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Starting a Clothing Line from Scratch With NO Money – A Complete Guide

Are you interested in starting a clothing brand from scratch? If YES, here is a complete checklist to starting a clothing line with no money and no experience.

Okay, so we have considered all the requirements for starting a clothing line. We have analyzed and drafted a sample clothing line marketing plan backed up by actionable guerrilla marketing ideas for clothing line businesses. In this article, we will take it further by providing you an in-depth sample clothing line business plan template.

Table of Content

  1. Clothing line Industry Overview
  2. Market Research and Feasibility
  3. Clothing line Business Plan
  4. Clothing line Marketing Plan
  5. Clothing line Name ideas
  6. Clothing line Licenses and Permits
  7. Cost of Starting a Clothing Line
  8. Clothing line Marketing ideas

Starting a clothing line business is of course one of the many businesses that can be started in any part of the world. This is one venture where you can penetrate the market to a large extent, once the design being churned out is good and meets the fashion market requirement. Why is this so? Well, this is so because everybody whether old or young have need for clothes. As a result, once the type of style being demanded is met, then there is ample chance to make loads of profit.

  • Can a Clothing Brand Be Started from Home?

Entrepreneurs who intend starting a clothing line business can start their own clothing label from the very comfort of their homes on a small scale and service a customized market. On the other hand, big time investors can open a clothing factory and dominate both the U.S. market and the international market.

The bottom line is that there is always a ready market for manufacturers of clothes. All a designer need do is to ensure that he or she carves a niche for his business, as well as work hard to build a brand name that can be accepted beyond the city of operation.

The Clothing line business just like most businesses thrives on creativity, branding (media hype et al) and good business skills. Any aspiring entrepreneur can start a clothing line, as long as they are creative, they can get people to promote their brand and they have good business skills.

The starting size of this type of business doesn’t really matter as long as the business is built on the right foundation and with the right combination of skills and talents – after all, a world renowned clothing line – Coco Chanel started from a little hat shop in a street in Paris and today they are all over the world.

What Does It Take to Start a Clothing Line Successfully?

One thing is certain, once you are creative, you will be able to come out with a unique style. In the clothing line industry, your signature is your style. Another important factor that counts in this line of business; is the brand name and perhaps the logo of the clothing line.

If you look at the movers and shakers in the clothing line trade, you will realize that they deliberately choose a name and create a logo that best communicate how they want people to perceive them. Once you are able to secure a good name for your clothing line business and then hire experts (graphic artists) to help you create a compelling logo; if you don’t mind, you can follow the trend in the industry.

So, if you have the desires to start your own clothing line, all you need do is to take really seriously all that this read has to offer and you will be well equipped. You can start you clothing label from a small town in the United States and if you are consistent and creative, it wouldn’t be too long before your brand becomes an internationally recognized brand.

Starting a Clothing Line from Scratch – A Complete Guide

  • Industry Overview

Beyond every reasonable doubt, the clothing line industry is indeed a money spinning industry – just like the food industry and the real estate industry. Why is this so? Well, it is simple, clothes is amongst the top three needs of humanity.

Statistics has it that in 2010, American households spent an average of $1,700 on apparel, footwear, and related fashion products and services. In the 2010 alone, the global market for textiles made from organically grown cotton was worth well over $5 billion; that goes to show how big the industry is.

  • Interesting Statistics You Must Know About the Clothing Industry

In the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, France, and Italy and in other part of the world; people spend on clothes especially renowned clothing line brands, just to feel among and look trendy. For instance; Manhattanites spend the most cash on apparels in the U.S.; they spend an average of $362 per month whilst shoppers in Tucson, Arizona, spend the least on apparel; they spend an average of $131 per month.

In the United Kingdom, consumers have an estimated £30 billion ($46.7 billion) worth of unworn clothes lingering in their wardrobes.

The bureau of statistics stated that employment in the U.S. apparel manufacturing industry has declined by more than 80 percent (from about 900,000 to 150,000 jobs) over the past twenty years. However, labor productivity in the U.S. manufacturing sector more than doubled from 1987 to 2010. Labor productivity also more than doubled over that period in U.S. textile mills and nearly doubled in footwear manufacturing sector as well.

  • Is the Clothing Industry Evolving?

The fashion industry, especially cloth making business was not as easy as it is now. Before now, clothing was handmade based on demand by individuals. In the 20th century after the invention of sewing machines (industrial sewing machines), it became pretty much easier to produce clothes en mass.

Technology indeed is responsible for opening up the clothing industry. Clothes can now go through the various factory system of production and still maintain good quality and standard sizes. With that, it is easier for retailers to order and sell clothes at fixed prices in department stores and boutique et al without stress.

Some of the leading labels in the fashion industry are from the United States of America. Although some of these clothing labels outsource the production of their clothes to other parts of the world; predominantly countries in Asia just in the bid to cut cost. Some cities of the world are considered to be hot fashion hubs; they dictate what happens in the industry. The cities are Paris, Milan, New York City, and London.

These cities are known to host fashion exhibitions. Designers who want to play at the global stage ensures that they exhibit their clothing collections to fashion enthusiast during fashion week in any of the cities mentioned above. Recent statistics has it that an estimate of 232,000 people attend New York Fashion Week per year (116,000 each fashion week) and $20 million is channeled into the New York City economy during fashion week.

As a fashion designer, once your brand is accepted in any of the fashion capitals of the world, it wouldn’t be too long before you become a globally recognized clothing label – brand.

  • What Opportunities Does the Clothing Industry Hold?

The clothing line industry is growing and there are opportunities for entrepreneurs to launch their own clothing line business from the scratch and still become a globally recognized clothing brand. The advent of computer and computer software brought leverage in the clothing line industry.

Designing clothes can be conveniently done with the aid of software, and a designer can reach out to the world market by putting up his products (clothes) for sale online; Instagram, YouTube et al are good platforms to promote this type of business.

Starting a Clothing Line from Scratch – Market feasibility research

  • Demographics and Psychographics

When it comes to clothes, there is no restriction to the market demography; the market for clothes cuts across male and female, young and old and just everybody on planet earth. Clothes are required by human from birth, until they die which is why there are clothes for new born babies and clothes used for burials.

It is clearly observed that the female folks spend more on clothes than male; the average female have dresses that they spend much to buy, but never get to wear them for more than twice until they have them discarded.

  • Clothing Line Ideas and Niches

Although everybody on planet earth needs clothes, but that does not mean that designers can sell his or her clothes to everybody. There are segmentation in the industry that helps in defining the target market for any apparel manufacturing company. Entrepreneurs who wants to start their own clothing line business can chose from a wide range of niche in the industry. Some of the niche in the clothing line industry are:

  • Sport clothes
  • Wedding Gowns / Bridal Wears
  • Casual Wears (Jeans, Tee Shirts, Polo, Shorts, et al)
  • Children and Babies Clothes
  • Robes and Uniforms
  • Cultural / Native Attires
  • Corporate Clothes (Shirt, Pants, Jackets, Suits, Blazers, Ties et al)
  • Underwear
  • Female Dresses
  • Male Dresses
  • Costumes

Competition in the Clothing Industry

Despite the fact that there is stiff competition in the clothing line industry, a designer who has carefully studied the industry before launching his or her business doesn’t struggle to breakeven. The idea is to choose a particular niche in the industry that is still open in your location, unless you have the financial resources to promote your clothing label and wrestle a portion of the existing market from the market leaders.

For example; if you live in the United States of America, Australia, Canada and United Kingdom et al, starting a clothing line business and hoping to compete with established clothing brands will definitely not be easy even if you have enough financial resources to sustain a robust publicity and promotion of your brand.

Somehow, you would still have to pay your dues in the industry before your brand is accepted. The easiest route to take is to manufacture cheaper clothes that may be needed outside of the United States or better yet you specialize in making robes and uniforms.

  • Internationally Recognized Clothing Brands / Designers You Can Model

There are several clothing line brands that started locally, but have grown to becoming a global brand. Some of the internationally recognized cloth labels / designers are;

  • Mark & Spencer
  • Ralph Lauren
  • Calvin Klein
  • Gucci
  • Tommy Hilfiger
  • TM Lewin
  • H & M
  • Levi Strauss
  • Dockers
  • Louis Vuitton
  • Atmosphere
  • Mulberry
  • Burberry
  • Hugo Boss
  • Adidas
  • Nike
  • Puma
  • Old Navy

Economic Analysis

The fact that there are over 7 Billion people on planet earth means that there is indeed a very large market for the clothing line industry. For example; if everybody in the world owns a pair of trouser, one shirt and one jacket it will translate to 21 billion clothes. Of course the average person own far more that a pair of trouser, a shirt and a jacket.

If proper market research and survey is done; a clothing manufacturing company will not have to struggle to breakeven. The clothing line industry now rely more on mass market sales for them to make the kind of income that will sustain the business. The mass market take care of a wide range of customers that cuts across both the rich and the poor.

In order to cut cost of production to the barest minimum, most clothing line manufacturing companies in the United States of America now manufacture their clothes in Asia; this is because it is far cheaper when compared to manufacturing in the U.S.

Most of the new clothing brands that are trying to catch – up with the market, ensure that they produce ready-to-wear clothes using trends set by leading fashion labels. What they do is that, they see the direction of the trend as established by renowned fashion brands before producing their own versions of the original look by making use of cheaper fabrics and simpler production processes which can easily be done by machines.

They can comfortably sell such product at a cheaper price to the masses who may not afford to purchase the original which is often way too expensive for the common man.

  • Should You Start a Clothing Brand from Scratch or Buy a Franchise?

For entrepreneurs who want to start their own clothing line business, it is pertinent to note that there is no franchise in the industry. As a matter of fact, it pays to start your own clothing line business from the scratch, and you can choose to start small and serve a specific market segment and then grow as you so wish.

The bottom line is that if you start your own clothing line from the scratch, you will have the opportunity to build your own brand and once it becomes well accepted in the market the sky is your limit.

  • Possible Threats and Challenges of Starting a Clothing Line

There is hardly any business venture that does not come with its own fair share of challenges and threats. Clothing line business just like every other business has its own challenges and threats. One thing is certain; once the proper process is followed in setting up a business, overcoming challenges and surviving threats wouldn’t be a major issue.

This means it would surely be a hurdle that can be surmounted. Some of the common challenges that new clothing line brands face are-:

  • Economic downturn
  • Unfavorable government policies (fiscal and economic policies)
  • Competition
  • Coming up with new designs constantly
  • Finding a good place to site your new company
  • Finding good manufacturers that strictly follows your specifications and keep to delivery time
  • Keeping up with trend as the fashion industry changes very fast
  • Lack of startup or operating capital
  • Ever increasing cost of production
  • Adapting to change in latest technology
  • Finding and keeping your good designers, as they are likely to be poached by bigger companies
  • Distribution problems
  • Fighting pirates and copycats
  • Finding and convincing celebrities to endorse your brand at a affordable price

Writing a Business Plan for your Clothing Line

If you have been an ardent follower of business trends all over the globe, then you may have noticed the importance that is more often than not attached to writing a business plan. What really is the business plan all about?

Business plan is the blue print that is needed to successfully run a business. You are required to write a detailed business plan that can pass reality test when subjected to it. The whole idea of writing a business plan is not just for the sake of having a business document in place; but a detailed guide on how to effectively run the business. Your business plan should outline and cover strategies on how you intend to manage your clothing line.

The rule of thumb in writing a business plan is that you just try as much as possible to be realistic and never go over board when   putting figures on income and profits et al. As a matter of fact, it is safer to underestimate when writing a business plan, than over estimate, so that you won’t be so disappointed when reality sets in. There are different areas that make up a business plan document. They include some of the following;

  • Executive summary and Company’s descriptions: Here, you are expected to write about the concept of your business, descriptions of your company, your company’s vision statement, mission statement and where your company will be located.
  • Other key components that should not be missing in your clothing line business plan are product offering
  • SWOT analysis
  • Marketing and sales analysis / strategies
  • Pricing
  • Costing and financial projection
  • Publicity and advertising strategy
  • Budget and start – up capital generation.

Starting a Clothing Line – Choosing a Suitable Location

When it comes to clothing line business, any location is ideal for the business -especially when other key factors have been taken care of. The truth is that, if you have enough space in your compound, you can start a small scale clothing line business from your home.

The fact that you chose a location that is in the outskirt of town does not in any way stop you from selling your clothes nationally or even in the international market. The idea is to have a place that is cost effective, and can be most ideal for the kind of business that you have chosen to do.

Some of the few factors that can influence the sighting of a clothing manufacturing company is closeness to cheap labor, closeness to source of raw materials and stable power supply amongst other factors.

If you study the trend in the clothing line industry, you will realize that some of the leading clothing line brands in the United States, Australia, Canada and United Kingdom prefer to setup their factory in countries in Asia where they can cut the cost of manufacturing. India, Thailand, and China are some of the most preferred destination.

Tips for Finding a Clothing Manufacturer in China
  • You can visit China to search for a clothing manufacturer or better still, you can employ the services of a professional agent to carry out the research on your behalf and connect you with a suitable clothing manufacturer
  • Search for clothing manufacturers online on websites like Alibaba.com or MadeInChina.com
  • Schedule an Interview with your selected clothing manufacturer and ask as many questions as you feel
  • Evaluate the manufacturer to see how fast they respond to calls and e-mails and how willing they are to help
  • Negotiate terms and sign contract
  • Ask for samples
  • Send your sketches to them
  • Search for alternatives
  • Sell your clothing brand and obtain feedback

Starting a Clothing Line – Technical & Manpower Details

The advent of industrial sewing machines and computerized system facilitates mass production of clothes. Good enough; some of the machines that are used in clothing manufacturing factory can be bought as fairly used, but if you have the money, it is better to purchase brand new machines.

If your intention of starting a clothing line business is to cover a large market, then it pays that you acquire / lease a factory or warehouse that can easily be converted to your clothing line business. But, if you just want to cover a specific market and you don’t intend to start big for obvious reasons, then it will be more economical to rent a facility for the business.

Basically, there are key employees that are needed when starting a clothing line business. You will sure need a fashion designer, tailor, factory worker / machine operators, sales and marketing officer and factory manager. On the average you will need an estimate of 15 employees for small scale clothing line company, 50 or more employees for medium scale clothing line business and over 100 employees for large scale clothing line business.

However, you must note that one key employee you must not compromise on is your fashion designer. This is because the uniqueness of your clothing designs depends on him.

To Find a Professional Fashion Designer

  • You can hire a consultant to help you out
  • You can get fashion designers through referrals
  • You can do a search yourself on the internet (Jobsites and fashion magazines)
  • Keep your eyes open for talents

When Hiring a Clothing Designer, you must consider the following:

  • Your Budget
  • He/she Must Possess Education and Training
  • Experience is important
  • You must look through the designer’s portfolio
  • He/she must possess Sewing skills
  • You Must Ascertain His Ability to use design software
  • He/she Must Be Fashion Savvy
  • He/she Must Have Knowledge of fabric

When it comes to purchasing your clothing line equipment, these are some of the machines, equipment and tools that we would need to start our clothing line business:

  • Industrial sewing machines
  • Pattern makers for crafting designs.
  • Women and men dress forms used for garment building.
  • Scissors
  • Hole punchers
  • Straight and curved rulers
  • Pencils
  • Measuring tapes
  • Notches for marking seams.
  • Pins
  • Slopers
  • Dotted pattern paper.
  • Sewing machine needles
  • Hand sewing needles.
  • Threads
  • Sketching books.
  • Draping tools.
  • Dressmaking Stick pins
  • Muslin
  • Style tapes
  • Fabric shears
  • Soft lead pencil
  • Marking pen
  • Pattern plotter.
  • Pattern making software.
  • Computer
  • CAD tools for designs
  • Digital drawing tools
  • Digitizer board for pattern scanning.
  • Heat transfer machines for T-shirts.
  • Print tables.
  • Racks
  • Slat wall
  • Mannequins
  • Hangers
  • Labels and Tags.
  • Packaging materials
  • Industrial pressing irons
  • Supply of fabrics

The Production Process Involved

The production process for mass production in a clothing line factory is a little bit different from small scale production of clothes. There are different stages that is involved and it is imperative to note that these stages have got to be started and completed meticulously, so that nothing is left haphazardly done. Here below are some of the stages involved;

  • Sketching Stage

The first stage in the production of clothes / apparel starts with designing and sketching stage. It is the fashion designer that is responsible for designing the kind of clothes that the company wants to produce. At this stage of the production process, the designers is permitted to free – style and come up with a sketch that will be subjected to screening by a panel of designers.

  • Pattern Making Stage

After the first sketch has gotten its approval from the panel of designer, the next stage is for pattern makers to develop the first pattern from the initial sketch. At this stage, the pattern maker can adopt a standard size and thereafter other sizes will be created.

  • Sample Making

The next stage is for samples to be made from the pattern that was developed. The patterns that are developed goes through the sewing department for it to be coupled into apparel. At this stage, the pattern created will be stitched on calico or muslin which is an inferior quality of fabric and it reduces cost. After this process, the sample garment will be subjected to review by a panelist of designers. If it is approved, it moves to the next stage and if not all the necessary adjustment and correction will be made.

  • Mass Production Pattern

The next stage after the sample garment has been approved is to develop a production pattern which will be used for mass production of apparels. This is one of the important stages that must not be handled with levity. As a matter of fact, it must be handled by a very skilled employee.

  • Grading

The other production sequence that will be followed are grading; the essence of grading is to develop patterns in different standard sizes (S, M, L, XL, and XXL et al). Grading a pattern simply means scaling a pattern up or down so as to create multiple sizes. Thereafter; markers will be created on the fabrics; usually it is done with the aid of computer software. The next step is to spread the fabrics with the aid of spreading machines before the fabrics are cut to sizes.

After cutting to the required specification, the materials are then sorted out before they are transferred to the sewing and assembling department. What is more, once the clothes comes out the sewing department, they are transferred to the pressing and finishing department where the clothes will be properly ironed and packaged.

The final stage in the production process in a clothing line factory is to inspect the finished clothes in order to identify defects. Once a defect is   identified, they will be amended before the clothes are finally packaged and shipped to outlets where they will be sold. At this stage, the clothes are sorted out based on sizes, colors, and designs et al

Starting a Clothing Line – Marketing Plan

Marketing your clothing line business requires creativity and aggressiveness. No doubt there are competition in the clothing line market, but if your designs stands out, you will be able to attract a portion of the available market.

  • Clothing Line Marketing Ideas and Strategies

One of the key strategies in marketing clothes is to create hypes around your designs. Creating hypes around your clothing labels involves attending fashion expos, leveraging on the both online and offline media platforms to promote your clothing brands. Instagram and YouTube are some of the potent social media tools in promoting a clothing brand. Other ways you can promote your clothing line are:

  • Host a fashion show
  • Organize a flash mob and have models walk around the street in your designs
  • Sponsor a Charitable Cause
  • Discounts and Giveaways
  • Organize contests
  • Get newspapers and magazines to do a review of your clothing line
  • Fashion bloggers

Another major leverage in marketing a clothing line business is to get well known celebrities in different fields to endorse your brand. The truth is that if a celebrity wears your clothes, he or she will definitely help you generate traffic to your clothing line brand.

If you are into sporty clothes production, get celebrities in the sports industry to endorse your brand, if you are into corporate clothing production, get successfully career people or diplomats to endorse your brand and if you are into casual wears, you can get actors or musicians to endorse your brand. It is one of the easiest ways to get people to fully accept your clothing brand in the market place. It might be expensive but it will sure be worth the while in the end.

Starting a Clothing Line – Suppliers/Distribution Network

Running a clothing line business requires that you enter into business relationship with suppliers of cotton and wools, supplies of threads, suppliers of stiffeners, suppliers of dyes, suppliers of packaging materials et al. One of the places where you can get to network with business partners is in chambers of commerce and industry, and fashion expos et al.

Another major business relationship that is required is the relationship with wholesale distributors and even retailers. The amount of cash in – flow in your business is determined by the numbers of wholesale distributors that you have. One of the ways to attract loads of wholesalers is when you have very durable and quality products. Bottom-line is that no one wants to be responsible for retailing substandard clothes. This is why you have got to produce quality so as to have loyal wholesale distributors.

It is important to create a win-win business relationship with merchants and wholesalers if indeed you want your clothing brands to penetrate the market. You might want to sell below the average price in the industry especially if you are new so as to attract customers. It is no longer news that one of the ways to attract all and sundry to your business if you are new, is to keep the price lower than normal.

Where to Sell your Clothes Online
  • E-Bay
  • Craigslist
  • Amazon
  • Facebook
  • Etsy
  • Shopify
  • Sell on Instagram
  • Recruits affiliates to sell for you
  • Promote your clothing brand on other people’s blogging platforms

Tips for Running a Clothing Line Business Successfully

The success of any business is the combination of the daily activities that takes place in the organization. In order to run a successful clothing line business, it is important to create standard operating processes that runs on autopilot. This means that you have got to be ready to create systems and processes that can help your business scale.

Every day’s job should start by reviewing the previous day’s job, reviewing all the set targets and goals before setting a new target or goal for the day. If an organization must succeed, all hands must be on deck; everybody should be involved in promoting the brand of the organization. It should not be left to the PR or marketing and sales department. Everyone have got to run with the vision and mantra of the business, so as to make great progress.

Furthermore, the management of the organization should ensure that they review the operating processes from time to time in order to develop better and faster ways of doing things. If it is possible, they can hire the services of business consultants to look into the process and then make recommendations on how best to carry out a job description et al. Recommendation could mean suggesting customized software for a specific process in the clothes production.

Having said all these, it is very vital to also state that one have got to have a very positive mindset whilst starting and running the clothing line business. This is because one of the fastest ways to attract success in any endeavor is by being optimistic. And optimism is one of the factors needed to run the clothing line trade.

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