10 Things to Remember When Starting a Clothing Line
1. What’s your story?
When you’re making a “for sale” shirt, understand that you’re getting into a saturated marketplace. Your shirt needs to stand out. Sure, your design is compelling, your shirt top quality, and the printing is perfect, but what really is going to set it apart from all the other stuff out there? Why should they care? You should have a great answer to this question before investing. Your clothing line should tell a story. Maybe it’s your story or maybe it’s someone else’s (not your cat), but it should be more than an image.
The people you want to buy your clothing probably already have a closet full of clothes, half of which they don’t wear. So why should they add your pieces?
2. Has somebody else already done it?
Your target customers probably are fans of clothing and T-shirts and are likely active online. You may have a great idea that somebody else has already thought of. Google it. Then google it again. You obviously don’t want to rip off somebody else’s work, but it’s easier to do by accident than you might think. Doing a little research can go a long way to keep you from looking like a fool or worse, a copycat.
3. Have a business plan.
It’s not as fun as drawing cat-based designs for your fall release, but it’s a real world consideration. Do you have start-up capital? Are you going to get investors? A good plan will project for the next three years and be updated each year. Your grand opening can be quickly followed by a grand closing without a sound money plan.
4. Have a marketing plan.
Know who your audience is and what they want. You may be the curator of your line, but ultimately there need to be more buyers than yourself. If somebody else has done it, how are you doing it better? If they haven’t done it, how are your designs something fresh? Most marketing plans boil down to either trying to take part in a proven style of clothing or doing something new and different to get your brand noticed. Both going with the grain to get a slice of the existing big pie and going against the grain for attention are sound plans, but it’s important to know what camp your work falls into. Be honest with yourself about this and come up with a plan to put your product in the market.
5. How do you plan on selling the item?
I ask this question all the time, and the answer is most usually: “Online of course”. This is where the answer to item 1 above is critical. Your story needs to be compelling enough to leverage social media into marketing power. Get people sharing your photos or links to purchase and talking about your project. Maybe proceeds from your clothing line go to support a charity or cause, maybe the messaging in the shirt is positive and resonates with people, maybe none of that is true and your shit is so tight people just want to get them some. Again, good idea to get this strategy sorted out before investing.
6. Find a consistent and reliable supplier.
You don’t make these things, people like us do. That means if we fail, you fail. Make sure you find a partner that understands your business and your personality and can supply the demand you’ve generated. You should understand how your suppliers work, how your suppliers ebbs and flows and warn you of known inventory issues of any and all pieces you’re including in your collection. They should be able to inform you of how your concept and the item you’re printing on / decorating will pair. Does this art work well on this shirt from a production standpoint? You should each have respect for one another’s processes, and expectations should be set up front and made good on the back end.
7. Instill confidence in your buyers.
This is a challenge in selling wearables online. The buyer cannot see, touch, or try on the item. Take photos of people wearing different shirt sizes and explain that the model is X’ tall and weighs Y pounds and is wearing a Z size shirt. Repeat for each size and style you sell.
Try to use analogies about fit to brands people may be familiar with.
Ex. This shirt fits like “American Apparel”. Fashion fit vs. Standard fit are commonly used to describe basic differences in how a shirt is styled. How much does the garment shrink? Explain best care practice.
Be an expert about what you’re selling and be prepared to reply to questions from buyers as those questions are asked, in real time. If you can do this, you’ll not only instill buyer confidence but you’ll stand out from the competition.
8. Consider your price point.
Price point is key. Think about it from your customer’s point of view. Don’t just choose a price because it seems right or is 2x your cost. Do some research on your competitors and note what they are charging for similar products. Be willing to meet or beat that price and defend your price. Why does yours cost more than theirs? Why does it cost less?
This is something that can take time / trial and error to develop. If you overcharge, you risk turning sales away, but at the same time, if you undercharge, you’re leaving money on the table with each sale.
9. Generate sales urgency.
This dovetails into price point but can fluctuate depending on special occasions like shows or holidays. If you can create a sense of urgency around your sales, you will sell more.
-On sale now for 48 hours
-The next 24 hours, proceeds go to X charitable foundation
-Free shipping using this exclusive Instagram code
10. Consistently refine your strategy, ask for feedback.
Just do it. Track how your efforts impact sales or don’t. Try having tests and controls so you know exactly what’s working for your project and, more importantly, what didn’t. Remember that a clothing line should be more than a collection of good designs. To be successful (aka profitable enough to print next season’s designs) look at the larger picture.