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How to Start a Clothing Line

Updated on:
Content was accurate at the time of publication.

If you’re passionate about the fashion industry and want to try your hand at selling your own clothes, a clothing line can be a great way to express your artistry. But to make money from that art, you’ll need business savvy in addition to your existing passion.

Taking the time to plan how to start and grow your business before getting started can help you avoid some of the major pitfalls along the way.

The first step to starting a clothing line is zeroing in on your target market. To do this, first take some time to think about your vision for your new clothing line. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What type of clothes do you want to make?
  • Who is your ideal consumer?
  • What will make your brand unique among the competition?

Then, once you have that settled, do some research into your target market and their clothing preferences. At this point, you should be gathering information such as:

  • What is their age?
  • Where are they located?
  • What’s their spending power?
  • What are their interests?
  • What challenges are they facing?
  • Where else are they shopping?

If you’re unsure of any of these answers, start by checking out your competition. Visit their clothing stores or websites to figure out how they are positioning their products and who their target demographic seems to be.

Once you have a firm idea of who fits in your target market, consider interviewing a few people who fit the profile of your target consumer. Be sure to listen carefully to what they have to say and don’t be afraid to pivot your business idea as necessary to suit their needs.

At its core, a business plan is meant to serve as a roadmap for your business. When completed, it will provide an explanation of how you intend to move forward with each of the core aspects of your business, from marketing to finance.

Completing this exercise can help you identify your clothing line’s strengths, as well as any potential weak points before you get it up and running. But this document will also come in handy when you’re ready to pursue business financing. Most lenders and investors will ask to see a copy so they can verify that you’ve come up with a profitable business idea.

Next, it’s time to focus on your brand and all the components that come along with it. Start by thinking about your brand personality. What do you want your brand to convey to your target consumer? How do you want them to view you?

Once you have an idea of how you would like to come across to your audience, start brainstorming the following elements:

  • Brand name: A good brand name should be memorable. It should also be easy to pronounce and spell. Ideally, it will be available as a domain name and on social media platforms.
  • Slogan: The right slogan will likely be concise and catchy. It should also fit cohesively in with the rest of your branding.
  • Logo: You can design a logo yourself using platforms like Canva or hire someone to do it for you on a platform like Upwork or Fiverr. In either case, you’ll want to think about how the colors, fonts and images work together to create something that’s both unique and easily identifiable

This step involves doing all the legal legwork necessary to get your clothing business off the ground. There are a couple of different steps to this process, including:

  1. Choosing your business entity: Choosing a business entity involves selecting the type of tax and legal structure that you would like your business to follow. Whether you choose to be a sole proprietorship, LLC or corporation, keep in mind that each option has its own administrative requirements that you’ll have to keep up with on a regular basis.

  2. Obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN): An EIN allows the IRS to identify your business for tax purposes. You’ll need one to open a business bank account or get a business credit card or loan.

  3. Registering your business: The process for registering a business can vary by state, but your Secretary of State’s website will have information on how to get started.

The process behind creating clothing usually starts with sketching, then designing patterns and finally planning production — though each brand has its own unique process for how each step works.

  Start sketching

Odds are that by now you have a firm idea of the type of clothing designs you would like to produce. However, if not, it’s time to start sketching out your ideas. As you work, consider factors like current fashion trends, seasonality, silhouette, color and fabric selection. Do your best to keep workshopping an idea until you feel like you have a cohesive plan for the design.

  Create your patterns

After your designs feel finished, the next step is to create a pattern that can be used as a roadmap for turning your ideas into wearable garments. There are two ways you can go about doing this: flat or draping. Creating a flat pattern involves using measurements to create a two-dimensional version of your design on paper. Draping involves creating a 3D version of the design on a dress form.

  Decide on a production method

Once you have your patterns in place, it’s time to decide on a production method. You can choose between the following:

  • Choosing in-house production: If you have strong sewing skills, you should be able to create your own bespoke clothing samples. You could also consider hiring a few freelancers to work alongside you in this effort.
  • Hiring a clothing manufacturer: In this case, you would outsource the garment creation to a manufacturing company that would produce the clothes for you. If you decide to go this route, be sure to order test samples of your garments before you place a full order. This can help you work out any mistakes or miscommunications without spending too much money.

Pricing in the clothing industry typically comes down to two key factors: the cost of production and distribution, plus a profit margin, and how much your target audience is willing to pay. This step will take some research, but you can get a sense of how much your target market will pay by looking at your competition’s pricing. At the same time, you can figure out your production and distribution costs by adding up the following:

  • Cost of materials
  • Rate for labor
  • Cost of marketing and advertising
  • Packing costs
  • Shipping costs
  • Reasonable profit margin

Ideally, the numbers you come up with after researching these two factors will be around the same. However, if your costs for production and distribution are much higher than your target consumer’s price point, it’s likely worth looking into ways to bring those costs down before you start selling.

There are two main ways you can go about distributing your clothing:

  1. Connect with retailers

    Once you have your collection in place, consider finding a few boutique stores within your target market and asking them if they would like to carry your clothes on consignment. Consignment arrangements are less risky for the retailer because you only get paid for items that sell. Then, once you have a few sales under your belt, think about attending a few clothing industry trade shows and trying to network with larger retailers.
  2. Set up an online shop

    If you choose to sell clothing online, you can either do so by selling clothes directly through your website or by joining an online marketplace, like Etsy or Amazon. Often, you’ll need high-end photos of your product, accurate listing descriptions, and an understanding of the platform’s SEO basics in order to get started with this method.

As soon as you’ve distributed your products, your focus should turn to marketing your brand. Marketing can happen in a multitude of ways — in fact, it’s usually best to use multiple strategies in order to have a better chance of reaching your ideal consumer.

However, to avoid biting off more than you can chew, stick to one or two marketing efforts at a time and perfect them before adding more channels. Here are a few suggestions on where you may want to start:

  • Social media marketing, such as platforms like TikTok and Instagram
  • Paid social media ads
  • Influencer marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Content marketing, like blogging and guest posting
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Event marketing
  • Partnership marketing, such as sponsorships
  • Local events, such as farmers markets and craft shows
  • Local news outlets

After you’ve been in business for a little bit, usually a minimum of six months, you’ll have a shot at obtaining some business funding if you’re ready to expand. Whether you need money to order a bigger batch of products from your manufacturer or to expand your marketing efforts, obtaining the right financing can help you scale your business — take your operations to the next level.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to finding the right funding solution, there are some methods that are more commonly used by newer businesses:

  • Startup business loans: Startup business loans typically have more lenient qualifying requirements than regular small business loans. However, you should be prepared to pay higher rates and possibly have a shorter repayment term than you might find with more traditional financing.
  • Lines of credit: While a traditional business loan will deliver funding to you in one lump sum, a business line of credit is more flexible. Similar to a credit card, lines of credit allow you to borrow money as needed, up to a limit, and you only have to pay interest on the amount borrowed.
  • Small business grants: As the name suggests, small business grants provide money that doesn’t need to be repaid. That said, competition for these funds can be fierce and you’ll likely have to deal with lengthy application processes and long funding times.
  • Crowdfunding: Platforms like GoFundMe or Kickstarter use crowdfunding to raise money for your business venture. Be aware that each platform has its own policies and structure, so be sure to do your research to ensure that your business is a fit before getting started


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