How to start a clothing line: A complete strategy guide to building a clothing brand.
Starting a clothing line is no simple task; it takes both creativity and business acumen to make the brand work and turn a profit. A creative flair will allow you to create products that interest your target market, while your business sense will see you through the difficult early stages and allow you to grow your start-up into a healthy, thriving and successful brand.
Thankfully, if these aren’t skills you already possess, they’re skill that you can learn, or at least outsource. In this article, you’ll learn how to start a clothing line. We’re going to go through everything you need to consider when starting a brand in the fashion industry; some things which are obvious, and some which you might not have thought about already!
1. Understand the Commitment You’re Making
As the old saying goes “if it was easy, everyone would do it”, and that certainly applies to starting a clothing line. Two things you’re going to need when starting out are time and money.
You’ll need to account for clothing production costs, marketing, website development, photography and logistics costs, so it pays to fully research what you will need as it can take more financial commitment than you first anticipate.
When it comes to time frames, clothing brands are often started as sidelines to full-time jobs, so you can expect to spend some of your evenings and weekends building up your dream business.
How Long Will it Take to Start a Clothing Line?
Calculating how much time your project is going to take is crucial. People often underestimate the amount of time needed to start-up a clothing brand, particularly when they’re not familiar with the work that needs to be done. Calculating realistic timelines will help you to understand just how long it’s going to take to get your products to market.
Triple your time estimate
If your launch is to be successful, anticipating and accounting for unexpected events is critical. As a rule of thumb, tripling time frames should help you account for unforeseen complications.
A startup timeline should be at the centre of your plan; it captures the essence of what you hope to accomplish and the way in which it will be done.
When creating a project timeline, aim to capture the following key pieces of information:
- A list of tasks which need to be completed in order to launch successfully
- The dates on which the tasks need to be complete
- How long you expect each task to take
2. Registering Your Clothing Line
Every company – no matter how big or small, must have a legal structure. You will need to either register a limited company or start operating as a sole trader. There are multiple things to consider when starting your business entity and both options have pros and cons which will differ depending on your circumstances.
Note – Before you make any decisions, we recommend you speak to a professional financial advisor or accountant about your personal circumstances.
Companies like The Formations Company can help you search for the perfect name for your business.
What is a Sole Trader?
A sole trader is a self-employed person who is the sole owner of their business.
Being a sole trader means that you are completely responsible for the company and its liabilities with no legal separation between yourself and the business. Any of your personal effects can be considered a part of the business, and any of your business debts are personally yours.
You can still employ people as a sole trader, but you’re personally responsible for them as a liability to your business activities.
- Easy and inexpensive to start up
- Online registration
- Few bookkeeping and accounting requirements
- Self assessment once a year
- All profit after tax belongs to you
- No personal details are on the public record
- No legal distinction between personal and business finances
- Sole trader is personally liable for all business debts
- All taxable income is liable for income tax and national insurance
- Lenders prefer to deal with limited companies so it can be harder to raise funds
- “One man bands” can be viewed as amateurish by a consumer
- Limited companies are more tax efficient
What is a Limited Company?
A limited company is a type of business that has been incorporated at Companies House, forming a separate legal entity to the business owner(s). This “limited liability” gives various advantages in business, one of which being that if a limited company is taken to court and a ruling is made against them, the personal assets of its directors cannot be considered as a part of a claim.
This reduced financial responsibility of limited liability can act as a safety net for business owners, however there are also disadvantages like the increased accounting requirements. Limited companies have shareholders or guarantors, with shareholders being the most popular choice. You can therefore sell a portion of your company to raise funds, and give the investor a number of shares from which they will get dividends.
Companies have to pay corporation tax on all profits made, but this is after all expenses such as staff wages and running costs. A company is run by one or more directors who take responsibility for the accounting requirements set by Companies House and HMRC.
- Separate legal distinction to it’s owners/directors
- Limited liability for personal finances and assets of shareholders
- Corporate credibility
- Shares can be sold to raise capital
- Tax efficient ways of paying yourself via salary and dividends
- Can exist even without the original owners – companies can grow for centuries
- Must register with Companies House and HMRC for tax
- Set up costs involved
- Company names can be limited by what has already been registered
- Accounting and filing requirements can be complicated so an accountant may be necessary
- Directors and others involved with the business will have their service address stored on the public record
- Must have a registered office in the UK
3. Clothing Brand Start Up Costs
Obtaining funding in any economic climate can be challenging, and during the life of almost any business (especially in the early stages) the owner will need to seek out cash to help with its growth. There are plenty of options out there for getting your clothing line off the ground, it’s just a question of picking the right method for your venture.
Simply put, start up costs are non-recurring costs involved in setting up your clothing line.
Having a realistic idea of your start up costs is an essential part of business planning, and reduces the chance of running out of funding before your clothing line has launched. The most common way for start ups to fail is by not having enough capital to see them through the initial stages.
Examples Of Start Up Costs
- Business Registration
- Website Development and Hosting
- Editorial and E-commerce Photography
- IT Hardware
- Office Supplies
- Storage Space (if needed)
4 Ways To Fund Your Start Up Clothing Line
Crowdfunding is a way for businesses to raise funds by asking a large number of people for relatively small amounts of money. Websites like Kickstarter and Indigogo have provided platforms for “backers” to peruse projects where they can usually purchase goods pre release for a favourable price. Backers are rewarded with an exclusive item or offer which they’re essentially purchasing in advance of production. Because there are “rewards” involved in crowdfunding, those who back a project will not own any shares in the company.
Crowdfunding can be a fast way to raise money with no upfront fees. Successfully crowdfunded projects can get huge amounts of online media attention, which can help them grow way beyond what the money raised alone could have done. However, it is not without drawbacks. Failed projects risk damage to the reputation of the business and people who have pledged money to them.
You can find some helpful tips on how to successfully crowdfund here.
- Angel Investment
An angel investor (also known as a private investor) is an individual who provides capital for a business start up in exchange for ownership equity.
Angel investment offers low risks with potentially high rewards for a business owner, however there are both pros and cons to consider. The most obvious positive is that you’re not risking your own money, and that having invested financially in your brand, your investor will be keen to help you get to market. Another advantage is that if your clothing line did fail, you won’t have to pay any money back as your investor will have taken on all of the financial risk.
Angel investors usually come from a business background, and with that comes valuable knowledge and contacts. Sometimes this alone can be more beneficial to a business owner than the money invested. First however, you’ll have to convince them to hand over their hard-earned cash, and you’ll also have to give up a percentage of your clothing line, with this figure usually being high. The share of your business is how the investor will justify giving you cash up front for your idea.
One disadvantage to Angel investment is that your investor will be constantly looking over your shoulder, and will perhaps try to pressure you in to doing things which help them to regain their investment rather than push your brand in the direction you would like. It’s important to consider your investor a partner rather than just a financial entity of the business and to consult on decisions together.
- Start-Up Loans
The Start Up Loan scheme is a government-backed initiative helping individuals start or grow a business in the UK. The advantage of a Start-Up Loan is that it’s a fast and easily accessible way to get your clothing line off the ground whilst retaining full ownership of your brand. Although you’ll have to take out the loan and pay it back within an agreed time frame, the interest rates and payment terms are designed to give you as little pressure as possible, allowing you to concentrate on developing your clothing line.
Most delivery partners provide an experienced mentor and offer a support network – something which a lot of start-ups wish they have! True, if the business fails you will still have to pay the loan back, but no business is without risk and the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.
Most start up loan delivery partners have helpful resources like calculators which you can use to calculate monthly repayments.
- Self Funding
To avoid giving up a portion of their business or tying themselves in to a loan agreement, many entrepreneurs fund their clothing line themselves using savings or personal debt such as overdrafts or credit cards. Alternatively, people can sell assets or mortgage properties to generate cash if possible. Self funding your clothing brand means you have complete control over your journey and you don’t have investors looking over your shoulder asking for specific returns or pressuring you in to decisions you might not want to make.
One advantage of using your own money to start your business is that you’ll be naturally more cautious about what you spend on. You’ll find yourself doing much more due diligence before making any decisions.
Funding from friends and family is an effective way to round up some initial capital for your clothing line. Those closest to you are more likely than anyone to believe not only in your vision, but your ability to make that vision a reality. Unfortunately however, businesses do fail which can leave a bitter taste in the mouth of any investor. If that investor is a friend of family member make sure they know the true risks before the take the plunge so as to avoid ruined friendships or unpleasant family gatherings.
4. The Importance of Brand Foundations in the Fashion Industry
Just as in construction, having a solid foundation is as important to your business as it is to your home since its the base on which your brand will sit. Determining company foundations give you the essential information which will allow your brand to succeed.
How Do I Determine a Target Market For My Clothing Line?
Given the high density of start up clothing brands, having a well-defined target market is more important than ever. Small businesses can effectively compete with large companies by targeting a niche.
You can begin to identify your target market by answering these questions:
What makes your product unique to your market? What is it that makes your clothing range different from what people can buy from established brands and big retailers?
If you’re an online based business, what is it about your clothing brand that’s different from other online based companies? Is it your delivery or returns policies or something else which can benefit the consumer? If you have a physical shop, why would people come to you rather than go to a shopping centre they know well?
When it comes to building a marketing strategy, you can ensure that you’re targeting the right consumers by identifying what demographics they belong to. If you can profile your customer then you can start to target your marketing material towards their age and gender brackets for example.
You should also research your competition as they will be able to give you a good idea of how to target those in your market. By researching your competition you can see what they’re doing and also identify ways to improve on their strategy.
Customer demographic checklist:
4. Income level
5. Education level
6. Marital or family status
8. Ethnic background
11. Music Taste
Choosing a Clothing Brand Colour Palette
The psychology behind how we perceive colours is complex, and most people do not realise the research that businesses (not just in the fashion industry) put into developing colour schemes which evoke certain emotions within their audience.
Clothing brands use this to elicit different emotions within their customers and to portray their products in different ways.
Colours are used as a way to subconsciously manipulate the decisions of consumers by brands, with different colours evoking different emotions, feelings, and purchasing decisions.
The Importance of a Company Logo in the Fashion Industry
Creating a logo is a vital part of your company’s marketing efforts, with a recognisable and familiar logo going a long way toward building brand identity. Logos help business owners establish brand loyalty that consumers want to interact with.
Your logo should –
Make a great first impression
Logo designs are all about capturing the audience’s attention and impacting them in a positive way. This way, you ensure you’re remembered and chosen first over your competition. Your logo should make potential customers think “this is a professional company and I want to purchase from them”.
Additionally, a visually-striking logo can be intriguing for potential customers, making them curious about the company behind the design.
Distinguish you from the competition
With competition being fierce in the fashion industry, your logo should be instantly recognisable as your own. There are some very well-known logos in fashion which are used by established brands – the Fred Perry wreath and the Nike tick are great examples.
Ensuring your logo is completely unique and unlike other well-known logos is a way to establish yourself as a brand in your own right, as opposed to some kind of copycat brand seeking to benefit from the success of others.
Facilitate brand loyalty
A well-designed brand logo will help to make your customers instantly think about your brand and your products when they see it. If your brand is associated with good things, like high-quality clothing, every time a potential customer sees this logo they will think about that too, with the repeated exposure to your logo reminding them of that every time they see it.
Take into account technical limitations
You also need to consider the technical limitations that your logo may have. For example, if your logo is extremely intricate, it could be impossible to translate that into embroidery. Rather than making a second logo specifically for the embroidery, it would be better to make one logo for everything with this in mind right from the start.
To see an example of branding executed correctly, read more about how Ralph Lauren created a timeless fashion staple.
How to Determine a Pricing Structure
Pricing your garments is one of the most important decisions you’ll make, as it impacts almost every aspect of your clothing line. In order to turn a profit, you need to ensure you’re making more than the fixed and variable costs of your clothing brand. Fixed costs are costs that don’t change such as purchasing new equipment or business premises. Variable costs are those that change, such as the difference in manufacturing costs between various product lines.
The first thing to do when calculating your pricing structure is to work out your cost per unit. For this, you should look at the following:
- Garment Manufacturing Costs
- Import Tax
- Promotional Materials
Once you know how much your total costs are for the product, you need to add a profit on. Typically, a profit margin of between 30% and 50% is considered good for a clothing business, but you need to make sure that your branding and perceived value are taken into account when deciding on a price point.
5. The Clothing Design Process
In order to produce your items efficiently, manufacturers will almost always require conceptual illustrations. Don’t worry if you don’t have a degree in textile design or the ability to create beautiful artwork. Nonetheless, if you can sketch your ideas to the best of your ability, detail the fabric composition and compile a list of images you have used for inspiration, most clothing manufacturers should be able to work using this.
It’s good to take inspiration from other products, but bear in mind that you don’t want to be accused of plagiarising your designs. Not only could it potentially land you in trouble, it might also affect your success and attraction.
Benefits of Conceptual Illustrations: –
Conceptual diagrams can be used to create a visualisation for production, as well as prototyping and range development.
– Fashion drawings are useful for development because they help to show how a garment will look when worn.
– Images of garments, accessories and full collections can also be used for presentations and look books; useful for gaining support from the wider business or gauging consumer opinion.
No matter how great a manufacturer is, they can only get something right if they have been given the correct information and direction from the client. This is where professional technical packs come in.
There are professional garment designers out there who specifically help start-up clothing brands to put their information together in such a way that manufacturers will understand.
What Is a Garment Technical Pack?
A technical pack is a blueprint created by a designer, with instructions that a clothing manufacturer would need to turn the design into a working product. They contain front and back views, along with technical information like dimensions, colour references, fabric composition, prints, logos, and sizing. Tech packs contain anything which is crucial to the design, right down to tiny details, like stitching colour.
The more detailed your tech pack is, the more likely your manufacturer is going to be able to get the production right first time. Without a tech pack, it can be difficult for a manufacturer to translate your idea into a reality.
Benefits of tech packs:
- Clear and concise information for the manufacturer
- Less chance of details being missed during sample production
- The first sample will be as accurate as possible
- Can be distributed to multiple manufacturers for quotes
- Easy for the manufacturer to refer to at any stage in the process
Components of Marketable Clothing
Is the product durable? Will the fabric withstand multiple washes without the colour running or the item shrinking? Are the buttons securely attached?
Does your product perform as a consumer would expect it to?
Is your item aesthetically pleasing? This doesn’t just mean the design, but also how the cut and trim come together to create a garment which your customers would purchase.
- Perceived Quality
Does the garment you have produced match the usual standards of your brand? You may have worked hard to ensure your brand is perceived to be very high quality, but if your products don’t live up to that perception, it can be very damaging for your reputation.
- Design Innovation
No matter what industry you’re in, innovation is often what sets your clothing line apart from the crowd. The ability to create new products and services can easily be one of the most valuable assets a company has.
Fashion trends change and it’s important that as a business you can adapt so as not to be left behind in a competitive market. While thinking up new ideas is one step of the process, businesses have a much greater task in trying to turn that into an actual product or service that will benefit customers.
6. How Do I Find a Clothing Manufacturer?
Depending on your requirements and personal situation, there are three main categories of clothing production.
Some factories will simply assemble materials that you provide, whereas others will help with the designing process, creating patterns and sourcing materials too.
The most common garment manufacturing options are: –
- Cut, Make, Trim (CMT)
- Full Package Production (FPP)
- Print On Demand (POD)
What is Cut, Make, Trim (CMT) Manufacturing?
Cut, Make, Trim (CMT) manufacturers work as per the acronym; they cut the fabric, make up the garments and trim (finish) them with the provided trimmings such as zips and buttons. On the face of it, this seems like a great solution, however, CMT includes only the physical making of the garments.
A CMT manufacturer wouldn’t assist with the design process or supply materials, meaning you have to provide absolutely everything to them. CMTs usually charge an hourly rate, as opposed to charging per garment. This works well for them because their manufacturing is purely time-based, with them making money on the amount of time it takes to make a piece. Due to this, there is usually no minimum order quantity (MOQ).
A CMT will usually be happy to make 1 or 100 units, because either way they’re being paid for their time. CMTs are often favoured by independent designers who only produce very small runs of garments, and who wouldn’t be able to work with the MOQs of other manufacturers.
Services provided by CMTs:
- Basic pattern development
- Fabric cutting
- Fabric stitching
- Occasionally basic trim sourcing
Pros of CMT:
- Usually have no minimum order quantities
- High quality control measures
- Fully customisable
Cons of CMT:
- Unable to grow alongside the business due to their limited workforce
- It’s time-consuming and complicated for startup brands to know where to find suitable fabric and trim
What is Full Package Production (FPP)?
Full Package Production is the term used to describe the type of production whereby the manufacturer handles the entire process. They provide the “full package”, with the manufacturer guiding the client through every step of the process from an initial meeting or design brief, right through to delivery.
Some FPP manufacturers also offer design services, however most can produce an initial sample from reference images and text descriptions, with the bulk items being developed from the sample.
FPP manufacturers tend to have fabric expertise and are able to offer advice and guidance as to what fabric would be suitable for specific applications.
This type of manufacturing is most suited to those brands who are looking to outsource the whole process to a third party whose expertise is in producing fully custom products, most likely because they’re new to the industry or looking to have more involvement with the branding side of their clothing line. This is by no means a hands-off approach though; the FPP manufacturer will be in constant contact with the client to ensure that all of their specifications are well understood.
The main disadvantage to FPP manufacturers is that they implement minimum order quantities (MOQs) in order to make production viable. Manufacturers differ, with some offering far lower MOQs than others. In the FPP manufacturing world, MOQs can range from just 50pcs to 1000pcs per design, so it’s best to talk to manufacturers and ask what their MOQs are right away. Some manufacturers implement MOQs not just per colour, or per design, but per size. This means that some FPP manufacturers aren’t viable options for small start-up brands, however, there are start-up specialist FPPs in the industry who can help you if you’re new to the business.
Services Offered by FPP Manufacturers:
- Raw material sourcing and purchase
- Pattern Development
- Cutting, stitching and finishing
- Trim Sourcing
- Fabric Dying
- Pre Washing
- Fabric Treatment
- Clothing customisation (embroidery, printing etc.)
Pros of FPP:
- Fully customisable
- Handle the entire process, from concept to delivery
- Economies of scale mean as you order more items, the unit cost decreases
- Experts in their field, with advice to offer in all areas of production
Cons of FPP:
- Have minimum order quantities to make production viable
- Can have a higher initial financial outlay because of the MOQs involved
What is Print On Demand (POD) Manufacturing?
With print on demand, your clothing designs are printed when you need them, instead of in bulk before you need them. They usually have low MOQs, just 1 in most cases. A print on demand business, just like every other business model, has its own set of pros and cons, the main cons being limitations when it comes to customisation.
POD manufacturers work using “stock, pre-made” garments, which have been purchased in huge bulk quantities for low prices. They will then print or embroider one of these garments with designs supplied by the customer. Although cheap, the obvious drawback of this is that the garments aren’t unique to your brand, and you have no control over the finer details.
You have no control over the sizing, style, or composition. Some offer relabelling services, however most do not, and if they do offer relabelling services, it will be expensive. Some POD manufacturers even use the labels of the stock clothing – Gildan and Fruit of the Loom for example, so any customer will know that they’re really just getting a cheap item which has been rebranded.
When it comes to POD however, they can offer some convenient services which your brand may benefit from, like drop shipping. Some POD manufacturers will take an order from yourself and deliver it directly to your customer, meaning you never have to even see the items.
Services Offered by POD Manufacturers
- Stock Garment Sourcing
- Occasional relabelling
7. What Questions Should I Ask a Clothing Manufacturer?
Before making contact with a potential manufacturer, make sure you read their website thoroughly. Most professional manufacturers will have a frequently asked questions section, although it’s important to ask specific questions to make sure they’re a good fit for your new brand.
Below are some helpful questions to ask:
If not already stated, what is the minimum order quantity?
Some manufacturers will have their MOQ listed on their website, however due to the custom nature of bespoke clothing, it’s understandable that you might need to tell the manufacturer a bit more about your products before they can tell you what the MOQ is.
What are their specialities?
Not all manufacturers will be able to produce every item of clothing. Most manufacturers have specialities which they will stick to, so be sure to check their website and ascertain what items they specialise in, or just contact them to ask.
Do they produce just menswear? Ladieswear? Formal clothing or casual wear?
Some manufacturers are unisex, however, men’s and women’s apparel manufacturing requires different skill sets, so it’s understandable that they may only specialise in one or the other. The same goes for casual and formal wear.
What services do they offer?
Most manufacturers will make the services they offer clear on their website, and whether they’re a CMT, FPP or POD manufacturer will affect this. However, some FPP manufacturers may offer design services and others may not. POD manufacturers don’t all offer relabelling services. Be sure to check out what services they offer via contacting them or visiting their website.
What are the estimated time frames?
When it comes to custom manufacturing, time frames can vary depending on your quantity and your specifications. Manufacturers may be able to offer general lead times, but usually, until you have provided all of your designs, they won’t know exactly what is involved in producing your items and won’t be able to give you an accurate lead time.
What Not to Do When Approaching A Clothing Manufacturer
In order for your enquiry to proceed as efficiently as possible, we have compiled a few things not to do when questioning a manufacturer. Being a fast-paced industry, it’s easy for a manufacturer to disregard an enquiry, so take note of the following to ensure they don’t overlook yours:
Do not approach until you have a design
Manufacturers are generally happy to answer general questions or to explain the process to you, however without a design to work with, it’s hard for them to be able to offer any specific advice. In order to get the best response possible from a manufacturer, with the most accurate answers to any questions you have, always wait until you have at least a design brief before contacting them.
Do not ask for average pricing on custom designs
When creating custom products, it’s not possible for manufacturers to be able to give “average” or “standard” pricing, since every element of your design is unique. A manufacturer will need a full breakdown of specifications including fabric composition, dimensions and trim in order to give an accurate quotation.
Without a detailed specification including things like fabric choice, mockups, and details on the branding required (whether it be print, embroidery, etc.), it’s very hard for a manufacturer to be able to assist at all.
Have a realistic budget
Without a realistic budget in place, it will be impossible to create your clothing, so one of the best things you can do is let a manufacturer know of what kind of budget you’re working with in the initial stages of your contact. Manufacturers will be happy to discuss what you can afford and let you know if your budget is realistic.
8. The Importance of a Professional Online Presence In the Fashion Industry
With most startup clothing brands being purely online based, it’s imperative that your online presence is professional, high quality, branded, and instantly recognisable. Consistency is key in the online world. For your audience to recognise your brand, you must be consistent, thus allowing you to grow in audience engagement and reach.
Online presence can be broken down into 3 sections:
- Social Media
Why is Creating a Professional Fashion Website so Important?
A website is one of the most integral components of your online success. If your website does not exude professionalism, credibility, a great design and brilliant user experience, customers may turn away. 75% of your web visitors will judge your credibility based on the design of your website.
Luckily, there are some easy ways to ensure that your clothing brand’s website is professional, current, and looks like something which your customers can relate to and, more importantly, trust.
Load time is an important metric for your website. This is not just for user experience but also for search engine optimisation (SEO). If your website loads quickly, you’ve instantly made a strong first impression. However, if a potential customer decides to click off of your site rather than letting it load, there is a chance that you’ll lose sales based on that alone.
If large numbers of visitors ‘bounce’ from your website, then this will have a negative impact on your organic search engine rank. With clothing websites being image heavy, the fastest way to improve loading speed is to compress your images – there are various image compressors online which can help with this.
The importance of the product pages of your e-commerce website shouldn’t be underestimated. After all, what’s the point in putting all that effort into directing someone towards your website, having them view your garments, and then not be able to see everything they need to push them through to making a sale?
With photography being the largest influence on a customer when shopping online, you should allocate an amount of your budget professional images.
User Experience (UX)
User Experience in web design is the process of enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usability. Your site’s design and structure should allow viewers to find what they are looking for without any confusion or unnecessary clicks. Putting an emphasis on your viewer’s journey will not only benefit your customers but will consequently deliver results for your brand.
Your clothing category pages should be tidy and logical, with important information about the clothing, like the composition, being readily available. This allows customers to make a fast purchase and then checkout using a system which is uncluttered, hassle-free, and trustworthy.
Mobile browsing is estimated to account for 52% of all web traffic. Studies show if a site is not rendered for a mobile display, people will simply stop visiting it in favour of a competitor that provides a smoother mobile experience.
Most modern website templates automatically render a mobile version; Google has a handy tool which you can use to check if your site passes the mobile-friendly test. Things like text size, mobile navigation, and touch-friendly buttons are assessed, with a “pass” or “fail” score being given. You’re then given advice on changes you can make which will render your site on mobile devices more efficiently.
Personalised Domain Email
One of the most effective ways to present yourself as an established brand in any industry is to have a custom domain for your website and for your emails.
Although to some this may seem like an obvious first step, some brands continue to use Hotmail or Gmail email addresses, which instantly gives the impression that you’re an amateur in the industry. If you are a small brand that’s not a problem for most, but a non-branded email address is something that instantly gives your business an amateur undertone.
When you’re trying to convince a potential customer to spend money with your brand, you want to make sure everything you do is as professional and trustworthy as possible, right down to the small and often overlooked details, such as your email address.
An email address like firstname.lastname@example.org tells a potential customer that you’re a professional business with an online domain (yourcompany.com) where they can find you.
Having your own domain email means whoever you contact using it will instantly know the company you’re emailing from.
With a branded email address you’re helping to build a trust with your customer, assuring them that you’re an established business.
Having a branded email is another point for your branding consistency. Everything you do should be branded in some way, and your email is no exception.
If you have an easy-to-remember branded email (email@example.com), it means that a customer can easily remember how to contact you.
9. The Importance of Social Media for Clothing Brands
Social media is one of the most important aspects of digital marketing, providing you with a cost-effective (and sometimes free) means to reach millions of targeted customers worldwide. No matter what garments you sell and who you sell them to, using social media as a marketing tool can help you to grow your brand.
Whatever your industry or audience, a substantial portion of your customers and leads are found on social media. Having access to all those customers helps you boost traffic, which is particularly important for a new clothing line.
Social media is now the number one driver of referral traffic to websites, and a valuable tool which gives you the ability to target posts to relevant potential customers. Implementing a social media strategy will greatly increase your brand recognition, since you will be engaging with a broader audience of consumers.
With one single click, your post is shown to a multitude of targeted potential customers.
As a starting point, brands should look to register their company with each major social network:
- Google +
- YouTube (If you plan to do video content)
Initially, it’s vital to try to gain as much of a following as possible via word of mouth and invitations to like or share your page. Each post that is shared will be introduced to a new network of individuals, which can lead them to become potential customers.
Why Customer Loyalty Matters
With the old notion of “word of mouth” having moved online to social media, you have a huge platform at your disposal which you can leverage to help increase your customer base.
Customers and prospects rely on the reviews and interactions of their peers to determine the quality of the brand. If you want your social media marketing to be effective, you need active, engaged, and loyal followers.
- Resistance to competition
Rival brands working in the same space as you have far less chance of winning over one of your loyal customers than they would a new customer with no brand preference.
- Builds credibility
An engaged, active following helps to reinforce you as a trusted brand, giving the appearance that your products are in demand.
- Loyal customers spread the word about your company
As they’re essentially ambassadors of your brand, your loyal customers will be able to help raise awareness, acting as walking billboards for your company.
- Repeat orders
Loyal customers are those who continue to order from your brand, keeping your cash flow healthy and allowing you to keep developing. It’s easier to get a repeat order from an existing customer than it is to get a new customer.
- Less price sensitivity
If your prices have to raise for any reason, loyal customers are likely to overlook this and continue to order from you.
The Importance of Consistency in Social Media Marketing
Your brand identity is what makes you instantly recognisable to your customers. Components which make up your brand identity are your name, logo, voice, colour scheme, typeface and message, for example. Consistency with these elements is key and helps to reinforce your brand reputation.
Colours are used as a way to subconsciously manipulate the decisions of consumers by brands. Deciding on a colour palette which is consistent across your social media channels helps to make your images look like one well-thought-out collection as opposed to a mismatched bunch of disconnected posts.
Typography is the visual component of the written word, also known as font. There are various font types, the most traditional being serif fonts like Times New Roman and sans serif fonts like Arial. Typography or typeface consistency is often overlooked, but a consistent typeface is critical as it makes the content look professional and keeps your readers focused on what is written.
The theme of your clothing brand should always be consistently about fashion or closely related themes such as the wider industry or the inspiration for your latest collection. This will help you to develop your audience and followers. As a clothing brand, your posts should centre around your products, such as sneak peeks at a new line or an on-location editorial shot.
Some brands fall into the trap of being too irrelevant and pandering to larger social media discussions, discussing unrelated topics such as football results. This detracts from the meaning of your brand and makes followers who perhaps aren’t interested in the separate theme consider unfollowing you.
Your brand’s voice is an important aspect of defining your brand identity, as it is a way of conveying your values. Your voice is the framework for your social content and you should think of your brand’s voice as an expression of its personality. For example, do you want your brand to come across as honest, serious, or sarcastic?
When determining your voice, you should ask yourself:
- How do we want to come across?
- What reputation do we want?
- What are our values?
10. Why Does Every Clothing Line Need Professional Photography?
Being the digital age, most marketing is done online. This means that in 99% of cases, your sales will come from customers finding you online by some means and that they won’t be able to actually see or feel your garments in person. Therefore, your images and the way that your items are presented on your website or your social media streams will be the “make or break” factor in the decision of the customer clicking through to actually purchase an item or not.
As your images are the representation of all of your hard work, with no doubt countless hours being spent on clothing design and development, you don’t want to be worrying about the items not actually being presented in the best light. After all, your photography is what will actually sell the item in many cases.
Putting this responsibility in the hands of a novice is a bad idea.
The end game for clothing brands is turning a profit, but at the early stages of a new business, the deciding factor in most decisions is money, and you’ll no doubt be reading this thinking “that all sounds very nice, but can I afford a professional?” Thankfully, the answer to this is yes, you probably can. It can be a lot more affordable than you would first imagine and if you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.
You don’t need to spend thousands either. For a relatively small amount you can get photography which will contribute to selling your items in a way which, if you weren’t to invest that money, could result in you sitting on stock for much longer than you originally intended.
There are some standout benefits of investing in high-quality fashion photography, and we will go into a little more detail about these below:
Professional photographers are so much more than just picture takers. Like any profession, they probably love what they do and will be very proud of the work they put out into the market. With many photographers being self-employed too, word of mouth goes a long way and they thrive on customer satisfaction throughout the whole experience.
One of the often forgotten elements of photography is that while as much as possible is done via the camera, lighting and post-editing are of huge importance too. Just photography itself (without proper lighting or editing) will result in half-decent images which don’t live up to industry standards.
Professional fashion photographers will take your initial images and then finish them with lighting and post-editing which combine to give you one of a kind images which accurately portray your brand and your products.
When a potential customer comes to your website or social media, you’ll only actually have a very short amount of time to engage them and to convert them from prospective customer to a paying customer. If you’re an online-only clothing line, a prospective customer won’t be able to physically handle your products before they buy them, so photography is the only way you can convey the design and quality of the item.
Professional photographers are experts in making your images match your branding, and they are able to give an accurate representation of your items, meaning there are no nasty surprises for the customer when they receive their product.
The last thing you want to be perceived as is an amateur. There are thousands of other clothing brands out there who may be doing something similar to you, all of whom are competing for business from the market. Therefore, if someone in the market is looking at two brands, one of which has professional photography and the other of which has clearly taken a dimly lit picture on a wardrobe in their bedroom, it’s highly likely they will trust the more established-looking brand with their money. It’s important to understand that if a customer is going to part with their hard earned cash, you’ll need to appear credible.
Your new fashion brand isn’t going to be a one-hit wonder; you want to stick around for the long run, and for that, you’ll need to ensure that you can maintain a consistent brand “voice” throughout everything you do. A professional photographer will be an expert in getting great results every time. Whether you’re inside or outside, in a studio or on a location which fits your brand ethos, your photographer will know exactly what to do to ensure that your products are conveyed to the best of their ability every time. If you always use the same professional photographer every time, that’s even better.
Continuing on from photographers not just being picture takers, it’s important to understand that not just anyone can set up a lighting rig or use the latest photo-editing software to achieve great results every time. It takes years of hard work, study, and trial & error to know exactly what to do with the camera and lighting in every situation. If you use a professional who has fashion in their portfolio, you can be safe in the knowledge that they will have done this before. On the other hand, if you use that friend with the good camera, you could be wasting time if they’re not familiar with the above-mentioned points.
You’ll be thinking about your marketing strategy at this point in your brand, and you’ll probably be using social media as an integral part of this. Now, if you go on to a site like Instagram and you search a hashtag related to your market, take a look at the images which pop out and hit you straight away. You want to be creating these images, and it’s easy to spot which ones are more amateur than others. Before you even get a customer on to your website, you need to engage them to a point that they will actually look at your page, and without professional, high-quality photography, you’ll be lucky for them to get that far.
The Importance of Fashion Photography for E-Commerce
Up until this point, we have mainly been talking about the images that really grab the attention of your prospective customer. Once a potential customer gets to your website, you need to direct them towards a product and when they get to the products, you need to make sure they like what they see.
The importance of the product pages of your e-commerce website shouldn’t be underestimated. After all, what’s the point in putting all that effort into directing someone towards your website, having them get to your product, and then not be able to see everything they need to push them toward making a purchase?
It’s no secret that photography is the largest influence on a customer when shopping online, so here we will be discussing some of the key images you should include on your website.
First, you’ll need a good, overall product shot at the best angle of the item. If you’re retailing t-shirts, for example, the customer will want to see the front of the item, but this really is the bare minimum you can get away with, and do you want to just “get away” with it? You should show as many images and angles as you can.
Second, consider the other things a customer might want to see and create fantastic detail shots to go along with your main images. The high-quality construction that you’re really happy with and the neck label which you spent hours toiling over before deciding on the final design are perfect examples of things you can show on your product pages. Even better, have a zoomable area which will allow the customer to examine the fabric and the quality of the embroidery or print that you have insisted be as high-quality as possible.
As said before, the last thing you want is a return because of a nasty surprise in the design that a customer couldn’t see before purchasing.
It’s also great to have a shot of it being worn by a model. This helps demonstrate the fit and overall drape of the garment, which influences the buying decision of most customers.
11. Bulk Clothing Shipping Options
When it comes to buying clothing in bulk, it’s important to consider the costs involved in shipping them. Thankfully, however, there are many options available to you.
If you want to ship clothing shipments internationally, planes, trains, boats and trucks are all used to ship goods between different countries. Nonetheless, different methods of postage suit different circumstances and scenarios.
The first information you’ll need in any case is the following:
- Package weight
- Package height, width and depth
- Origin and destination country
Once you have this information, you can consider your options for shipping. If you’re using an overseas manufacturer and you’re new to the industry, they will usually help you through the process, although there are some factors to consider regarding your options:
Shipping items by air is the fastest but most expensive way to move a bulk shipment. Although there are express and economy services available, the costs are likely to run into hundreds, if not thousands of pounds for a reasonably-sized product range.
Express couriers will usually have their own planes which run every day from the world’s manufacturing hubs, whereas economy shippers will usually contract out space on other company’s planes on a weekly or two-weekly basis. Because plane space is limited, air freight rates are based on the volumetric weight of a shipment.
Sea freight is generally suited to very large shipments which would be completely uneconomical to transport by air – often the cost is 4-6 times cheaper, however obviously the timeframes involved are much longer. As an example, 6 weeks is typical for sea freight from China to the UK.
Sea freight is uneconomical for small shipments because the space in which you rent would usually be by a palette, half container, or full container, all of which are costly up front but very worthwhile if you have a very large amount of clothing to transport. With sea freight, however, the volumetric weight is not as important as it is via air, meaning a heavier shipment will be cheaper to send by sea than one of a comparable physical size by air.
FOB stands for Free On Board and it’s something you should be aware of if you’re dealing with overseas suppliers. Sometimes a supplier will quote FOB shipping, however be aware that this will only get your items as far as the port in the origin country, meaning you then have to arrange a courier to transport them to your destination country as well as dealing with everything in between like documents fees, licence fees, insurance and customs declarations.
- Courier Shipment
Many of the well-known worldwide couriers like DHL, FedEx, and UPS are able to facilitate door-to-door shipping of your goods, using a fast, fully-tracked and reliable service. Compared to freight, however, couriers are far more expensive because they have huge overheads in running their own network of planes and vans worldwide.
Still, most of the well-known international couriers will offer door-to-door shipping for bulk shipments from one country to another, including pick up services and time slot delivery.
A freight forwarder is an agent who acts on behalf of importers, exporters or other companies to organise the safe and cost-effective transportation of goods internationally. They will collect your shipment at one end, handle the transportation to the destination country, and then when it reaches the destination they will arrange with a local domestic courier to deliver the package for you.
Freight Forwarding is a convenient and cost-effective way of transporting bulk items in a reasonably quick timeframe around the world.
12. Import Duties and Customs Fees
If your clothing line is operating internationally, it’s important to understand the import taxes that you may be charged, both as a buyer and a seller. If you’re purchasing your clothing from a supplier who makes them outside of the EU, there will be import charges applied upon delivery of the items.
When buying clothing from outside the EU, duties and taxes are to be paid in order to have the items released into the country. The amount of duty that you are required to pay is dependent on the declared value of the goods and the type of garment that you’re importing.
Because the government of the destination country set the rates of import tax and publishes the rates online, it’s possible to calculate how much you might owe in advance. If you have any reservations about import tax, your supplier will likely have information on it which they’ll be able to give you upon placement of your order.
In the UK, if you’re VAT registered and you have the supplier detail your EORI number on the commercial invoice, you can reclaim any import VAT that you pay. Although you still have to pay the import VAT to release the goods from customs, it’s easy to claim this back through your normal VAT return.
As a seller, you also need to be aware of the import taxes that your customers may be liable for if you’re selling to people outside of the EU. It’s always best to warn international customers that they should be aware of possible customs duties. This can be done via the delivery section of your website, giving your customer a heads-up that they may have to pay additional duties when purchasing your clothing.
As your business has no control over these fees, it’s courteous to ensure the customer is aware that they may be imposed by their country, and to give them a chance to look into them before making their purchase.