Just the thought of starting a business can be daunting. When it comes to starting a clothing line, it can seem like a mammoth mission to accomplish with all the designing, planning, branding, inventory, logistics and whatnots to take care of.
Well, instead of thinking about “starting a fashion line”, what if you simplify your goals and focus on just one activity at a time? For example, in your first week, you can just plan to write down your brand strategy. That doesn’t sound so scary, does it?
Similarly, the entire process of establishing a fashion line can be simplified. The purpose of this article is to help you go step by step focusing on one objective at a time which will ultimately help you establish an entire fashion line.
The first thing you must know is that today, it is a lot easier to start your fashion enterprise than ever before. The sheer volume of resources you can access is quite large with digital tools available at your disposal at minimal costs. There are web design tools to help you put up an online store in just a few days, design tools to help you design an incredible line and social media to help you gain customers from within the comfort of your home!
Feel better? Ok, let's dive in then!
1. Find your purpose:
The first thing you’re going to need is a purpose. A conscious mission is your primary motivation for creating your fashion line. Is it a specific style of clothing you wish to popularise or are you sourcing affordable clothes to make the latest fashion trends more accessible to people? Are you a supporter of sustainable fashion or high street couture? What is it that your line will speak of? Is it kidswear or womenswear? It is Sports, High Fashion, or Lingerie?
The USP of your brand is what you need to find. Maybe you have identified a gap in the current market. Or maybe you are creating a new market segment with your innovative fashion products. Having a clear message in your business is important to demarcate you from so many others on the same path.
2. Create Your Brand:
The next thing you need to create is your brand identity. Starting with your brand name, you need to carefully look at what appeal your brand would carry and whether or not your brand assets would speak to your target audience. What is your brand message and is it translating into your logo, brand colours, and brand name? If you are planning to run an online store, you also need to look at what your e-commerce website would look like.
Your brand name could be your own name if you are a designer label or a name with relevant keywords to attract the right customers. Everything from the logo to the packaging will determine the strength of your brand.
Is there a specific quality of products you are going to range? What is your price-value proposition going to be compared to other brands? What is the X factor which will make consumers switch to your brand?
At Vitamin B Designs, for instance, these are the most important questions we answer before building a brand strategy for fashion retailers.
3. Form A Budget And Business Plan:
Whatever scale you are aiming for, it is always good to have a business plan that accommodates projected sales, pipeline and scope of business.
Start by thinking about your target audience and defining buyer personas. Of course, the right insights on what works and what doesn’t come after the business has commenced but you need to have a starting point for targeting the right customers.
Check out your competition. Find out what others in the same niche are doing. If you think you do not have any direct competition, look at the next best comparisons. Which segment of the market will you be targeting and what are they selling right now. You need to know where your share of the pie would come from. Check out their collections. What is their pricing strategy, logistic plan, team structure, marketing span, and so on?
Next comes the budget. You might have to go over several iterations of your business plan based on your budget. Figure out the cost of production for your goods if you are planning to design, manufacture and sell clothes. If you are going to source them or curate a line of fast fashion or designer wear, you need to understand what each business model will cost you.
4. Build Your Foundational Team:
In the beginning, you may not have the ability to build a full-fledged organizational structure but there are a few key roles which you will need in your team. Perhaps a designer (if it is not going to be you) who can transform your vision into a brand. You would also need an accountant, a business developer, a legal consultant and a marketer. You might also need an investor, maybe not in the beginning, but at a later stage when your business expands.
5. Design The Collection:
This is the point where you start finalizing what to range in your collection. Start getting designs sketched and arriving at the selected line of clothes that you want to sell. What product categories will your line have? Would it only be apparel or will you also introduce fashion accessories to compliment your line? Will your line be seasonal or will it be a set of core items that never go out of stock? Will you have mass-manufactured styles or will they be custom, one-of-a-kind couture pieces? Once you have answered these questions, make sure you convert your plan into an actual collection. Keep the timeline for the development of the collection in mind. Factor in the sampling and manufacturing time to pre-plan your launch. It is always a good idea to add a little buffer while fixing your launch date in case of any unexpected delays.
6. Test your Samples:
You cannot go to market without knowing what your designs are actually translating into. Create a sample line and get feedback from your personal network. Invest in sketches, prototypes, patterns and different types of samples to test the garment on various scales. Get a fit sample to ensure dimensional accuracy, a colour sample to check the shades, a pre-production sample to ensure what goes into production is what you had in mind and any other samples that may be necessary.
7. Start Manufacturing Or Sourcing:
Depending on your business model, build a base stock of items in your line before you go to market. Your first production lot will be the most crucial and will tell you everything about potential pitfalls, opportunities, gaps, workarounds, and a lot more. Once the pieces are in, you can start stocking. For an online store, this means preparing your minimum listings to make sure the offering is big enough for customers to enjoy browsing through. If you host curated clothing, then it means setting up lines from different sellers that you can launch.
8. Advertise and Campaign:
Make ample use of digital media to form your marketing campaigns. It may not be sufficient to just post pictures of your line on Instagram. You need a robust marketing strategy that can cover all avenues of driving potential traffic like Google, review sites, Reddit, Quora and other social media. Decide a theme for your campaign. Make sure your content is engaging and fun for people to interact with. Host an early bird offer by showcasing your best designs and giving customers an irresistible discount. The more thought out your marketing strategy, the better your reach would be from the get-go.
Once everything is set, you are ready to go to market! Launch your collection and get all parallel wheels rolling like your marketing campaign, teamwork, initial offers, supply chain, packaging, shipping, customer service for exchanges, returns and alterations if applicable, and your plan for the next season.
You must also have a plan for end-of-season inventory. However, if yours is a boutique line that does not sell by numbers, you will need to focus more on sustaining costs of maintaining a high fashion brand, the pipeline of influencers to collaborate with, and other sales priorities.
Congratulations! You have finally crossed the most difficult hurdle of getting on your feet and taking the scary but well-thought-out plunge! Now is the time to scale. Make sure you are not too hasty nor too slow. Be realistic in your scaling goals. Spend some time reviewing the brand performance before moving forward. Get an idea of what seems to be working more to steer your business strategy in that direction.
There you have it. The key to setting up a clothing line is a clear, step-by-step approach and a strong purpose that is driven by creativity.