If you want a new look for your life and finances, then a clothing brand may be your style. But where do you begin? What steps should you take, and how will you get customers? Knowing how to start a clothing brand is key before you make the leap.
The potential is there. In 2022, worldwide clothing and footwear sales topped $1.5 trillion. This revenue encompasses everything from major international brands like Nike to small mom-and-pop clothing retailers.
You can grow your clothing brand locally, digitally, and globally. Let’s walk through the step-by-step process you can follow to start a clothing business.
Starting a clothing brand is all about freedom. When you start your own brand, you’re free to express yourself artistically and make your own choices. Starting a new clothing brand can also lead to financial freedom as you build a customer base and dependable revenue stream.
Another big benefit to starting a clothing business is that production doesn’t have to be part of the equation. A brand is your artwork, philosophy, and name recognition, but you can outsource production to established manufacturers and focus on designing, marketing, and selling. From high-end fashion designer labels to bargain basics, from timeless clothing designs to trending fashion, brand identity can lead to profits.
Apparel brands become known for their design, innovation, and price points, but also for evoking feelings, values, or attitudes. The more someone associates their individuality with your apparel, the more they want your clothes in their closet.
As you plan and begin your clothing brand, you’ll need to think through how you’d like the business to run, consider your goals for growth, and know how the work will fit into your life. You’ll also need to understand practical considerations, state and local requirements, business insurance, and trends that could affect the business.
We’ve got you covered: Get your new clothing line business off the rack with the checklist below.
A business plan can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Writing a business plan sets you up for success by helping you think through all aspects of your business model. That doesn’t mean you have to work up a War and Peace-sized book though. A business plan can be as short as a couple of pages, as long as it has the right level of detail to guide your business as you get underway.
Your clothing brand business plan helps you:
Making a business plan can be complicated. But you don’t have to worry about creating one all on your own! Our handy business plan template makes the entire process much easier.
Two common entities for a clothing company are a sole proprietorship and starting an LLC (limited liability company) with an operating agreement. If your business will have any liabilities, consider creating an LLC or, depending on the scope of your business plan, forming a corporation.
Sole proprietorships are easy to set up. However, a sole proprietorship does not protect your personal assets, so even one small mistake in your company’s operations could cost you your house, car, personal bank accounts, and more. Remember to review potential business taxes and structuring implications for your self-employment income as well.
LLCs can shield your personal assets from business liabilities, which gives it a huge advantage over a sole proprietorship. That means if your LLC goes into debt, or someone sues your clothing brand, your personal assets are off limits. The degree of protection varies, so be sure you know how to establish an LLC in your state.
How do you plan to fund your startup? If you need some help, the Small Business Administration (SBA) offers grants and loans to help small businesses get off the ground, so we’d recommend at least checking with them. Private funding sources such as venture capital and commercial banks may also be options for LLCs.
If you need some more information about the different business entity types available to you, our helpful guide should have the answers you seek.
Every business has to effectively manage expenses and cash flow in order to stay open. Thinking through anticipated costs will help you price your clothing brand and manage cash flow.
Looking for some further information about how to calculate your small business costs? We wrote a guide to help you figure it out. Other considerations include:
To give you a general idea, here are some common startup expenses for a clothing brand:
Other costs will vary depending on the nature of your clothing brand, such as whether you are making clothes yourself or mass manufacturing abroad. Don’t forget about advertising, marketing, and labor costs. Invest in print and online marketing assets, such as business cards and a basic business website. Examine labor and other costs in different countries of production too.
To make it easier to estimate how much money you’ll need to make to break even, check out our break-even calculator. Simply fill in a few details and you’ll get an idea of how your revenue and expenses balance each other out.
No matter how large or small your business will be, starting it up will cost money. How you fund your clothing brand startup costs is a crucial decision. Here are some places you can look for assistance.
Still have questions? Our guide to funding your new business has the answers you’re looking for.
Every clothing business needs a name. A sole proprietor often conducts business under the owner’s personal name, and many fashion brands are built around a name as well. If you’re forming an LLC, follow the rules for how to name your LLC. You should also ask yourself the following questions:
Need some help coming up with business name ideas? While these aren’t directly related to the clothing world, we compiled lists of business name ideas for makeup companies and Lipsense businesses to provide inspiration.
If you haven’t already done so, you can officially register an LLC for your business in this step. Once you’ve registered your business, set up a business checking account. This helps you keep your business income and expenses separate from your business.
You will probably also need to acquire an Employer Identification Number (EIN), which allows you to open business bank accounts, hire employees, file taxes, and more. The vast majority of LLCs will need a dedicated EIN from the IRS, and any business can apply for an EIN for free. Learn more about EINs, why you need one, and how we can help.
In order to start your operation, acquire the right equipment, supplies, and training sessions for your clothing brand, which may include:
If you’ll outsource production, your equipment can be minimal. Our guide to buying assets and equipment for a new business can be a great help when starting your clothing brand.
The continued global growth in the apparel industry is proof that people want more clothing options that suit their bodies and personalities. The right marketing helps potential customers find your business.
When it comes to getting new business, your current customers are the best source. Word of mouth is one of the best ways to get new customers, so be sure to ask customers to refer you to people they know.
Your clothing brand also needs to be visible at live and online events. Events can be crucial in getting your brand in front of the right people.
A search-engine-optimized website is also key. Today’s robust online platforms and drag-and-drop design tools can help anyone set up a basic business website. Make sure your site explains who you are and what your brand stands for, showcases your apparel, and has ways for customers and potential business partners to contact you. Including keywords relevant to your brand can help people find you through online searches.
Wondering how to market your business effectively? Our guide on this topic can help guide your efforts.
Clothing brands can take many forms.
Types of clothing brands:
Find even more concepts in our guide to 75 great fashion business ideas!
A clothing brand can be your ticket to a profitable business model. The market is there, and once you have a solid business plan, a business registration, the right financing, and a marketing strategy, you’ll be well on your way to running your own successful clothing company.
We can help you achieve your dreams of starting a record label. Start your LLC with ZenBusiness for free today — all you’ll pay is your state’s required fee.
Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.
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