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.
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.
You should also touch on the following:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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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Test and take to marketIf 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:
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.
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