Are you interested in starting a fashion-related business or are you interested in the apparel manufacturing industry? If YES, then you should consider starting a clothing line in your city in UK. If you intend starting this type of business, it is advisable to first look at the existing laws and zonal regulations in the United Kingdom or city you reside in to know what is expected of you.
The bottom line is that you need to pay a visit to the regulatory bodies in the United Kingdom to get all the information you need to legally open your clothing line or brand in the UK. You can start your clothing line or brand from a small town in the United Kingdom and if you are good at what you do, it won’t be too long before your brand becomes nationally recognized especially if you go into franchising.
20 Steps on How to Start a Clothing Line or Brand Business
Table of Content
- Understand the Industry
- Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On
- Know Your Major Competitors in the industry
- Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
- Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face
- Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity
- Private Limited Company (LTD or Ltd)
- Choose a Catchy Business Name from the Ideas Below
- Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
- Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
- Get the Necessary Professional Certification
- Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
- Raise the Needed Startup Capital
- Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
- Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
- Write a Marketing Plan Packed With ideas & Strategies
- Work Out a Reasonable Pricing for your Products
- Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win
- Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Clients & Customers
- Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
Understand the Industry
The clothing line industry is indeed a money-spinning industry because clothing is amongst the top three needs of human beings. A recent report released by Fashion United shows that currently around 555,000 people are employed in fashion, textiles and fashion retail in the United Kingdom. Most jobs in fashion related industries are in retail. This sub industry employs 75 percent with 414,000 people working in retail.
Also, footwear and leather goods retail provides a fair number of jobs, about 59,000 employees work within this sector. Another 8 percent, 43,000 employers, work in the wholesale of clothing and footwear. With respectively 34,000, 5,000 positions, 6 percent and 1 percent, the least number of jobs are in the manufacturing of apparel and footwear.
Some of the leading labels in the fashion industry in the United Kingdom are Burberry Group plc, Next Plc, Marks & Spencer, and ASOS. 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 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 ensure that they exhibit their clothing collections during fashion weeks in any of the cities mentioned above.
The clothing line industry is growing and there are opportunities for entrepreneurs to launch their business. The advent of computer and computer software brought leverage in the clothing line industry. Designing clothes can be conveniently done with the aid of a software, and a designer can reach out to the world market by putting up his products (clothes) for sale online.
Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- Demographics and Psychographics
When it comes to clothes, there is no restriction to the market demography; the market for clothes cut across male and female, young and old and just everybody on planet earth. Clothes are required by humans from birth until they die which is why there are clothes for new born babies and clothes used for funerals.
It is clearly observed that females spend more on clothes than males; the average female has dresses that they spent much on but will never get to wear them more than twice until they discard them.
Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On
In as much as much as everybody on planet earth needs clothes does not mean that any designer can sell his or her clothes to everybody. There are segmentations in the industry that helps in defining the target market for apparel manufacturing companies.
Entrepreneurs who want to start their own clothing line business in the UK can choose from a wide range of niche in the industry. Some of the niches in the 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)
- Female Dresses
- Male Dresses
The Level of Competition in the Apparel Manufacturing Industry
The fact that the entry level for clothing businesses range from moderate to high, means that loads of people would want to engage in the business. Besides, there are major players in the industry which is why the business is highly competitive in the United Kingdom.
Despite the fact that there are competitions in the clothing industry in the UK, a designer who has carefully studied the industry before launching his or her business won’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.
Starting a clothing line or brand in the UK and hoping to compete with establish clothing brands will definitely not be easy even if you have enough financial resources to sustain robust publicity and promotion of your brand. Somehow, you will still have to pay your dues in the industry before your brand can be accepted. The easiest route to take is to manufacture cheaper clothes that may be needed outside the United Kingdom or you specialize in making robes and uniforms.
Know Your Major Competitors in the industry
Here are some of the most popular clothing brands in the United Kingdom;
- Next Group Plc
- Mark & Spencer
- Primark Stores Limited
- H&M Hennes & Mauritz UK Ltd
- Arcadia Group Ltd
- Industria de Diseno Textil SA
- New Look Retailers Ltd
- River Island Clothing Co Ltd.
Just like any other business, when starting a clothing line or brand, you just have to get your economic analysis right if your intention of building the business is to generate profits, grow the business, sell franchise and perhaps expand your distribution network beyond the United Kingdom.
When conducting economic analysis for your clothing business, you just have to critically examine these key factors; place, product, pricing, and promotion. You have to continue to review these key factors at regular intervals while running your clothing business.
It is important to note that payment of utility bills, rent, packaging and promotion and of course the purchase of raw materials are some of the most important factors contributing to the overall cost of a clothing line or brand business and should be considered as a major factor when carrying out your economic analysis.
Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
Any entrepreneur who wants to start his clothing brand in the United Kingdom does not have the option of buying a franchise; there is no franchise in the industry for now. As a matter of fact, it pays to start your clothing business from the scratch, you can choose to start small and serve a specific market segment and then grow as you wish.
Please note that most of the big and successful clothing brands in the United Kingdom started from the scratch and they were able to build a solid business brand. It takes creativity, dedication, hard work and determination to achieve business success.
Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face
There is hardly any business venture that does not come with its own fair share of challenges and threats. Clothing businesses also have their own challenges and threats. One thing is certain, once the proper process is followed in setting up a business, overcoming challenges and surviving threats won’t be a major issue.
Some of the common challenges that new clothing businesses face are lack of fund to sustain the media hype and advertisement needed to successfully sell a clothing brand to the general public. Other challenges are economic downturn, unfavorable government policies and the arrival of competitors within your target market space.
Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity
The United Kingdom has a wide array of options that you can choose from if you are looking for a business structure to build your business on. The most important thing is that you should select a business structure that will best serve your overall business vision and mission.
In UK, you can choose to start your business as a Sole trader, Limited company, Private limited company (LTD or Ltd), Public limited company (PLC), Limited liability partnership (LLP) or Guarantee Company (LBG). If you are not sure of which business structure to choose from, then consider going through the quick preview;
- Sole Trader
A sole trader is a business-type where one person owns and runs the entire business. It is the simplest business structure you can adopt. It is very suitable for any one-person businesses; this includes independent accountants, web developers and gardeners among others.
A sole trader is an individual that is entitled to all/any profits of the business but is also liable for any debt/damages incurred. In the UK, there are currently over 3 million registered sole traders, and the number is growing with a massive influx of skilled freelancers.
- Limited Company
A limited company is a legal business structure, that means the business is a separate entity from its owners. This means the owners are only liable for any business debts to the extent of the amount of money they have put into the business, thus limiting any exposure beyond their total investment. There are two types of limited companies you can incorporate in the UK.
Private Limited Company (LTD or Ltd)
In a private limited company, the owners privately hold shares. This is the most common and preferred incorporation structure for most small businesses in the UK. Over 5.2 million limited companies are operating in the UK now.
The bottom line is that if you have plans to grow your small clothing brand beyond yourself (one person) and then sell it, then a Private Limited Company would likely be the most suitable structure. If you are considering operating a mom-and-pop kind of clothing business, then a Sole Tradership would probably be the best structure to build your business on.
But if you have plans to build a business brand that has a significant amount of senior management, capital and that deals in services, then a Limited Liability partnership would be the best choice.
Choose a Catchy Business Name from the Ideas Below
When it comes to choosing a name for your business, you should be creative because whatever name you choose for your business will go a long way to create a perception of what the business represents. Typically, it is the norm for people to follow the trend in the industry they intend operating from when naming their business.
If you are considering starting your own clothing line or brand in the UK, here are some catchy names that you can choose from;
- Queen Lizzy® Clothing Label, LTD
- Gee Lake® Clothing Brand, LTD
- Princess Collections© Clothing Line, LTD
- All Inclusive® Apparel Production Company
- Ten “O” Ten™ Clothing Brand, LTD
- Larry Bee™ Clothing Brand, LTD
- King’s Pride© Apparel Production Company
- Queen’s Pride® Clothing Line Company, LTD
- Mary Lane© Clothing Line Company, LTD
- Jack Wells© Clothing Line Company, LTD
Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
In the United Kingdom, you can’t operate a business without having some of the basic insurance policies that are required by the industry you want to operate from. Thus, it is imperative to create a budget for insurance and perhaps consult an insurance broker to guide you in choosing the best and most appropriate insurance policies for your business.
Here are some of the basic insurance policies that you should consider purchasing if you want to start your own clothing line in the United Kingdom;
- General insurance
- Health insurance
- Commercial Umbrella Insurance
- Public Liability Insurance (PLI)
- Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII)
- Employers Liability Insurance (ELI)
- Key Man Insurance (KMI)
- Trade Credit Insurance (TCI)
You can contact the following leading insurance companies in the UK to purchase the needed insurance policies for your clothing line;
- Aviva PLC
- Old Mutual Ltd
- Prudential PLC
- RSA Insurance Group PLC
- Direct Line Group Insurance PLC
- Hiscox Limited
- Admiral Group PLC
Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
Starting a clothing may not require that you secure your intellectual property especially when you are into the mass production of clothes. But if you are a designer with your own unique designs, you may consult an attorney to help you secure your intellectual property.
This can only be done if you are pretty sure that you are the inventor of the style or design. One thing about the clothing industry is that designers are more concerned in protecting their logo and brand as against protecting their designs or styles.
So, if you want to protect your unique design, your company’s logo and other documents or software that are unique to you or even jingles and media production concepts, then you can go ahead to file for intellectual property protection.
If you want to register your trademark, you are expected to begin the process by filing an application. Please note that a straightforward trademark application takes approximately three to five months to register in the UK. An uncomplicated European Union Trademark application typically takes between six and nine months.
Get the Necessary Professional Certification
There are businesses that require professional certifications before the business can be launched and a clothing business is not one of them. Any entrepreneur who desires to start his or her own clothing business can start it with little or no stress.
The only requirement is having the right skill set. Tailoring skills, fashion designing skills, sales skills, business management skills and creativity might just be enough to launch a clothing business. Obtaining a degree or diploma is a good idea when planning on starting a clothing line that will go global. Some of the prominent fashion design schools can be found in New, York, Paris, London, and Milan et al.
If you live in London or any city in the United Kingdom, you can try London College of Fashion, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, Kingston University London, University of Westminster or Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design.
Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
It is a fact that you cannot successfully run any business in the United Kingdom without the proper documentations. If you do, it won’t be too long before the long hands of the law catch up with you. These are some of the basic legal documents that you are expected to have in place if you want to legally run your own clothing line or brand business in the United Kingdom;
- Business and liability insurance
- Council Permit
- Certificate of Incorporation
- Business License
- Business Plan
- Employment Agreement (offer letters)
- Insurance Policy
- Company Bylaws
- Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)
Raise the Needed Startup Capital
It is one thing to come up with a fantastic and highly workable business idea, but another thing to hit the ground running. Finance is the lifeline of any business; money will be required to get a lot of things in place prior to starting a business.
There are some businesses that can be started with little or no money and a clothing line business is not one of them. If you want to start a clothing business, you need to raise startup capital. When it comes to financing a business, one of the first thing and perhaps the major factors that you should consider is to write a good business plan.
If you have a good and workable business plan document in place, you may not have to labor yourself before convincing your bank, investors and your friends to invest in your business. Here are some of the options you can explore when sourcing for startup capital for your clothing line;
- Raising money from personal savings and sale of personal stocks and properties
- Raising money from investors and business partners
- Sell shares to interested investors
- Source for soft loans from your family members and your friends.
Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
When it comes to choosing a location for your clothing business, the rule of thumb is that you should be guided by the demand for such product and easy access to labor and raw materials. Of course, if you are able to secure a central location for your clothing line or brand, it will enable you cut the cost of transporting your raw materials and finished products to and from your production facility and warehouse.
It cannot be overemphasized that the location you choose to open your clothing line or brand is key to the success of the business, hence entrepreneurs are willing to rent or lease a facility in a visible location; a location where the demography consists of people and businesses who will patronize them.
It is important to note that a business facility in good location does not come cheap hence you should be able to allocate enough fund for leasing / renting in your budget. If you are new to the dynamics of choosing a location for your clothing line or brand, then you should feel free to talk to a business consultant or a realtor.
The crux of the matter is that, before choosing a location for your clothing line, ensure that you first conduct a thorough feasibility studies and market survey. The possibility of you coming across similar businesses that just closed shop in the location you want to open yours can’t be ruled out.
Having said that, these are some of the cities in the UK where you can locate your clothing brand business;
Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
The advent of industrial sewing machines and computerized systems facilitate mass production of clothes. Good enough, some of the machines that are used in clothing manufacturing 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 business is to cover a large market, then it will pay you to acquire/lease a factory or warehouse. But if you just want to cover a specific market and you don’t intend to start big, then it will be more economical to rent a facility for the business.
There are key employees that are needed when starting a clothing line business. You will 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 a small scale clothing line company, 50 or more employees for medium scale clothing line business and over 100 employees for a large scale clothing business.
These are some of the machines, equipment and tools that you need to start your clothing line business;
- Industrial sewing machines
- Pattern makers for crafting designs.
- Women and men dress forms used for garment building.
- Hole punchers
- Straight and curved rulers
- Measuring tapes
- Notchers for marking seams.
- Dotted pattern paper.
- Sewing machine needles
- Hand sewing needles.
- Sketching books.
- Drapings tools.
- Dressmaking Stick pins
- Style tapes
- Fabric shears
- Soft lead pencil
- Marking pen
- Pattern plotter.
- Pattern making software.
- CAD tools for designs
- Digital drawing tools
- Digitizer board for pattern scanning.
- Heat transfer machines for T-shirts.
- Print tables.
- Slat wall
- Labels and Tags.
- Packaging materials
- Industrial pressing irons
- Supply of fabrics
The Service Delivery Process of a Clothing Business
The process for mass production in a clothing factory is a little bit different from small scale production of clothes.
- Sketching Stage
The first stage in the production of clothes/apparel starts with designing and sketching. The fashion designer 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 freestyle 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 approval from the panel of designers, 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 go through the sewing department for it to be coupled into an 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 panel 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.
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 size. After cutting to the required specification, the materials are then sorted out before they are transferred to the sewing and assembling department.
Once the clothes come out of the sewing department, they are transferred to the pressing and finishing department where the clothes will be ironed and packaged.
The final stage in the production process is to inspect the finished clothes in order to identify defects. Once defects are identified, they will be amended before the clothes will be 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.
Write a Marketing Plan Packed With ideas & Strategies
Marketing ideas and business strategies are key aspects of a business that must not be neglected when drafting your business plan. As a matter of fact, if you are not certain of the marketing ideas and strategies to deploy before starting your business or if you are not sure of how to generate sales for your business, it is advisable to you go back to the drawing board.
Marketing your clothing business requires creativity and aggressiveness. No doubt there are competitions in the market, but if your designs stand out, you will be a able to corner a portion of the available market.
So, when you are drafting your marketing plans, make sure that you create a compelling company profile. Aside from your qualifications and experience, it is important to clearly state what you have been able to achieve in time past. This will help boost your chances in the industry.
Here are some of the platforms you can utilize to market your clothing business;
- Introduce your clothing label by sending introductory letters alongside your brochure to fashion enthusiasts, households, corporate organizations, small scale businesses, medium scale businesses and other key stake holders throughout the city where your clothing line or brand business is located.
- Advertise on the internet on fashion blogs and forums, and also on social media like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Instagram to get your message across
- Create a basic website for your business so as to give your business an online presence
- Create hypes around your designs. Creating hypes around your clothing labels involve attending fashion expos
- Directly market your clothing brand
- Join local clothing line or brand business associations for industry trends and tips
- Join local chambers of commerce and industry with the aim of networking and marketing your clothing brand
- Advertise our business in community – based newspapers, local TV and radio stations
- List your business on yellow pages ads (local directories)
- Encourage the use of word of mouth marketing (referrals)
Work Out a Reasonable Pricing for your Products
One key factor that will help you produce and retail your clothes at rock bottom prices is to purchase your raw materials and supplies directly from wholesalers in pretty large quantities. The truth is the higher the quantity of items that you purchase directly from wholesalers, the cheaper you tend to get them.
Another strategy that will help you retail your clothes at the right price is to ensure that you cut operational cost to the barest minimum and channel your efforts towards marketing and promoting your brand name. Aside from the fact that this strategy will help you save cost, it will also help you get the right pricing for your products.
You can also try as much as possible to work with independent contractors and marketers; it will help you save cost of paying sales and marketing executives and also purchase.
Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win
The availability of competent and reliable fashion designers and tailors under your payroll, your business process and of course your pricing model are part of what you need to stay competitive in the industry.
Another possible competitive strategy for winning your competitors in this particular industry is to network and build a robust clientele base. Over and above, ensure that your organization is well positioned; key members of your team are highly qualified and can favorably compete with the some of the best in the fashion designing and apparel manufacturing industry.
Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Clients & Customers
When it comes to business, no matter the industry that you choose to pitch your tent in, one of the easiest ways to increase customer retention and perhaps attract new customers is to produce results and satisfy your customers always. If your customers are satisfied with your products and service delivery, they can hardly source for alternative service providers.
If your services and customer service fluctuate, you are likely going to struggle to get your customers coming back to purchase from you. Ensure that you offer your customers incentives if you want to retain them and of course continue to generate repeated sales from them and also to attract new customers.
Part of what you need to do to achieve this is to track progress, results or outputs with the aim of improving on them quickly as the case demands. When it comes to managing your customers and building a loyal clientele base, you should purchase a customized CRM software.
With a customized CRM system, you can easily stay in touch with your clients (you can carry out quick surveys, you can introduce new products and prices to them without any hitch, you can felicitate with them on their birthdays and other anniversaries, you can keep track of their progress, you can send bulk sms and customized e – mails and above all, you can easily receive compliant and feedback from them).
Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
If you are in business and you are not conscious about boosting you brand awareness and communicating your corporate identity, then you should be ready to take on whatever the society portrays your business to be. One of the secrets of larger corporations is that they are willing to spend fortunes to boost their brand awareness.
No matter the industry you belong to, the truth is that the market is dynamic and it requires consistent brand awareness and brand boosting cum promotion to continue to appeal to your target market. Here are the platforms you can leverage on to boost your brand and create a corporate identity for your clothing line or brand business;
- Place adverts on both print (newspapers and fashion magazines) and electronic media platforms
- Sponsor relevant community – based events
- Get well known celebrities in different fields to endorse your brand (if a celebrity wears your clothes, he or she will definitely help you generate traffic to your clothing line brand.)
- Leverage on the internet and social media platforms like; Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Google + et al to promote your clothing line or brand business
- Install your billboards in strategic locations all around your city or state
- Distribute your fliers and handbills in target areas
- List your clothing line or brand business in local directories / yellow pages
- Advertise your clothing line or brand business in your official website and employ strategies that will help you pull traffic to the site
- Position your Flexi Banners at strategic positions in the location where your clothing line or brand business is located.
- Ensure that all your staff members wear your branded shirts and all your vehicles are branded with your company logo.