How to start a fashion business

Passionate about fashion and looking to make a name for yourself? Learn how to turn your business into big news with our helpful guide...

01 December 2020

Launching a fashion brand is not without its challenges, but in the online-focused world of eCommerce and digital marketing – something that's more important than ever – it's certainly possible. And if you have an eye for clothing, a creative mind, and a keen sense of incoming trends, then there’s nothing stopping you turning your passion into a viable business.

However, there's more to starting a fashion brand than simply an enthusiasm for clothing. A successful business requires a mastery of marketing, manufacturing and retailing, and it's no different in the fashion industry. As someone looking to start a fashion brand, balancing creativity and commerce is an important element.

But how exactly do you do that? For fledgling fashionistas looking to begin the next step of their journey, we've come up with this guide to help get things started, touching on everything from developing your niche and boosting your online presence, to manufacturing and taking your first fashion line to market.

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clothes hanging on rack

 

Deciding on your niche

 

In such a fast-moving industry, it's important to have an idea or product that stands out. Whether you've spotted a gap in the market or there's a specific customer group you're looking to cater to, defining your niche is essential.

Perhaps it's sportswear you want to get into, or maybe vintage clothing is something you've always loved. Whatever it is, something that isn't currently being offered by a major clothing company will stand you in good stead.

Remember to always keep your niche in mind, even as you branch out, as it's this original idea that provides a means of guiding everything from branding and decision-making down the line.

 

Creating a business plan

 

A strong business plan will provide further guiding principles throughout your journey as both a designer and business owner, even if you're only testing things out on a small scale.

In your business plan, you'll need to provide an overview of your business, including an executive summary (which you can learn more about here), and an outline of how you're going to start, grow and scale your fashion brand. Additionally, you should include any analyses you've done to better identify your target market, along with your competitors, backed up with concrete data from external sources.

 

female entrepreneur on the phone

You should also touch on the following:

  • Who's involved with the business and their role (whether you're going solo or working with others)
  • Your product range
  • Any plans you have for branding, sales and marketing
  • A section that outlines your current financial position, priorities for growth, and how potential investment will be beneficial

 

Manufacturing your products

 

As a creative, fashion-minded individual, here's where you get to show off your talents. Not only that, but the avenue you take to design and make your products will directly inform your business model, the most popular of which include the below:

Print on demand

A model that involves using a third party to print and ship wholesale garments (such as t-shirts or hoodies) to your customers. Without the need to manage fulfilment or do any sort of store inventory, it's one of the easiest business models to set up, but since most of the profits go to the third party, revenues can be low.

Pros:

  • No or low set-up costs
  • Typically high quality depending on the vendor
  • Ideal for small orders or one-off prints
  • Large variety of clothing options

Cons:

  • Not cost-effective for large quantities
  • Limited volume discounts
  • Few finishing options, i.e. tags, labels, packaging
  • You're limited to what the vendor offers

 

screen printing squeegee

Custom wholesale

This model allows you to pre-purchase wholesale garments, which you can then customise by hand through embellishments such as prints, embroidery and appliques. Note that this approach requires time and financial investment; requiring upfront payment for the garments, materials and labour, as well as having to fulfil your own orders.

However, compared to the print-on-demand model, there's more profit to be made as nothing goes towards a third party.

Pros:

  • Cost-effective in large production runs
  • Substantial volume discounts from large vendors
  • Lower costs = bigger margins

Cons:

  • Not cost-effective for big clothing lines with different items, colours, and sizes
  • Limited to simple images and designs
  • Minimum orders typically require 10 to 25 units per colour/size
  • Inventory management and shipping has to be carried out yourself

Designing from scratch

In this model, you'll source the fabrics and materials needed before either you or a manufacturer creates them per your specifications. This costs more than the previous models, but you may be able to sell at higher margins and, what's more, you'll have a clothing line that's your own.

Pros:

  • Totally customised clothing designed yourself
  • Unique clothing increases customers' perception of value
  • Less competition means bigger margins

Cons:

  • High start-up costs
  • Many moving parts, and you’ll have to take care of everything by yourself or through your own team
  • You or your team are responsible for taking care of everything
  • Time intensive to prepare and launch

 

man working at his computer

Building an online presence

 

Now that you've got your clothes designed and made, you'll need to create a website that embodies your brand and vision. There is a range of website builders that you can use to create streamlined, professional-looking websites in no time at all. Whichever builder you go for, the final outcome's design and copy need to reflect your voice and identity – letting visitors know exactly who you are and what your brand is all about.

In doing so, you'll have more of an idea of how you want to brand your fashion business. While your clothes may speak for themselves, getting the branding right is an important part of getting your customers to part with their cash.

A strong branding strategy that creates an image your customers can connect with should include the following:

  • Identity: Do your items have a concept that ties everything together? Perhaps it's the way they're made, the materials they use, or the way they look?
  • Story: What is your clothing line's heritage? What inspired you to go in the direction you've taken?
  • Ethos/values: What purpose do these clothes serve? Here's where you can make a real emotional connection to your customers
  • Personality: Don't hide behind your products; let your own personality come through and help your brand be as unique as can be

The messaging and communication you create should reflect the above at all times, whether it's website copy, social media posts or email marketing.


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clothes on clothesrack

 

Test and take to market

If you've got a sample run, then you can test out how well they do by selling them at fairs and trading spaces, or through online avenues such as Etsy and Facebook Marketplace. This lets you take notes on what's selling, providing you with valuable feedback without having to commit to a full run of clothing.

Once you've refined things and your clothing is selling, you can now order your first full run of products. 

 

Looking for partners and investors
 

As you scale up, you'll need to raise capital, and help from third-party investors and partners can really help in this regard. It's not always an easy decision, however, so it may be worth asking yourself the following:

  • What do I want to gain from this partnership/investment?
  • Do I want them to be involved in the decision-making process?
  • Is it going to be a short or long-term relationship?

It's crucial you know from the outset what you're hoping to gain. You may simply be looking for someone to invest capital, or you may be looking for someone who's going to create exposure by partnering with an established brand. Whatever you're looking for, you can find more information on strategic partnerships and what they can offer your business here.
   

Gazprom Energy is a leading and award-winning business energy supplier, helping thousands of small businesses manage their gas and electricity contracts. To find out more about what we can offer your business, visit the homepage or call us today on 0161 837 3395.

 The views, opinions and positions expressed within this article are those of our third-party content providers alone and do not represent those of Gazprom Energy. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. Gazprom Energy accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.

 


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