Starting a clothing line can be an exciting venture for fashion enthusiasts and entrepreneurs alike, but if you don’t know where to start, diving into the mixed world of fashion and entrepreneurship can be overwhelming.
Whether you dream of creating your own fashion empire or simply want to express your creativity through clothing, establishing a successful clothing line requires careful planning, determination, and a solid understanding of the industry. My inbox gets these questions every week, from hopeful creatives who want to know, what’s the best way to start a clothing line, how to begin, the cost involved, the value of fashion school, and the affordability of starting a clothing brand from home.
To start on your clothing line journey, it's crucial to start with a well-defined vision and concept of the outcome. I could easily divide our designers into two groups:
1. They know their niche, they’ve researched their market, and they can clearly identify their target audience (they know exactly what their audience wants to buy).
2. They know what they themselves like, and want to create things they would wear.
Begin by researching the market and identifying your target audience. Consider the niche you want to cater to, whether it's sustainable fashion, streetwear, or luxury garments. What’s their average budget? How much do they normally spend on clothing? Where do they buy? This research will help you tailor your designs and marketing efforts to resonate with your ideal customers. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
Once you have a clear direction, it's time to bring your designs out of your head and onto paper. The process usually starts with sketching your ideas and creating technical drawings, and then, you can select fabrics and materials that work with what you’ve sketched.
Which brings me to my next point - unless [you know how to sew], choosing the right fabrics for your fashion line is going to require consulting with a pro. My stomach drops for the amount of people who are just starting, after seeing just how much money they’ve thrown out the window in buying 5-10 yards of fabric that would never in a million years work to be used for what they’ve sketched.
If you’ve never made anything with your own hands, ask someone who is versed in doing so before investing money in fabric for your idea. Collaborating with experienced pattern-makers and sample manufacturers can help you bring your designs to reality, ensuring they are of high quality and fit well.
Now, let's address the cost of starting a fashion line. The expenses can vary significantly depending on various factors, including the scale of your operation, your design complexity, and the quantity of pieces you wish to produce. Costs may include fabric sourcing, pattern-making, sample production, manufacturing, branding, marketing, and website development. Starting a small-scale clothing line from home can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Typically, the fewer units you order to be made, the more money you’ll pay per unit - and that’s not even factoring the upfront costs of patterning, sourcing, development, and grading. It's important to create a detailed budget to understand the financial commitment required, before you’re neck deep in sample garments.
When considering the value of fashion school, it's important to weigh the pros and cons. Fashion school can provide a valuable in-depth education and knowledge about design, textiles, garment construction, and industry practices. It can also offer networking opportunities and exposure to experienced professionals. It can also remove you from the fashion industry for a minimum of 2 years while your competitors sprint to the same solution faster by entering a fashion incubator or hiring a consultant to walk them through the process and teach them only what they need to know. As an incubator, I’ve seen it all - the fashion school grads starting their clothing lines, and the aspiring designers who have no idea how they’re gonna get there, but it’s their passion and they want to get to the finish line, regardless of what they don’t know.
Attending fashion school is not the only path to success in the industry - I would argue that fashion school curriculums are often fragmented, hyper specialized in micro niches within the industry, and not up-to-date with what’s actually happening in the fashion & textile industry. Many successful fashion designers have achieved recognition through self-teaching, internships, mentorships, and real-world experience. Ultimately, the decision to pursue fashion school should align with your personal goals, learning style, and financial situation.
Nowadays, starting a clothing brand from home has become more accessible and affordable, thanks to advancements in technology and the rise of e-commerce. With platforms like Shopify and social media channels, you can set up an online store, market your products, and reach a global audience from the comfort of your home. By eliminating the need for a physical storefront and traditional distribution channels, you can significantly reduce overhead costs. I would argue, however, there is no such thing as a successful clothing line that hasn’t invested in quality photography, branding, and marketing to establish a strong online presence and attract customers that will become brand-loyal.
Starting a clothing line requires careful planning, a clear vision, and a solid understanding of the industry. It's essential to conduct thorough research, define your target audience, and bring your designs to life through collaboration with professionals. The cost of starting a fashion line can vary depending on various factors, and it's crucial to get concrete quotes from your collaborators upfront (as best as possible) so that you can create a detailed budget for the development phase. From there, you’ll be able to move forward and find out what having your ideas will cost to manufacture.
The most exciting part? Starting a clothing brand from home has become more affordable and accessible in recent years, thanks to technology and ecommerce platforms. By leveraging these resources I’ve compiled for you, you can establish your brand and reach a global audience.