Tips for starting a fashion brand.
What you need to think about when launching your own fashion business.
With over 20 years of experience as a fashion designer and having helped multiple start-up fashion companies create and launch fashion brands over the past few years, I'm well placed to guide you along your journey.
I've worked with huge international brands like Puma and Adidas, designed apparel collections for established brands like Bulk, as well as tiny small budget startups like Collective Bikes.
I am regularly contacted by startups to help get their collections designed and produced. I offer a free initial consultation and hear similar stories and questions.
Below is a nice little listicle and some handy tips and suggestions for you to think about and work on when creating your fashion brand.
⏰ Plan ahead at least 12 months for your launch.
The most common misconception that startups have is about timelines. Even established fast fashion companies, look at a minimum of 6 months to go from starting a collection to products landing in-store, and that's with everything in place. Most fashion companies work on timelines of 12-18 months ahead.
Fashion sampling and manufacturing is a lengthy process, from weaving and dying fabrics, getting your garments onto the factory production line, to shipping containers. Unforeseen delays like Covid closing your factory, or war in Eastern Europe can also create delays. So for startups, I suggest giving at least 12 months for your launch and ideally planning even further ahead depending on the product and exactly where you're at with the brand.
🧐 Find your gap in the market.
What's your angle? What's your USP? As a startup with a low or moderate budget, you should not be looking to compete with what's out there already. Many startups want to make a similar product at a lower price point but this isn't realistic. To make low price point garments you need a huge budget and to order massive quantities. The best way to start a brand is to focus on an area and work out what will make your brand different. This will also help you find your audience.
“Play by the rules, but be ferocious.” – Phil Knight, Nike
📛 Choose a name and get a logo designed asap.
Once you know what your product is you need a name and a logo. Sometimes this is quick and easy. Sometimes it's a lengthy process. You may need to bring in a branding expert to help you get this done but make sure you get this done asap as it can hold everything up down the line.
📋 Do your market research.
Study the competition and ask lots of questions. Make sure that your product is needed and wanted.
📈 Make a business plan.
What are your plans? What are your goals? What are your timelines? Who is going to help you make your business successful? How much money will you need to do that? Ask questions, talk to experts, and get as much knowledge as possible before you start your company.
™ Register your company and trademarks.
If you are serious about this, then you need to protect your intellectual property. First things first, get your business registered and send your logos out to get them trademarked. These things are not that expensive but take a long time to happen.
🧑🏽🎨 Hire a great fashion designer/consultant.
Most successful fashion businesses are not started by fashion designers. They are started by business people or people with a good idea. Unless you have a spare couple of years, you won't have time to learn how to be a fashion designer, but you don't need to be. There are plenty of good freelance fashion designers out there (like myself 😁) that can help you get your ideas drawn up and tech packs created. Good consultants with experience can also offer guidance with the whole process from design to manufacturing. Launching a fashion company is going to require a certain amount of teamwork as there is way too much work for one person. You need planning, research, design, manufacturing, websites, social media, marketing, photoshoots, and sales...play to your strengths and bring in the right people to help.
“Life is collaboration. Where I think art can be sort of misguided is that it propagates this idea of itself as a solo love affair – one person, one idea, no one else involved.” Virgil Abloh
💃🏽 Create quality garments.
Even if your end goal is to be the next Primark, you can't start a company bringing out cheap, shoddy goods. You need to create a brand and a name. The best way to do this is by making garments that are great and well made. Quality will justify prices.
✅ Think sustainability.
If you are launching a brand in today's market you need to be thinking about sustainability. Hopefully one day all brands will be sustainable. For now, make sure that you are using sustainable fabrics and trims where possible, your workers are treated fairly and your carbon footprint is reasonable.
🧾 Work out your marketing and sales strategy.
Hopefully, you have already thought about who your customer is and how you will go about targeting and selling to them. Traditionally you would sell into boutiques and department stores. If you are thinking about going down this route, do your research and ask questions. When do department stores buy their apparel collections? You are going to have to hit these timelines. How much profit will the retailer want to make on your product? This will affect your RRP and how much you can spend making your products. More often these days brands are selling direct to consumers. To do this you will need an e-commerce website and a strong social media and marketing campaign. Using influencers and building a customer base is essential and also pricey.
🏠 Use a sourcing expert to help with production.
Once you have designs you can start looking into manufacturing. Some manufacturers will also ask for tech packs before they even begin to talk about prices and MOQs (Minimum Order Quantities). Finding good manufacturers is difficult. Ideally, you want to be getting trusted recommendations. If this isn't possible then you need to find someone that can help you source clothing factories, and textile mills. You might also want to make your trims (labels, zips, etc) through your source, and maybe even produce your patterns and samples before taking them to a factory. Factories can quite often make a nice sample but then deliver poor standard bulk products. Feel free to get in touch with me if you need help sourcing reliable factories that will work for your startup fashion brand.
Starting a fashion brand will consume your life. It's at least, a full-time job for one person, and will require a lot of investment and time before you see any kind of return. Saying that it can be hugely rewarding and enjoyable too.
If you need help, I offer a free consultation and have great manufacturing contacts that specialise in helping out start-ups.
You can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or for more information take a look at my website www.jmitchelldesign.co.uk
You can also read my blog on "Where can i find clothing manufacturers" for more information on that side of things.
Written by Jonathan Mitchell, Freelance Fashion Designer.