Starting your own clothing company can be one of the most exciting, daunting and exhausting, yet rewarding times of your life.
No matter how fantastic your initial idea or how beautiful your designs might be, there are certain pitfalls and mistakes many entrepreneurs make when launching their own brand. Here, we take a look at our top 10 things to avoid when starting your own fashion business.
1 Underestimating the Need to Plan
“Winging it” is a dangerous game when it comes to business. The need to plan ahead and research everything about your business and the industry is paramount to ensure you are never left unprepared.
From in-depth research into your competitors to a full and detailed digital marketing strategy, business plans are there for a reason and to help you evolve and build your business without the interruption of costly surprises and mistakes.
Clothing Line Mistakes
When it comes to starting your own clothing line business in the fashion industry for a small business, there are endless things you’ll need to plan before you can execute properly and effectively.
Here are a few examples of aspects of your business it would be a mistake not to plan thoroughly .
- Not Planning Budget – When you’re first starting out, you won’t know the exact costings of everything you will have to spend money on. However, it’s very important to get an idea of costs for each and every aspect of the business at the beginning to keep track of your spending and ensure you’re not blowing too much of your initial investment. Many fashion entrepreneurs make the mistake of not planning a real budget at the beginning of their small business journey, which has catastrophic consequences later down the line when there is still lots to do and no finance available.
- Not Planning Manufacturing – Manufacturing is such a large aspect of your business, it’s important to plan ahead as soon as you can. Without keeping plans for samples, production minimum orders, stock levels and re-stocks, you could be left without the right product or without any product at all.
- Not Planning Marketing – Marketing in every way requires thorough planning and monitoring at all times. From social media content creation to paid advertising, without a plan, many fashion businesses end up advertising to their target market on their platforms ad hoc, inconsistently, and without purpose or effect, which leads to wasted time and money.
How to Avoid Underestimating the Need to Plan
- Do Your Research – As soon as you decide you want to start your own clothing business, start researching. Researching how to plan each stage of your business process from designs to price point will be vital to understanding how to organise your time and budget.
- Get Help – If the thought of planning each stage of your business is overwhelming, don’t forget that there are professionals on hand to help you to plan. By including outsourcing some of this work into your budget, you can ensure you’ve taken all the planning steps you need to lead you to success.
2 Starting Too Big
One problem many fashion entrepreneurs and business owners face when starting their own clothing line and online store is trying to start too big. Either launching with far too many product lines or attempting to appeal to too broader a target audience can mean the brand feels unfocused and the identity becomes lost.
Starting small and niche doesn’t mean your business will stay that way. Focusing and perfecting a small range of products, aimed at a defined, specific target customer enables you to create a strong base to build and grow your brand step by step. If you start selling a small line of t-shirts, this doesn't mean you won't soon be selling outerwear and accessories too.
Clothing Line Mistakes
When you’re starting your new clothing line, focus and detail will be key to ensuring you create a product that your target customer really wants. Let’s take a look at a few mistakes a fashion designer might make when starting too big.
- Too Much Product
- Sometimes businesses try to appeal to their customer by offering them everything they might want. However, this business model means you’re working on too many product lines and you will lose the focus of your brand. Fashion brands should focus on and become an expert in a niche area and build from there.
Fashion Label Example: Did you know that the global fashion brand Ralph Lauren started out with just a small collection of men’s silk ties? Having found its customer and created the perfect clothing items for them, the brand then evolved and grew with a clear level of expertise in its niche.
- No Specific Customer – Without designing and branding for a specific customer, brands create too vague of an identity by trying to please too many people. By doing so, you can end up not pleasing (or being noticed by) any.
How to Avoid Starting Too Big
- Get It Right from The Beginning - From the very beginning of your business planning, circle in on your specific target customer and design for them from the start. This will keep your collections high quality, niche and focused and ensure you don’t go off on a tangent when launching your e-commerce store.
3 Rushing Your Branding
Branding is one of the most important aspects of your business as it tells your customers who you are and the story of the company, which in turn engages them and encourages them to become a loyal customer.
Rushing through this process is a risk because not only do you gamble with making mistakes but you also chance creating a flaky brand identity, which fails to really connect your customers with your products.
Clothing Line Mistakes
Let’s take a look at some of the mistakes made by fashion brands when they rush their branding process.
- Rushing a Brand Name and Logo – Sometimes at the start of creating your own clothing brand, settling on the name and logo of the brand is one of the most exciting aspects. However, rushing this stage can result in you choosing a name that doesn’t really represent your ethos and identity or resonate well with your customer.
- Choosing A Poor Domain – Your domain needs to be a part of your branding strategy but also might be part of your marketing and SEO strategies. Consider how memorable your chosen domain is, how relevant it is to your business idea and products and don’t select too niche of a domain that will render it irrelevant should your product lines expand in the future. Whether you're creating a self-made Shopify store or having a professional designer create your website, your domain will stick with you so it's important to get right.
How to Avoid Rushing Your Brand
- Sleep on It – When you make decisions about your branding, such as big aspects like name, logo, fonts and colour schemes, sleep on your decisions for a period of time without definitively having anything made or created in stone. Once you’ve had details like a logo created, allow yourself plenty of time to sleep on it again to ensure you don’t start to change your mind.
- Get Feedback – When you start to make big decisions about your branding for your fashion business, get feedback from as many people as you can. Their opinions might help you to see how potential customers will view your branding choices, which will help you to decide if they are the right decision.
4 Not Getting Professional Tech Packs Made
When we asked Boris Hodakel what his number one tip is for starting a clothing line, the founder of Sewport, the digital platform connecting designers and factories , the answer was all about tech packs; “Have a tech pack for every item before even going into sampling”. This helps to prevent wasted time and money trying to create samples without any accuracy.
The fee of tech pack creation is much smaller than the money you’ll waste on production costs having to re-sample multiple times due to easily avoidable errors in trims, stitching or even lining details just because you haven’t provided the factory and pattern maker with specific instructions.
Having a clear and detailed tech pack ready for each and every piece in the collection also gives you reassurance that if your samples arrive with a problem, you have proof of your original instruction to the factory. If you’re unsure how to begin building your collection of tech packs, find the perfect professional to assist through the Sewport platform.
Tech packs can also be used to save you money when doing your initial clothing manufacturer research according to Belinda Jacobs from TechPacks.co. By sending your detailed tech packs to several production factories, you can source the very best deal for your brand.
Clothing Line Mistakes
Let’s take a look at some of the mistakes fashion brands make when they don’t get professional tech packs made.
- Wasting Time & Money – By not realising the importance of having professional tech packs made, many budding fashion entrepreneurs approach clothing manufacturers for their clothing line without full information. They end up wasting time and money going back and forth creating samples that continuously need alterations, which is wasteful even at a low cost.
- Not Getting Complete Quotes - Without a full and complete tech pack, how can a clothing manufacturer provide you with a full and complete quote? The answer is, they can’t. And chances are, the final product will end up being more expensive than your quote, rendering that part of the process a waste of time. From pattern making to final finishes, tech packs ensure the details are perfect.
How to Avoid Not Getting Professional Tech Packs
- Learn – If you don’t know the importance of having a professional tech pack made, then chances are, you don’t know exactly what a tech pack is and what it involves. It’s important to fully understand this part of the manufacturing process when you’re a clothing brand so take the time to really learn what this stage is all about.
- Get Professional Assistance – It’s ok not to know everything about building a new fashion business. So, when it comes to certain aspects of the process that you’re not sure about (such as tech packs), bring in a professional to ensure you get the job done correctly.
5 Thinking You Can Do It Alone
A first-time entrepreneur often starts out their journey solo. Having formed an initial idea, when you start to build a business around it, you’ll see that you really do need to work with close and trusted partners to bring the brand to life.
Trying to take on every aspect of the brand from designs to logistics to manufacturing will not be possible on a professional scale, so the thought that you can do it alone must be evolved into building strong relationships with other like-minded professionals and creatives.
Clothing Line Mistakes
Sometimes fashion entrepreneurs want to do everything themselves, but let’s take a look at some mistakes that can happen if you try to do this.
- Details Get Missed – If you’re doing every aspect of creating and launching a new fashion business, eventually mistakes will start to be made and details will get missed out, which you will regret later down the line.
- You Get Tired – When you try to do everything yourself when launching a new business, you will inevitably get tired. While being tired is part and parcel of creating a new business, you don’t want to get so tired that your passion for your brand diminishes.
How to Avoid Thinking You Can Do It Alone
- Choose Your Skills – If you’re not sure how you would share the load of responsibilities when your creating your clothing business, take the time to pick out your key skills and what you enjoy the most. There is bound to be aspects of the business that you don’t love quite so much or things that aren’t directly within your skillset. These are things you can get help with to ensure you don’t take on too much.
6 Picking the Wrong People
Linking closely to number 5, once you’ve realised the need to add a partner or supplier to your team, picking the wrong people can quickly lead to disaster and disappointment.
Choosing the right people and the right manufacturer to help build your business will require in-depth market research and great communication. The Sewport platform can help to make this easier for you by connecting you with verified professionals, who you can communicate with and conduct payments with through the website itself , helping you with security during the first few phases of your business.
Reaching out to unverified suppliers yourself is possible, but without contacts and security, there are many worrying issues that can arise without the help of a platform, such as Sewport.
Let’s take a look at some mistakes fashion entrepreneurs make when it comes to working with the wrong people.
Clothing Line Mistakes
- Wasting Time & Money – By choosing unprofessional potential manufacturers, you can easily waste time and money when it comes to your partners not delivering on promises made.
- Losing Confidence – Having a bad experience with working with the wrong people at any stage of your business can really affect your confidence. Whether it’s a small mistake which causes you some wasted time or a large manufacturing mistake that uses up lots of your finances, this can cause you a lack of confidence moving forward.
How to Avoid Picking the Wrong People
- Use A Professional Service - While Google is great for research, using a professional connecting platform like Sewport will help keep you safe when choosing the right people to work with. From knowing each supplier is verified to having a secure place to conduct transactions, Sewport helps fashion brands to avoid these types of pitfalls.
7 Focusing Only on The Product
Because your idea is the initial spark of your business, it’s easy to get lost, focusing solely on the product itself, becoming obsessed with detail and not being able to see the bigger picture.
Although the product is absolutely crucial, you need to see the brand as a business, looking at it on a bigger scale and remember to focus also on everything else that comes with building and launching a successful business.
Clothing Line Mistakes
Having tunnel vision towards your product can leave you blind to some of the essential businesses aspects that need your attention. Let’s take a look at some mistakes fashion entrepreneurs make when they only focus on the product.
- Branding Isn’t Cohesive – Focusing on product and not branding can lead to a non-cohesive message across the business and a confusing company that your customer won’t be drawn to.
- No Focus on Cash – Whether you like to talk about money or not, cash is king when it comes to business and no matter how creative you are as a designer, you have to have a strong focus on the business side of your brand. Without a focus on cash, you could end up running out and creating a product that can never be launched.
How to Avoid Focusing Only on The Product
- Change Your Mind-Set – Work on changing your mind-set and growing your business focus by scheduling an hour per day to work solely on business, branding, marketing and finances. Being strict with your timetable will ensure you don’t get stuck on just the product details.
- Get Help - If you know that you’re a creative person without the desire to focus on business details, bring in a professional that can continuously keep track of the business and help you stay focused on the end goal and not just the product.
8 Not Having Enough Capital
Trying to start your business incredibly small, without much capital at all, can lead to problems and waste down the road. Through your extensive planning, before you began to build your business, you should have realistically budgeted for all of the business’s needs, including marketing and the launch.
If your financial forecasting isn’t going to plan when starting your own fashion line, try not to cut corners by launching a sub-standard product too soon . Rather than launching hastily, try to raise some money through various routes to help you get back on track. If you don’t have your own savings, you could:
- Get a business loan from the bank
- Get a personal loan from the bank
- Seek professional investors
- Ask family to invest (with a contract of returns once the business is launched)
Clothing Line Mistakes
Running out of money can happen to every clothing designer. Here are some mistakes that can occur when you don’t have enough capital.
- You Cut Corners - As we mentioned, this is dangerous as you can end up with a sub-standard product and brand.
- No Launch – Simply put, if you run out of money too early, you can’t launch your product and you risk your entire brand’s future.
How to Avoid Not Having Enough Capital
- Budget - This is all about budget and planning. Linking to our very first mistake, planning financially from the beginning is crucial to ensure you don’t run out of cash during your designing and manufacturing processes.
- Be Realistic - Once you know how much money you have, you need to be realistic when it comes to your own expectations. Don’t expect to launch a luxury label with a small budget. Scale your expectations to avoid disappointment or even failure.
9 Misjudging the Price of Marketing
It’s often the case that new, small businesses assume by using free social media profiles they can create a totally free digital marketing plan that will sky-rocket their products to success.
However, where just a few years ago your easy-to-grow social media platform would be a fantastic way to engage with your customers, times have changed. Scary statistics such as “only about 4% of your Facebook followers are seeing your brand’s organic posts” (Forbes 2017), means that the world of social media for business is now very much a paid advertising platform.
Misjudging the price of marketing and not allocating enough budget towards your digital marketing spend before, during and after your launch could leave you with a collection of products and no traffic for sales.
Clothing Line Mistakes
Let’s take a look at some mistakes fashion businesses make when they misjudge the price of marketing.
- Disappointing Launch – After working so hard on your product design and manufacturing, plus the building of your website, if you’ve not left yourself enough money to market and launch the product, you’ll be left with a disappointing anti-climax come launch date.
- Brand Runs Out of Steam - When brands misjudge the price of marketing, finance can run out quickly. This means after a successful launch, the brand runs out of steam, marketing has to slow and therefore, sales slow respectively.
How to Avoid Misjudging the Price of Marketing
- Research & Plan – By researching the type of marketing you’re going to conduct to advertise your product and brand to your target customer, you can start to get a better appreciation for the costings involved and what to expect from the beginning.
- Bring in A Pro - Getting the best use of your marketing budget will require a professional who understands the detailed ins and outs of Facebook Advertising, Google Adwords and more. This will help you to plan and forecast, as well as getting the most clicks possible from your advertising budget.
10 Leaving Your Launch Until Last
Getting distracted by your products and the excitement of seeing your designs come to life can sometimes mean you only start to plan your launch when you’re ready to go. Not only does this mean your launch could be delayed, but it could also mean you end up launching without the impact you might have had with a planned, well-thought-out launch in place.
Once your designs are in production and you are certain that you will launch, you can start to plan for this day from the start. You’ll have social media platforms and a website, which you can drive traffic to before you even launch, allowing you start collecting email data for your database and giving you customers to update along the way.
Clothing Line Mistakes
Don’t let yourself down with an underwhelming launch. Let’s take a look at some mistakes fashion businesses make when it comes to launching.
- Not Creating Anticipation – Your product is essential and your website is vital to your business. However, if you leave thoughts about your launch until last, you will have built up a product and website that no one knows is even being launched. By considering your launch from the beginning you can create a strategy through your social media and email marketing that builds anticipation with your growing audience and uses all of your channels to give you the best chance of a successful launch date.
- Running Out of Funds – If you’ve not planned ahead, chances are by the time you’ve completed manufacturing, you will have spent a hefty sum of money from your initial investment fund. If you leave your launch until last to plan, you might not have enough funds left to create the impact you would have once imagined.
How to Avoid Leaving Your Launch Until Last
- Plan - Just like mistake number 1 on this list, you need to plan early . The earlier you start thinking about your launch and planning, the better your ideas will be developed and the more you will be able to spend on what you need.
- Use Social - Social media is the perfect opportunity to start posting about your brand as early as possible, building anticipation for your launch and collecting possible customers early.
Starting your own clothing line and successful brand requires dedication, hard work and patience. By avoiding these 10 pitfalls and common mistakes made by fashion entrepreneurs, you can give yourself the best possible chance of success with your new brand. Take a look at our step by step guide on how to start a new clothing line for more business tips.