How to Enter the Clothing Line Business
Before you begin creating a sample product, you must first identify your potential clients and how are you going to sell to them.
There are several ways of meeting potential buyers for your new clothing line. Seek out sales agents and buyers of retailers, major department stores or boutiques. Talk to them, ask what kinds of clothes they are looking for, and determine if there is a fit between your product and their design philosophy. You can also travel to market weeks in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Atlanta to meet buyers, get ideas, and check out your competition.
Once you have surveyed the market landscape, decide on how best are you are going to distribute your products. Your distribution channel can dictate the quality, quantity and costing structure of your clothing line.
You can start small, and sell the clothes you’ve created in flea markets, community and church fairs during weekends. Once people starts to notice your products and demand begins to grow, you can slowly expand your business until you have enough capital to go full-time into the venture.
If you want a larger scale approach, the easiest method of entry is to find a specific retailer who agrees to buy the designs you intend to produce. This approach allows you to cautiously start with comparatively low risk. With your sales assured, you can begin to think of the production aspects of your business to make sure that you are able to meet your client’s delivery schedule.
A variation of this approach is to sell through consignment. You bring your clothes to a retailer or shop owner, and the shop owner gets a percentage from the sale of your items. Make sure, though, that the terms of agreement with the shop owner is well-laid out and written, if possible.
You may also wish to go about it alone and sell your products in your own store. This however requires more capitalization as you would need a small retail space to display your items. You must be able to get a location that is accessible to customers, as well as convenient to buyers, textile suppliers or their sales agents. You must also be near the fashion district of your area to enable you to see the trends that are shaping. Should you choose this route, you need to develop a solid merchandising plan that includes creating the right look and feel for your store.
The Question of Production
How much you think you can sell will drive the quantity with which to order your raw materials and negotiate with the contractors who will produce your designs (if you will subcontract it). This requires a balancing act: ordering too many raw materials is an unwanted cost that you should avoid at this point.
The decision to outsource or do production in-house will depend on several factors: the kind of clothing you are doing, the quantity of items, the equipment you need, cost, and your expertise. For example, hand-painted shirts are easier to produce and require lesser equipment than evening gowns.
If you are going to do in-house production, the basic equipment you will need include a cutting table, a cutting machine, sewing machines, pressing equipment, and facilities for inventory storage and shipping. You must also have the space and equipment to store the finished products.
Financing Your Clothing Line Business
There are stories of entrepreneurs who started their clothing business with nothing and then earn a million in their first year of business. However, success stories like these are more the exemption than the norm.
How much you need to start a clothing line depends on many factors whether you will buy or rent your equipment, subcontract production, hire a designer, rent a retail store, and hire a salesman to push your products.
The creation of your first set of samples alone can cost as much as $10,000 from design to finished product, depending on the clothes that you are creating. Restored vintage clothing can cost less to produce. Printed shirts may also require minimal start-up capital. But a line of an upscale career outfits for women may cost more.
If you are creating a pre-teens wear line and one sample alone costs $30 to produce and you need 50 items for each of the four seasons, your production cost for your first year will be $6,000. But if your sample costs $100 per item, your production costs will significantly increase to $20,000 for your first year.
While you may be able to start your business with less, keep in mind that you still need resources to keep the business going and growing. Unless you hire a savvy PR company to market your business and put your brand on every magazine, expect a couple of years at least to acquire a reputation for fit, delivery and customer acceptance. The apparel industry is a tricky business you will never know what will sell from one season to the next.
Having your own clothing business is not an easy task. You need to have the management know-how of running a business and a thorough understanding of the industry. You must be able to juggle well three basic functions: design, production and sales. To top it all, you must keep abreast with the introduction of new fabrics. You need to be savvy that in a lot of things to successful in the garment industry, from finding salespeople to sourcing fabric, hiring contractors, and managing your receivables.
Resources on Starting a Clothing Line Business:
- International Textile and Apparel Association http://www.itaaonline.org/
- American Apparel Producers’ Network http://www.aapnetwork.net/
- Worldwide Responsible Apparel Manufacture http://www.wrapapparel.org/
- American Apparel and Footwear Association http://www.americanapparel.net/
- Fashion Group International http://www.fgi.org
- Apparel News http://www.apparelnews.net/
Recommended Books on Starting a Clothing Line Business:
- How to start a clothing empire
- Fashion Unraveled – Second Edition: How to Start and Manage Your Own Fashion (or Craft) Design Business
- How To Start A Clothing Line
- The Fashion Designer Survival Guide, Revised and Expanded Edition: Start and Run Your Own Fashion Business
- Start Your Own Fashion Accessories Business (StartUp Series)
- The T-Shirt Revolution: Building Your Business Using a Digital Apparel Printer
- The Business of Fashion: Designing, Manufacturing, and Marketing, 4th Edition
Read Part 1: How to Start a Clothing Line Business