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Step By Step Guide On How To Start A Fashion Business (Bonus Tips)

by Boris Hodakel  • December 12, 2018 • 19 min read

Table of contents

For some, starting a business is the ultimate dream. Whatever route you take to achieving this goal, there is one defining factor that stands above everything else in realising it: your passion. This passion can lead to a successful career or business idea but there are some key points to consider when getting the initial idea off the ground.

For many new fashion entrepreneurs, having little or no experience in actually running a business is no longer a set back. That’s not to say that it’s an easy process bringing your brand to fruition but with a solid plan and handy tools to help get you started, getting your label off to the right start is a lot simpler than you might think.

Take a look at some of the top things to consider when starting your own fashion brand.

Create a business plan

This might sound like an obvious one but creating a solid business plan will help you stay on track during the initial stages of development. Even if you have a basic idea in your head, look at everything in detail to highlight any potential issues or shortfalls. Deciding who your fashion business is suited to and building your identity around this, will tailor your clothing to your target market and speak to the right people looking to buy into your style and brand culture.

Consider start-up funds and marketing strategies

Part of the planning process should consider how you will fund and promote your brand to the right people. This intrinsic stage can make or break the future of your new clothing line before it has made it to production. Creating a buzz before, during and after launch is key to enticing customers with a new and exciting product and listening to consumers throughout this stage also helps develop the business for the better.

Embracing FashionTech to help create your finished product

For new fashion startups, using valuable resources can help create new connections in the industry. For example, with an upcoming platform, Sewport can help you do all of this in one location. This innovative website brings both designers and suppliers together with easy ways to communicate and develop a business relationship. You don’t necessarily need prior experience in the industry or contacts, as you are able to create a free account, which enables you to talk first-hand to your suppliers and discuss options for developing your brand.

For businesses looking to break into the industry, these key introductions could provide a wealth of avenues for new brands. With the ability to tailor production and your working relationship with manufacturers, it gives you the chance to focus on other aspects of the business, as you can be confident clothing will be provided on plan and at an affordable price.

This helpful platform is great for designers looking to take the next steps in the industry. So why not check out Sewport.com and gain access to a hive of resources and information to build your dream career.

Clothes Manufacturing Process: From an Idea to a Product

Knowing the exact steps you need to take en route from an idea to a product will make your communication with the clothing manufacturers much smoother. It will also save you a lot of time, stress and money along the way. This article will give you a quick guide on how to get from point A to point B.

1. Get your idea on a piece of paper

First, create a sketch, a drawing with your design. If you already own a piece of clothing that you want to modify then take some pictures and make sketches on top to instruct the factory about the changes you want to be made.

2. Get a Tech Pack ready

Find a Tech Pack maker, consultant or a designer to help you finalise your idea and turn it into a CAD drawing.

A detailed Tech Pack is an essential requirement. You must provide it to any sampling studio or manufacturer before they can consider your enquiry. All measurements and notes must be consistent. Make sure the documentation is up to date. If you are not sure what you want or your descriptions are vague, you will not create a good working relationship with a production company.

Other benefits of having a Tech Pack are:

  • More accurate quotes
  • Fewer sample trials, since your idea is well documented and described
  • Less room for error or misunderstanding – you can always refer back to the technical documentation in the Tech Pack
  • Reduced risk of forgetting to add crucial details about the making of a garment

Decide what fit you are going for. A good specialist will be able to assist and guide you through putting the right measurements down in the Tech Pack for your desired sample size. At this point we suggest not doing a full graded spec. You will need to approve the initial fit first.

For more details on how to prepare a full Tech Pack refer to our article Eliminate Manufacturing Errors: How to Make a Tech Pack.

3. Fabric and Materials

Consider what fabric, lining, zips and trims you want to use. Be specific about the fabric composition, weight and colour. Do not forget to add this information to your design spec.

Remember that not all colour options are available when you are buying only a couple of meters for sampling. Custom colours will require a custom production order which usually starts at one roll (50-70 meters or more). It will take longer to produce a custom colour of the fabric or trims than purchasing off the shelf stock options which are usually available in the most common colours.

4. Printing, Embroidery, Labels

If you are going to have a design on your garment decide where exactly it should be placed. Measure the placement and put it in the spec as well. Do not put this off until the end and be precise about it. Instructing the manufacturer about the placement with phrases like “logo on the front”, “logo on the back” or “embroidery on the chest” will get you all the wrong results. The company you are working with will have to ask you for the exact placement, which in return will slow down the manufacturing process.

Do not leave the manufacturer guessing. Give the company specific measurements for the artwork (height x width or diagonal) and its placement (for example, 30 cm down from the highest shoulder point and 20 cm left from side seam, etc.). The best way is to make a visualisation of the placement. You can do it yourself or with the help of a designer/tech pack maker.

5. Get your file formats right

Make sure you supply a design in the right size, dimensions and it is not a jpeg raster file. The company doing printing or embroidery will not be able to work with raster files. Instead, you can supply files such as .ai and .psd in vector format. If you only have a .jpeg, do not worry, it is easy to find a freelancer who can cheaply redraw raster to vector.

6. Patterns come first

You have all the details now. Are you ready to see your design come to life? Not just yet! First you need to have the patterns made by a pattern cutter. Patterns are construction blocks and blueprints for your garment.

Imagine a plain basic T-shirt with all the seams. It has 4 panels – 4 parts: 2 sleeves, the front and the back. Now imagine you unpick all the seams from this T-shirt and put the pieces of fabric on the table. You have 4 pieces of a specific shape. The shapes are cut from fabric using the template shapes created by a pattern cutter. These are required for production to be consecutive so that each item has the same measurements and fit.

No great effort is required on your end, just find a specialist who can help. An important note is to ask the pattern cutter about the ownership of the patterns before you engage. It is also good to know if your pattern cutter can supply you with patterns in a digital format. This will save you some time when working with a clothing manufacturer. You will be able to supply the patterns electronically.

However, do not be alarmed if a factory requires only paper patterns. There are still a lot of very good pattern cutters doing things the old way – cutting by hand. Most clothing factories can work with any pattern format, but more modern production companies prefer the digital ones. Lektra, Assyst, Gerber are the top choices of pattern making software.

7. Prototype and Sampling

Sample making is the most important stage. Exciting as it might be, it often takes a couple of rounds of samples before you feel the garment is perfect. Do not expect the clothing manufacturer or sampling studio to get it right on the first trial. It is not something that happens very often. Keep in mind that you are creating a completely new product with the combination of fabric, design and fit that has never been done before. Some practise and adjustments will make it perfect. Compare this to the auto industry. Do you think car companies offer customers the very first car prototype they create? We hope not!

There are many types of samples, and they deserve a separate segment. You can read about it in our upcoming posts.

8. TEST

Test your sample rigorously. Wear it, stretch it, wash it, wear it again. See if the fabric shrinks or stretches out after washing and by how much. Adjust your next sample accordingly. If it is a sports item then test its comfortability and utility use. Do the seams hold? Does the print stay on or it washes away? Real life testing is important as you do not want to get a negative feedback from people after wearing your garment for a week or two.

Look at the details and finishing of the garments too. Pay attention to the finer details. If you notice something that is not quite right, or you see the room for improvement, raise your concerns with your apparel production company. They should find a way to improve your garment as long as you can explain what you need.

9. Grading to fit all sizes

When your factory completed the sample production process and the item is approved for bulk production ask your pattern cutter at the factory to grade the patterns to other sizes. As the grading is completed it might be a good idea to see the sample in a different size, just to compare and see if it is consistent with your expectations. There are standard grading rules and grading steps a manufacturer can follow. In case you want something special, it is generally a good idea to check what the grading steps are and if you feel they are in line with your vision for the fit of the garments across all sizes. This especially relates to the oversised items, tight-fitting items or items with specific design or purpose. In these cases standard grading rules probably will not apply so check the measurements spec to make sure it reflects the uniqueness of your design.

10. Preparing for production. Fabric and Trims

When all sizes are approved and grading is done, give your manufacturer the exact breakdown of the quantities per size and the total quantity. Based on that they will be able to give you the total order of fabric consumption for your desired quantity. Ask them to mention all fabrics (e.g. main, lining) and all trims. It may come as a surprise but you might need more than a zip and some buttons. Requirements for trims such as elastics, interlinings, straps, clasps and more are often overlooked. Ask your manufacturer to list the trims they need for production. Find out what factories can supply or source on their own, and what fabric and trims you need to source and supply to them.

11. Start negotiations early

Have a list of all suppliers for fabrics and trims and start negotiating the order pricing as soon as possible. Research the minimal orders and stock availability. You can easily find yourself in a situation when the MOQ for a specific colour or article is more than you expected or can afford. Getting a hold of this information early will allow you to adjust the production quantity or look into alternative suppliers. Fabrics and trims from stock can run out, be sure they are in stock by the time you need them. It may be a serious blocker for your production if you don’t make a solid enquiry and the fabric you were planning to buy is suddenly out of stock. Shocker, right? You can avoid this by planning ahead with the supplier.

Custom orders for fabric and trims may take a long time to process, weeks or even months. Make sure you are aware of that and once you know the exact timeline of production and delivery let your clothing manufacturer know. They carefully plan their production capabilities with allocated time-slots and will not sit around all day waiting for your fabric to arrive tomorrow, next week or next month. If you are ready to launch and have a slot booked but the fabric did not arrive on time there is a high possibility your order will be set aside and you will have to wait for the next production slot.

12. Plan with the factory

Make a plan for production with your chosen factory. Agree on when the final product should arrive and ensure the factory has everything to start production well ahead of the launch date, not after. Oh, did you forget to send the brand labels? See. Plan ahead. Make a checklist with the factory if you need to. Do whatever allows you to make sure you are not forgetting even the smallest detail.

13. Lead times

Ask for specific lead times for your order completion and try to pin this date. But remember, any sudden changes in your design will reflect in the lead time. Last minute changes are highly unpleasant for the manufacturers as you will have to repeat the first steps again to approve the design with the new changes.

14. Packaging, QC and delivery

Find out what packaging and delivery options you have. Specify your delivery address and try to get a ballpark estimate for delivery as well. Budget in the cost of delivery to your plan. When the items arrive thoroughly check as much as you can against your spec and approved sample. The sooner you raise an issue with your manufacturer the better.

Above all, do not stress if things go wrong and not as planned. New opportunities are opening up for you. Production of garments is a complicated and lengthy process that involves an array of fashion specialists and departments within one or more companies. Embrace your new venture and keep planning for the future.

How to Start A Clothing Brand

Starting up a new business is always challenging especially when it comes to the apparel industry. Space might seem too crowded and you start questioning if your ideas are unique enough to make it big. If you are reading this articles, it means you have a vision and you see the magic in Fashion. You want to be your own boss, explore your creativity and in the meantime transform the world into a more beautiful and stylish place.

It might come as a surprise, but after running for a few years, most businesses become profitable. To develop a stable and profitable business in the fashion industry there is a set of challenges that you will have to overcome. Making profit indicates your endeavour achieved some level of success. But how do companies like Nike and Zara got to the top? There is no clear path to follow. Your road to success can be very different from the competitors’. With new styles and clothing concepts coming into the market every day you can become the next big thing in fashion.

Starting a clothing brand is not a herculean task and once you are aware of the challenges that lie ahead, you can devise an effective strategy to tackle them. In this article, I will outline 5 essential steps to follow on your way to establishing a successful clothing line.

Where to start?

Step 1: Do Your Research

You have a brilliant idea that will disrupt the fashion industry, now it is time to start researching. Find out more about the type of clothing you are planning to produce and get to know your competition. Talk to experienced professionals, find out what people are looking for and identify the gaps in the industry that you can fill in.

Competition is fierce and you must have a secret weapon to set you apart from hundreds of other clothing enthusiasts, be it original design, durability and functionality, quality or competitive pricing.

When you feel confident that you learned as much as you could about clothing manufacturing, defined the unique features of your garments and flashed out your Brand’s identity, it is time to start building your empire.

Step 2: Plan and Commit

After you let your creativity run wild coming up with new ideas how to become a unique player in the fashion market you have to make some important decisions. Are you setting up a business alone or with business partners? If you are not alone, make sure you and your partners are on the same page, you agree on the type of garments you will be producing and you share the vision of your company’s future.

Business owners must always have a clear understanding of the time and money that must be invested to ensure the success of the business. Be persistent and keep your eyes on the prize.

Think of the ways you can financially support your clothing brand. Make the most accurate estimates of how much money you will need and how long it will last you. Set the goals and hire executive stuff accordingly. You can invest your own money, turn to friends and family, approach venture capitalists or angel investors. If writing pitches for potential investors is not on your radar, crowdfunding is a relatively new way of getting cash inflow.

To finance a full-scale launch of a clothing line make sure you are funded to at least finish a prototype or sample to show your designs to the world. Without thorough planning, you will not turn your ideas into profitable business. So always have a clear plan of actions, base spending of your capital on well-researched pragmatic calculations, not on an emotional whim. Make sure you control the expenses, not the other way round.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, you must have no illusions about the challenges that you will face while manufacturing the product. Operating a business will take a lot of time, passion and coordination.

Write down your goals and do not settle until you achieve them.

Step 3: Legally Smart

Now, let’s legalise your business. Registering new business with authorities is hardly an exciting task when you are burning to start manufacturing. However, it is best to set aside your creative impulses and educate yourself on some legal aspects. You must legalise your company before you make any trading operations.

Will your company be a sole proprietorship or come under LTD? If you choose the former, you have the sole responsibility for all your assets and liabilities accrued by the business. In latter, you have to register the company legally with all of your partners to avoid any legal problems.

If you are going into the clothing business as a brand owner with one or multiple partners, you become stakeholders. Do not leave any loopholes and document clearly the benefits each company member is entitled to. Who is responsible for which area of the business and how much work they commit to putting in. Make sure you put this on paper when you incorporate the company. You never know how successful your brand might be and you don’t want to be left out or pushed out of your venture as soon as it picks momentum. You want to retain your voice in the company and become the next Steve Jobs who transformed the industry, not Steve Jobs who was cut out of his own company.

Have you chosen a name yet? Your company must have a unique legal name. To make sure it is not already taken you can resource to googling the word, phrase or a combination of phrases you want to use as your business name. If you are unsure, consult with a layer.

In fact, find a good lawyer who is able to advise you on the most crucial aspects of setting up a clothing brand, like the tax structure. What are the benefits of setting one type of company over another? As a designer, you might not care, but as a business owner you must do everything in your power to ensure you have the highest revenue possible.

Another issue that you might encounter down the line is people stealing your designs and ideas. To become successful in the clothing industry, good fit and unique design are key. The original ideas created by you and your team can be easily looted when your photos hit social media, ads and fashion shows. To avoid forgery, think of a way you can protect your unique designs. If you can trademark a logo or a concept – do it!

Step 4: When the Price is Right

Do not underestimate market research. You absolutely must do a price research on the market you want to sell to and choose the fixed and variable costs of the products to make good returns.

Note that in the clothing manufacturing sector higher quantities will always have better margins and lower production prices. Do not opt in for a very small production quantity, cost per item is likely to be very high so it will be much harder to sell and make a profit. However, make sure you do not end up with more than you can sell, overstocking. Choose wisely.

Step 5: Marketing

By now you have been on a long journey. You challenged your creativity, as well as your inner entrepreneur, accountant and salesman. Your company is your brain baby that is coming of age and is ready to be introduced to the rest of the world.

In the 21st century creating your own e-commerce website is a must. Your website will serve you multiple purposes. First of all, it is a face and business card of your Brand. Secondly, having a website you can instantly showcase your garments to the world, or even sell them straight away.

If you are on a tight budget e-commerce solution like Shopify is an easy fast start. You do not have to be a web designer or hire a team – they already have pre-prepared designs ready for you to use out of the box. If you are starting off big or want something unique, make sure you have strict deadlines, otherwise you will end up perfecting tiny bits of your new website over and over without ever putting it live.

Design wise, don’t get carried away. It is important to keep in mind your target audience. If you want to appeal to a more mature audience, do not make your website ultra-modern with things popping out, sliding over, appearing and disappearing randomly. You want your audience to have a smooth experience and easily navigate around your website without any extra effort.

Define the age group of people you want to attract and create the marketing strategy accordingly. The techniques that you use will heavily depend on the type of audience you target, it must be relevant and effective.

Keep it simple! Use the language people understand. When launching a clothing brand do not neglect marketing – promotions and advertisements will play a key role in the growth of your clothing line. More advertisements give more exposure and lead to higher profits.

The best type of marketing you can get in the garment sector is publishing in the magazines. It costs a lot of money to get on a full-page cover, but those are the ones that attract the most attention from the readers. The alternatives to the magazine covers are bloggers and their online spaces. See if you can identify influencers in your niche and pitch them your brand and styles. Their followers might become your clients.

Try to bring more social media light to shine on your products. Top companies use popular figures and celebrities for their brand endorsements which dramatically boost their sales. Just think of the Beats headphones. Famous athletes, singers and actors wearing the product on and off the red carpet definitely caught your attention at least once. This is smart marketing. Their ads keep playing on TV, the product gets mentioned in Youtube videos and appears on other social media platforms which attract their existing fans and followers to convert into new customers.

Before people buy your product which is not well known yet, they will want to know more about it, and ideally, get a recommendation from someone they know or admire. Try to see if you, your friends or social influencers can do a short video review or post an online review about your brand or specific products. This way you can steer those people who are still hesitating about purchasing your new exclusive product into the right direction.

Last, but not least – you have to maintain your brand’s reputation! At any time. Anywhere. Everywhere. Treat the workers fairly. Treat your potential customers dearly. If your worker gives a negative feedback on your product, ask why and try to resolve this. If potential customers or first-time buyers got a bad impression of your product or are unhappy with the customer service make sure you go out of your way and come forward with a solution to satisfy them. You need all the customers you can get.

Congratulations on your success. You are now ready to set up a new clothing brand! Here at Sewport we are looking forward to working with you!

Sewport Reconnects British Brands with Clothing Manufacturers

Sewport platform is an online space where established Brands and Fashion enthusiasts can bring their ideas to life using intelligent tools. The path from sketch to product leads through layers of service providers – Sewport consolidated these companies to become a one-stop shop. By removing complexity around creating a piece of clothing and improving lead qualification we are speeding up the conversion in the fashion industry.

“Our team has years of experience in the garment manufacturing industry. During that time we witnessed how brands and manufacturers hit the same walls over and over again. Inspired to bring down the communication barriers we created Sewport. It is a unique space where Brands can effectively turn their passion into products, while service providers only get targeted orders and no time-wasters” – Boris Hodakels, founder of Sewport.

Sewport offers smart project development tools for brands and targeted business for the manufacturers. Both experienced fashion brands and newcomers without any links to the apparel industry benefit from a question guided enquiry process. The functionality of the platform ensures that each Brand’s project provides full details that best describe the scope of work they require.

Once an enquiry-project is created, it is categorised and becomes visible to an array of manufacturers, while our intelligent algorithms match them with the companies that have the right capabilities. With all the necessary information in hand service providers approach the Brands with quotas, bringing them one step closer to manufacturing their product.

We also enable collaboration of multiple service providers on a single project. The built-in multi-user chat room allows Brands to invite multiple companies for a discussion and at the same time declutters their mailboxes. All communication and attachment exchange conveniently take place on the platform. As a result, manufacturers get a unique opportunity to pool their capabilities to satisfy clients’ most extravagant needs.

We hope that this modern solution to clothing manufacturing process will inspire more people to start and scale their own clothing lines.

Sewport aims to disrupt the garment production industry and later expand to other sectors by bringing communication between manufacturers and customers to a new standard.

About the author:

Boris Hodakel is the founder and CEO of Sewport - an online marketplace connecting brands and manufacturers, former founder of various clothing manufacturing services. He is passionate about e-commerce, marketing and production digitisation. Connect with Boris on LinkedIn.

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