boxes. There are plenty of services available to
entrepreneurs and small businesses that can create custom boxes
for your products at competitive prices, whether you’re looking
for something sleek, simple and plain or something colourful,
bold, patterned and vibrant. You can also use these services to
get your brand name printed onto the box itself for a more
professional unboxing experience.

Where to Source Shipping Boxes:

Poly Mailers

Another great alternative for shipping clothing items are
shipping bags, otherwise referred to in the industry as poly
mailers. These are an advantageous option because unlike
shipping boxes they don’t add much weight or bulk to your
package, so you won’t be adding extra shipping costs to your
package. They are less sturdy than a box, so they’re a good
option if you’re shipping clothing pieces that aren’t easily
damaged and can be bent and folded throughout the shipping
process. They do come in plenty of sizes so whether you’re
shipping one item or a few at a time, you should be able to
source a selection of different sized poly mailers to meet your
customer’s needs. Plenty of brands ship clothing items to their
customers in poly mailers, so it really is an appropriate
method for the industry.

There are plenty of places online where you can get custom poly
mailers made for your business, so you’re able to add your
logo, brand colours or fun patterns to make it more exciting
for your customers.

Where to Source Poly Mailers:

Bubble Mailers

If your clothing items need a bit more protection but you don’t
want to completely upgrade from a poly mailer to a full on
shipping box, you have another option: bubble mailers. As the
name would suggest, they’re like poly mailers but they have a
layer of bubble wrap included on the inside of the mailer which
helps protect whatever’s inside. They don’t offer the same
sturdiness that shipping boxes do, but they help to cushion the
contents of the mailer throughout the process and are less
bulky than shipping boxes.

Where to Source Bubble Mailers:

Tissue Paper

If using packing peanuts and crinkle paper isn’t your style, if
your products don’t need additional protection or your using a
poly mailer, tissue paper may be an ideal option to enhance the
unboxing experience for your customers. Tissue paper makes the
package feel more like a gift, which can make your package seem
thoughtful and your customers feel valued. Tissue paper is an
easy way to add to your packaging without adding any extra bulk
or weight, and you can have it printed with your logo or choose
coloured or patterned paper to add some extra flair to the
package. Use an assortment of patterns, colours and styles to
keep repeat customers interested.

Where to Source Tissue Paper:

Packing Tape

Depending on your brand’s style, using packing tape that’s
colourful, patterned or printed with your logo may be an
interesting way to decorate your shipping box or package. Not
only is it decorative, but packing tape is functional and adds
another layer of security to keep box openings shut and sealed
throughout the shipping process.

Where to Source Packing Tape:

Stickers

If you don’t need something as heavy duty as packing tape to
seal your boxes or mailers shut, stickers can be an alternative
option that also can add to the branded packaging experience.
Get your logo printed on them, your brand’s tagline, mission
statement, fun facts about your brand or any other piece of
info you want to share with your customers for an added layer
of personalization. Alternatively, use stickers to brand plain
shipping boxes or mailers, or include them inside your package
for customers to use or share as they please. Stickers are
super versatile, so think about how you can use stickers to
enhance the unboxing experience.

Where to Source Stickers:

Including Extra Branded Material

These aren’t necessary to include, but if you’re interested in
elevating your unboxing experience, making it memorable for
your customers and making them feel valued, then including one
or two of these options can help you to start out in a positive
way.

Promotions, Discounts & Deals

Including packing inserts that notify your customer of an
upcoming promotion, or share a discount code or deal they can
use for themselves or share with a friend is a pleasant
surprise your customers will likely appreciate when opening
their package. It shows thought and care from your end, and
it’s also likely to encourage them to purchase with you again,
which is advantageous for you.

Business Cards

If you want your customers to remember you, refer you to a
friend or send you feedback about their experience with your
business or your products, consider including your business
card so they can hold onto it or pass on to others. It’s a
small token, but it shows that you value their input and
experience.

Custom Notes/Personalized Messages

This is the ultimate way to make your customers feel valued and
shows an immense amount of consideration and thoughtfulness.
Custom, hand written notes with personalized messages are a
great way to connect with your customers and make them feel
appreciated. While it likely won’t be possible to include a
handwritten note for all of your customers, consider including
them for your very first customers, your most frequent
purchasers, for customers who leave glowing reviews on your
website or ones that have taken the time to send you valuable
feedback. Your customers will likely feel very touched by your
effort and will likely share their experience with their peers
or on their social platforms, which is positive exposure for
your brand.

Gifts or Samples

Who doesn’t love to receive a gift?! Using gifts as a way to
thank your customers for their purchase is a surefire way to
capture their attention and make them feel valued. It doesn’t
have to be anything big (some companies include candy bars to
treat their customers) as you just want it to be an addition to
the package, but something small can be just as appreciated by
your customers. If you don’t want to gift an item from another
company, consider including a sample of one of your own
products. Again, it doesn’t have to be anything big such as
another item from your clothing line, but an accessory that
complements their purchase could be appreciated.

Branding Your Clothing Items

Beyond the packaging of your clothing items, you can also add
additional touches of branding to your clothing items
themselves to ensure they’re as seemingly high-quality as
possible and are presented in the most thought out way
possible. The best way to do this is through adding custom
labels and tags:

Clothing Labels & Tags

Clothing labels are a piece of fabric that’s attached to the
inside of clothing items that typically include the brand’s
logo. While it’s required in most places for clothing items to
have care and size labels, brand labels aren’t necessary but
they add a thoughtful touch to the clothing piece. They also
often help customers to remember where the clothing item is
from once they’ve integrated it into their wardrobe, and they
can add to the overall feel of the clothing piece. Some labels
can be scratchy and uncomfortable for the wearer, which can
make the garment seem cheap, while others can be well sewn into
the garment and made of a cloth material that’s much more high
quality. Think about how you want your brand to be perceived
and choose a type of label that fits accordingly.

Clothing Label Material Options:

Damask Woven Labels

Satin Woven Labels

Taffeta Woven Labels

Woven Patches

Cotten Twill Labels

Canvas Printed Labels

Nylon Printed Labels

Satin Printed Labels

Silicon Clothing Labels

Leather Labels

And much more

It’s also important to consider the label types there are and
where they can be located on the garment. If you want to
increase your brand’s awareness, you may want to consider
placing brand labels on the outside of your clothing items such
as on hems or cuffs, but if you want to maintain relatively
inconspicuous brand placement, you may just want to include the
labels on the inside of your garments.

The types of clothing labels you can include on your garments
include:

Manhattan Fold Labels: These are quite similar
to Center Fold Labels in their appearance, except that the top
of the label is folded over to give a more finished and
high-quality look. This type of label is typically sewn into
the collar of a garment.

The End Fold Labels: These have more of a
finished and high-quality look to them because the edges are
tucked in at the sides. These types of labels are typically
printed with brand logos are they’re quite small.

Straight Cut Labels: These have no folds at
all, which means they’re typically sewn on flat, straight onto
the garment. They’re commonly placed on the outside of the
garment as a decorative patch, usually with a brand logo
printed on them.

Center Fold Labels: These are the most common
type of apparel label. They’re usually made of woven materials
and commonly attached to the inside of garment collars.

The Mitre Fold Label: These are similar to the
End Fold Label as it’s quite small, shaped like a thin
rectangle and is typically printed just with a brand logo,
however this type of label hangs down a bit farther than the
End Fold Label instead of going straight across.

Loop Fold Labels: These are commonly sewn on
the inside of garments, typically close to the hem line in
shirts or the waist band in some trousers. This type of label
is usually reserved for care and size information, not brand
logos.

Clothing Tags

Clothing tags, otherwise referred to as hang tags, are usually
added to the garment at the very end of production and are
typically secured to the collar label of some garments, or
otherwise gently pinned or secured to the garment by piercing a
small hole through the fabric. Hang tags are meant to be
removed and typically include additional information about the
garment or the brand such as detailed information about the
care requirements that can’t fit on the inner label, or the
brand’s ethos, mission statement or purpose behind making the
garment.

Hang tags aren’t necessary but can add an extra branding
element to your clothing pieces that can make them feel more
high quality to your customers. You can use hang tags made of
thick card stock, manila ones for a vintage look or even
silicone ones for an ultra tech/high performance type of look.

Where to Source Clothing Labels and Tags:

Creating Your Online Clothing Store

If you’re serious about building a brand or learning more about
digital marketing & optimization and strategy, you need to
go with a more customizable option. We can’t recommend
Shopify enough.
Not only is Shopify one of
the easiest platforms to get started with but it’s app store is
the most robust and has a host of print-on-demand clothing
printers and dropshippers if you choose to go that route (Read
our Shopify
Review).

Shopify enables you to build your own online clothing store
wherever you are with the ability to sell to customers all over
the world. Setting up your store with Shopify is easy, and you
don’t have to worry about your website’s security so you can be
sure that you and your customer’s sensitive information is
protected when shopping on your site. Shopify is the most
recommended ecommerce platform and your best option when it
comes to starting your own clothing store online.

When setting up your clothing store on Shopify you’ll want to
take your brand into consideration and make use of all your
brand visuals. Implement your color pallet, use your logo, take
effective product and lifestyle photos of your clothes and
create a glowing “About Page” so your customers can learn more
about who your brand is and what you stand for. These are the
types of things that will make your clothing store stand out to
your customers, and they’ll be more trusting when it comes time
for them to make a purchase. You want your website to install
confidence in your customers, so take that into consideration
when setting up your online clothing store.

Bonus: Check
out our exclusive
Ecommerce Platform Recommendation Tool. This tool will ask
you a series of questions to help you narrow down and choose
the best ecommerce platform for your specific needs.

Your Store’s Theme

Another aspect of your online clothing/apparel store to take
into serious consideration is your store’s theme. Themes are
the general outward look and feel of your website, and
depending on the products you sell some themes may be better
than others. Since you’ll be starting a clothing/apparel store,
you want a theme that shows off your garments to their full
potential so you’ll want something that enables you to post
lots of images.

Shopify includes plenty of free and premium themes to choose
from but if you’re looking for more theme options, Out Of The Sandbox
creates premium Shopify themes and they are one of the best, if
not the best, places to get them.

Bonus: Shopify has some themes that
specifically cater to clothing, fashion and apparel brands.
Check out their collection of Clothing & Fashion Themes on
Shopify.

Shipping Strategy for Your Clothing Company

Figuring out how to ship your products to your customers can be
a confusing and daunting process if you’ve never done it before
as there certainly is lots to take into consideration.

What should you charge for shipping? How much does shipping
cost? What about returns? What shipping carrier should you use?
Should you start off with a shipping and fulfillment warehouse?
Will your customers get charged duty and customs fees? What
about shipping labels? What about tracking and insuring your
packages?

All these questions, and more, are valid questions to be asking
yourself, and ones we’ll dive into now:

How to Charge Your Customer for Shipping

These are your options:

Charge your customers the exact shipping fee:
This means that your customers will be made aware of the
shipping costs while they’re checking out and they’ll have to
pay the exact amount it costs to get their order shipped to
them.

Charge your customers a flat shipping fee:
This means that you can instate a flat shipping fee such as $6
for domestic orders and $12 for international orders, no matter
how many items each customer orders and no matter where they’re
located domestically or internationally. Some orders will cost
you more to ship and some will cost you less, but if you budget
it correctly it should even out.

Offer your customers free shipping over a certain
threshold: For example, you could offer all customers
free shipping if they spend over $100. This encourages
customers to purchase enough products to meet that amount so
they don’t have to pay for shipping. By making sure they spend
a certain monetary amount, it makes it more worthwhile for you
to ship their package for “free” because the cost of shipping
is absorbed into your profit margin on the order.

Offer your customers free shipping based on their
location: In this case you could offer free shipping
for all domestic destinations and any international locations
will have to pay a calculated rate or a flat fee. This
encourages your local customers to purchase from you without
having to pay any shipping fees and depending on your domestic
shipping rates you should be able to absorb the cost in your
profit margin, assuming you price your items accordingly. For
international customers, however, you’ll be able to fund the
shipping cost fully or in part by their calculated or flat rate
fee.

Offer your customers free shipping on any
order: Some businesses choose to offer free shipping
to all customers because it’s easier for them to calculate,
more attractive to customers and results in fewer cart
abandonments. The cost of shipping will be absorbed by your
profit margin, so take that into consideration when pricing
your items.

Shipping is never free. No matter what it says on any website,
“free shipping” is not free for the business, the cost is just
being absorbed in some other way. It’s also no secret that
shipping costs are one of the most likely reasons for shopping
cart abandonments, so in order to combat that many ecommerce
stores offer free shipping to decrease shipping cart
abandonments. Take both of these things into consideration when
pricing your items so you can gauge whether you’ll need to
charge higher prices for your items so you can afford to offer
free shipping.

Calculating Shipping Costs

The cost of shipping depends on your carrier, where you’re
shipping to and where you’re shipping from. There are so many
variables involved like weight and size of that package as
well, so your best bet is to use a shipping calculator to
determine how much it would cost you to ship your packages.
Many carriers have shipping calculators available on their
websites so you can price out the cost of your packages on
there.

How to Handle Returns

You basically have two options when it comes to handling
returns for your customers: you can provide your customers with
pre-paid postage in case they need to return an item, or you
don’t provide you customers with pre-paid postage and they will
have to assume the responsibility to pay for postage in the
event that they need to return an item to you.

Providing pre-paid postage for customers offers them a seamless
shopping experience with your company, however not offering
free returns can actually affect customer’s decision to
purchase from you at all.

Check out this blogpost from Shopify that
discusses shipping returns in more detail to learn more
about it and how it affects your business.

Which Shipping Carrier to Use

Most popular shipping carriers offer a business account program
so businesses can get perks such as better order management,
discounts on shipping and/or free shipping supplies. Basically
it makes it a little bit more easy and less expensive for you
than just shipping packages without a business account.

Check out these popular shipping carrier’s business accounts:

Using a Shipping & Fulfillment Warehouse

Shipping and fulfillment warehouses can be a tricky service to
use for clothing stores as there’s usually many different SKUs
(stock keeping units) such as different sizes and colors for
each item of clothing. Although shipping and fulfillment
warehouses may be a convenient service to use as they handle
the entire picking, packing and shipping service for you, there
can be some drawbacks, including:

Inability to use your own branded packaging: Some
warehouses require that you use their own shipping packaging,
so you won’t be able to use any boxes, poly mailers, tissue
paper, stickers, etc. that have your own branding on them. It
can also be difficult to add other extras such as promotional
inserts, custom notes, samples, etc.

Cost: Shipping and fulfillment warehouses can take the
shipping process off your hands but at what cost? It costs you
to store your SKUs on your warehouse’s shelf space so depending
on how quickly your product ships out to customers and how much
product you’re selling, it may or may not be a worthwhile cost
for you.

Handling Returns: Since your business is just one of many
at a shipping and fulfillment warehouse, returned items may be
handled in an inefficient manner, depending on the warehouse.
Make sure you look into each warehouse’s return policy before
you work with them.

However, there are also advantages to using shipping and
fulfillment warehouses:

Shipping Costs: Shipping and fulfillment warehouse
generally have to pay less to ship packages, so you’ll likely
pay less too.

Simplified Process: No need to wait in line at the post
office or deal with couriers to get your packages shipped.

Saves You Time: All the time that it takes you to pick,
package, and send packages can be put to other uses such as
managing customer inquires, advertising, or just growing your
business in general.

Generally speaking, if you’re just starting your online
clothing store, handle the shipping and fulfillment process
yourself, initially. This gives you the chance to learn the
best practices for shipping your own products, you can put your
own personal touch on each package and you can use your own
branded packaging materials. If your just sending out a few
parcels a day, it won’t take up too much of your time to send
them through post offices or couriers. If you anticipate having
a large customer base to start off with and predict that you
may not be able to keep up with orders packing and shipping
them yourself, have a look into shipping and fulfillment
warehouses to see what your options are.

Shipping & Fulfillment Warehouses:

Duty & Customs Fees

It’s important to be aware that you as a business are not in
control of the duties and custom fees your international
customers may be charged upon the entrance of their order into
their country. Customs and duties fees are managed and imposed
on your customers by their country itself, you don’t have the
power to prevent them or influence their cost.

You do, however, have the ability to warn your customers about
potential customs and duties fees they may face so that they’re
not unpleasantly surprised when their order from you arrives.
On your shipping information page, include a section about
customs and duties fees and let your customers know that they
may be charged these fees by their county and that your
business has no control over that.

For more information about customs and duties declaration,
required forms and polices, check out these pages:

Shipping Tracking & Insurance

Many customers now expect to have their packages tracked and
expect to receive email updates on the whereabout of the
packages. If you’re interested in giving your customers a
streamlined and professional shopping experience, look into
what tracking options your shipping carrier has available. It
almost always costs extra or will mean that you’ll have to
upgrade to a more expensive service, but it could be very
worthwhile for both you and your customers.

Most shipping carriers offer some kind of insurance, but it may
not cover the entire cost of your orders, depending on the
price of your items. If you sell high-priced items or just want
the peace of mind that you’re insured for any lost parcels, it
may be worth looking into a third party shipping insurance
provider such as Shipsurance or InsureShip.

It’s important to be aware that the shipping process can be
complex, and it can take a while to set up and get used to all
the different steps, systems and processes. It’ll probably be a
learning curve at the start, especially if you’ve never shipped
a large quantity of orders before or if you’re launching to an
eager audience, so give yourself time to set up your shipping
systems properly so it doesn’t affect your business too much.
Once you get a system going though you’ll likely get the hang
of it and be able to make small improvements or scale your
processes as needed.

Read more about shipping
your products here.

Conclusion

We hope this post has provided you with very clear insight into
the steps, systems and processes it takes to start a clothing
line. It may seem overwhelming at first if this is all new to
you, however, just focus on one step at a time and grow from
there. No matter what kind of clothing line you want to create
whether it’s just your own line of t-shirts or an entire
collection of cut & sew garments, the information, tools,
resources and experiences provided in this guide should help
you get where you want to go.