You don't just wake up one day and start running a clothing line. At least that's not what Emily McNeely, creative director of the Emily Hallman line, did. Her childhood love for fashion combined with an entrepreneurial spirit led her to graduate with a bachelor's degree in fashion design, providing her with the skills and drive needed to start and run a clothing line. While a higher education isn't a requirement, most designers such as McNeely do have a formal education; They learn design skills and develop an understanding of production processes necessary to succeed in the industry.
So, you've made the decision to start a clothing line, now start researching. Learn how the business works by reading the success stories of other brands. Look at their business model and think about why it succeeded. Understand exactly what you are making -- is it footwear, specialist products, jeans, t-shirts, all of the above? Hash it out and determine a tentative price point. Consider where and how your product will be made and begin researching manufacturers.
Think about the logistics. How will you get the fabric and supplies; who will design the clothes; how will they be sewn? Your business plan outlines all of this, and no one will want to work with you if you don't have a clear plan for all of this. Estimate how much you can afford to spend on production and manufacturing costs. Provide a goal for how much you plan to sell in your first week, month and year at retail. Having a sales goal helps visualize what you need to do every day to reach your goals, keeping you on track to sustaining and growing your business.
Consider how you will promote your line. Who is the demographic and what methods of communication will they most respond to? Online promotion such as pay-per-click ads, blog press releases and social networking can reach a wide variety of people. However you promote, your marketing should be modern and in line with the trends of the day. Consider a new way of marketing to capture attention of a select group. When traditional print media wasn't reaching the right people anymore, brands turned to strategies such as viral marketing, a sort of grassroots campaign that spreads from person to person.
You can't start a clothing line without any clothes. Now that you have a plan in place, consider the production of your line more closely. Make a list of potential factories and contact them to discover which is right for your business. Find out if they are taking new customers, what products they produce, which brands they work for, where they manufacture, the average prices, services provided and the minimum amount of products they produce for an order. When you find a manufacturer to work with, send them drawings and fabric samples for consideration. Give a price point and ask if they can manufacture for it, then have them make a sample. Finally you can negotiate terms if the sample is good, and move on to having a sample collection made.
When you have everything planned, find out how much it's going to cost to start producing and selling your line. Keep track of all your expenses, such as the cost for labeling, tagging, shipping, boxes and product storage. Search for a lender willing to float you enough money to get your business off the ground. If the bank won't take a chance on you, consider an alternative lender. Asset-based lenders offer lines of credit secured with inventory, machinery, intellectual property and other options. These lenders are used typically for building inventory and payroll. Other options including factoring companies and peer-to-peer lenders.
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Fashion Designers
- Searching for Style: Fashion 101 -- How to Find a Manufacturer
- T-Shirt Magazine Online: Ten Tips for Launching Your T-Shirt Business
- Small Business: Tips for Starting Your Own Clothing Line
- Crains New York: Tips for Finding Financing When Banks Say No
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