If you consider yourself a fashionista and a budding entrepreneur, then starting your own clothing line and launching an online retail store could be more than ideal. With thanks to the internet, starting your own e-commerce store isn’t as difficult or as costly as it once used to be; in fact, many everyday people can open their own Etsy store and sell their creations, whether it’s artwork, reworked vintage clothing or handmade jewelry.
Consider American businesswoman Sophia Amoruso, the founder and creator of Nasty Gal, a major fashion label who brought success and critical acclaim (and even a Netflix series!). Her story is one of rags to riches, when at the age of 23, Amoruso started an online eBay store (named Nasty Gal Vintage), selling vintage clothing and other items. She would style and photograph her own products, and soon enough, she became an online sensation. Although her eBay store was banned, Amoruso developed Nasty Gal, her own online retail store, free from selling platforms like eBay and Etsy. Due to her huge online following of young women, her revenues greatly increased from $223,000 in 2008 to $23 million in 2011, making Nasty Gal one of the fastest growing companies around. In 2016, Amoruso was named one of the richest, self-made women by Forbes.
Of course, reaching Amoruso’s riches and fame isn’t an easy feat. When she started her own online retail store, the competition was much lower than it is today. However, there are many small clothing brands out making a name for themselves and earning a lot of revenue for their founders. To start your own clothing line it takes time, money, and a thorough business plan. It also takes passion, courage and adaptability.
The First Steps
When it comes to the fashion industry, you need to think about your vision. Usually, fashion labels have a certain niche. Your clothes could be floral and girly, or your clothes may be edgy with a hint of 90s grunge; you need to determine your label’s design, otherwise your vision may be chaotic and too broad.
UK brand Lazy Oaf, for example, markets themselves as ‘independent streetwear’ on their website. The brand is notorious for being unique, different and quirky. They have slogans such as ‘weirdo,’ ‘bored,’ and, of course, ‘lazy’; they also have vibrant colors (rainbow jumpers), pink 90s tartan and one-off collaborations with Disney, the Muppets and even 101 Dalmatians. The brand also has a huge social media following, and large retailers such as Topshop stock their clothes.
Sit down and think:
- What is your brand going to represent, and what is your brand going to sell?
- Who will be interested in your clothing line, and who are you going to target?
- Where are you going to sell your clothes? Where are you going to design and even make your clothes?
- Why are you starting this clothing line?
- How are you going to start this business, and how are you going to source funds?
By answering these questions, you’ll be able to create a solid business plan as well as determine your label’s overall branding. Trying to think of a name and image can be extremely difficult, but the more questions you answer, the quicker inspiration will hit.
Develop Your Design and Make a Prototype
Once you’ve found your vision, it’s time to flesh out your ideas. Luckily, you don’t have to be an artist yourself. Rather, you can find an artistic friend and employ them or post a job advert online. Have your designs mocked up (this will also help you secure funding if you have to present your ideas), and use this as a source of your inspiration. Start from these mock-ups and expand; never worry about having to further develop your ideas.
Once your designs are solidified, it’s time to create a prototype for potential buyers. Although prototypes can be costly, they are imperative. You need retailers to invest in your work, otherwise trying to break into the world of high street retail fashion can become difficult. Pitch your ideas until someone is taken with your designs and vision.
Find a Manufacturer
Sewing the clothes yourself may not be an option, in which case you’ll have to find a factory to manufacture your clothing. Although this can be expensive, you’ll hopefully have found enough funding to create your first batch of clothing. If your brand is successful, you can either increase or decrease your stock accordingly.
Create a Website
In this digital age, you don’t, however, have to rely on brick-and-mortar chains to stock your clothing line any longer. Buy a domain name, hire a web designer and have them create a stunning website that encapsulates your brand. You need your website to be aesthetically pleasing, as well as user-friendly. Consider your website’s navigation, on-site content, photographs, brand story and payment methods. Link your (business) social media accounts to your website, and incorporate SEO. If you’re unsure how to market your product on Google using SEO, there are many online courses, tutorials or digital marketing professionals out there to help you on your business endeavors.
Invest in Social Media
For retail stores, social media is a godsend. Set up business accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and fully utilize them. Take high-quality images of people modeling your clothes; keep the themes of your photos centric, as following a color scheme, etc. can make your profiles more aesthetically pleasing (especially on Instagram). Send your clothing to influential individuals on social media and ask them to review your items; have them wear your clothes and market them to their large volumes of followers.
Have Impeccable Customer Service
You won’t be able to impress everybody, but you can handle bad reviews with grace. Rather than let a less than stellar review taint your clothing line, make sure to reply to them. Depending on the problem, you can either reimburse them or take their feedback on board for next time. Either way, just make sure you have impeccable customer service, otherwise your negative reviews will one day be the downfall of your brand.
Keep Designing and Keep Creating
The world of fashion is fast-paced. There are certain trends you may wish to incorporate into your own brand, and if you do so you will need to act fast. Although you shouldn’t simply ‘follow the trends,’ using certain element for your own clothing can never be a bad thing. Whatever you decide, keep designing, keep creating, and keep your brand intact.