How to Start an Online Clothing Business
Several things are essential in the process of starting an online clothing business. You must believe in yourself and the product you want to sell, but beyond that still, that you believe in the idea and story of what you want to sell too.
You must have the creativity to make hard decisions as well as to continuously believe and feel inspired by your products and the ideas behind them.
The investment you put into your business is not merely financial or commercial; it is a commitment of passion and dedication to something you should truly believe in.
Luckily, running your own online fashion business provides lots of creative control, and as a result, you can tailor your business to suit your desires and needs.
For any passionate entrepreneur, the prospect of an online fashion clothing business provides endless options.
- Business Models
Wholesale/ Private Label
Designing from scratch
tips to simplify the budgeting process
- It Pays to be Organised
- Supplies, Sourcing and Manufacturing
- Marketing & Branding
When it comes to deciding how you wish to start your online fashion business, you need to take into account what will make your concept unique and exciting to consumers, as well as how you will find a niche within a vast industry. Here are some points to consider:
- Think about what the product you want to sell says about you. Consider why you feel passionate about the particular designs or garments that you wish to sell and how that reflects you as their creator.
- Do you love your product? If you don’t believe in what you’re selling, how can you expect potential consumers or customers to be interested or engaged with your products or the business as a whole?
- You need to specialise in producing a line which is cohesive in theme and not so broad that it seems messy. For example, you might choose to specialise in sportswear, or formalwear, or apparel inspired by a particular decade.
- It helps the branding of your product or company for you to have a story or concept which presents flair to the products you are creating. The fashion market is bustling and, in some ways, saturated, but something essential for drawing in an audience and keeping them interested is to have a unique premise. If you can excite or engage your customer with something that feels different from the norm, you are far more likely to keep their attention.
Creating a niche for your brand will also make marketing easier and ensure there is less competition for your specific product. Your designs need to connect to your niche to enhance the relatability of your product.
Upon deciding to start an online fashion business, it is essential to decide upon the business model you want to use in creating the product. This will affect the way you operate as a company. As well as the investment you need to make into the project and how much of your own time will be consumed in the curation of the product.
Because of these factors, the business model might just be the most essential consideration to make in starting an online fashion business.
- This is an option viable to almost everyone entering into the online fashion industry. Printing custom designs onto blank apparel is cheap, easy, and requires very little time input. This makes it simple to begin selling products.
- You can set up a business like this in as little as a day, using a few designs you already have. Plenty of sites offer print-on-demand services.
- The benefits of such a system include few set-up or up-front costs and a variety of options available, both in terms of garment and design.
- The drawback of this style of selling is a lack of choice regarding the details of the product; ultimately, you do not have much say in the finish of the apparel you print onto.
- This type of production on bigger scales as is not sustainable due to low-profit margins and a lack of cost-effectiveness.
Wholesale/ Private Label
- This is similar to print-on-demand but allows you to take greater ownership over the product you produce, and as a result, you have more choice and creative control.
- Private production is more hands-on, requiring bulk purchasing of blank apparel to customise as you wish. The bulk purchasing also enables for discounts and as a result, better profit-margin.
- This method allows you to invest in better quality customisation techniques and add further features to the items as it pleases you. However, the printing of this kind will need to be more straightforward as it usually requires the age-old technique of screen-printing.
- Warehousing and shipping of apparel must be considered when you use this type of production. A more significant investment is also needed to get such a business off the ground.
Designing from scratch
- This type of business requires a hands-on approach from you. You will be doing everything for the company.
- You can source manufacturers for the components of your product, giving you ultimate creative control over the products you curate.
- It cannot be denied that the investment of time and money into this type of business can be stressful and strenuous, as the individual has ultimate creative control over the product, they are responsible for 100% of the final product. Not only does production take a long time, but the launching of a brand like this can also be a more long-term arrangement.
- Despite this, the meaningful and personal approach of a custom clothing business is appealing to customers who want quality and unique clothing and allows for potentially improved margins. It also means you can produce custom commissioned garments for specific customers who may be willing to pay more.
- If you are eager to develop a strategy that is wholly based around your own input, temporally, financially, and in terms of design, this may be the type of business for you.
How you budget for your brand depends largely on the type of brand you intend to create. If you are using a small-scale print-on-demand service, you may have no upfront costs at all, paying purely for the commission of products.
However, wholesale and from-scratch businesses will need higher budgets as they require significantly more extensive investments in product, design and shipping.
Here are some tips to simplify the budgeting process:
- Start by producing products with only one design. This allows you to keep your costs down and enables you to focus on quality. Gradually building up your selection also allows you to grow your budget with your business.
- Determine a fixed figure and break down how much of the value is going to be spent on which components of the business. Remember to consider marketing costs, such as a website, advertising, branding when doing this.
- Allow yourself flexibility in order to account for changing expenses and requirements for the brand.
- Factor in anybody else who is working for you and how they fit into the costs of the brand.
- Do not use rough costing. Make sure you have at least got a plan of how exact costing should look, and how you believe your investment will be increased upon by your business. This needs to be quantified; it cannot be guesswork.
It Pays to be Organised
The success of your business may depend on how well you plan and the structure of the organisation you intend to create. It might be of use to get a notebook or folder in which to keep all documentation and work to do with the business. There are several factors to keep track of when starting a business:
- Make sure to stay aware of the rules and regulations required for corporations. These can usually be found on a government website. Make sure to consider insurance and any necessary training for employees.
- Create a plan of how your business works, from A to Z. Outline in detail every process involved in the business’ functioning.
- Keep a catalogue of products, as well as ideas.
- Make sure you retain all funding information; you don’t know when you might need to look back over things.
Supplies, Sourcing and Manufacturing
If you are producing print-on-demand apparel, this area may not be of interest to you, as you will likely have far less creative control on the style and finish of the products that you design.
The process of finding manufacturers can seem daunting and distant from the idea of owning a personal business. Despite this, you must engage with manufacturers to establish what you can use for your brand and how it will work.
If you are looking at a larger scale business, you will need to source a factory. Factories specialise in different types of product and operate at different standards. It is essential to look into and rigorously research factories before investing in the production of your product.
There are a wide variety of different options when it comes to factories, and you can decide how involved you want to be in the production process. Factories will offer various services – some will produce your designs with materials you provide, while other factories will (for a higher cost) do all the work in manufacturing.
If you are running a cut-and-sew style of business, you must take time to source materials that you know you can rely on, that provide the desired quality and finish you need. Consider this as the investment that it is, don’t settle for something which won’t serve your product well.
Creating buyable designs can be the essential make-or-break point for your product. It may seem obvious, but you need to create something that will resonate with your audience, something that they will feel compelled to buy. This means that your clothing must be aesthetically pleasing. This does not mean your clothing needs to be complicated; necessarily, it just needs to engage consumers.
When designing and producing clothing, you also need to consider the fit, performance and quality of what you are creating and understand how this fits into your target market and the wear-ability of your pieces.
Marketing & Branding
Upon creating designs or clothing to sell, you need to establish a brand to sell through providing a cohesive consumer experience. There are two key elements to consider, with further questions within them:
- Your target market/demographic
- Who will buy your product?
- What will the value of your product be to them?
- How your branding suits the target market
- Why will your target market be attracted to your products?
- What is your competition within the industry?
Depending on the scale of your intended business, you may be able to brand for yourself. If you wish to produce a large-scale business or are working cut-and-sew style on products, you may want to invest in a branding agency for advice on how to market the apparel.
Establish the essence of your brand. Come up with some keywords which you feel capture what your brand is about and what it represents. At every stage of the process, check your work against these keywords and make sure they match up for consistent branding.
Learn more on making your brand visible online
There are further steps you can take to allow your brand to take shape. Try producing different logos, colourings and aesthetics that meet with the keywords you have decided upon.
When it comes to marketing your product, you’ll need to have an online presence. Make some social media accounts to advertise your products and engage potential buyers. Fortunately, this is easier than ever. You could also network with bloggers to gain exposure for your products.
Get a well-structured website which reflects your brand and products. It is easier than ever creating a website with drop and drag builders like Shopify and Wix. If you have the budget for it, hire a web designer to create one for you.
Learn more on the best payment systems for E-commerce sites.
Here are some points to consider when it comes to pricing your products for sale.
- Make sure everything is calculated correctly to avoid mistakes.
- Establish a profit margin you hope to achieve above your manufacturing and investment costs.
- Consider the labour and shipping required for the apparel.
Consider how you will package and distinguish your products before shipping. This may involve creating tags, personalised wrapping, or a specific design that associates with your brand. This is integral to how you will be perceived by your customer.
- Remember to include packaging costs and sourcing in the prior organisation of your brand.
- Extra branded material will help not only to establish your brand but to create a more significant buzz around the quality of your company. It provides assurance that you are passionate about what you are selling.
The aspect of shipping varies hugely depending on the style of the brand and the type of product you have created.
Those with print-on-demand apparel will likely not need to concern themselves with shipping fulfilment as this will be done through the company that prints clothes.
If you are responsible for shipping, you can charge an exact fee or a flat-rate fee for all orders. It is common to offer free shipping over a certain amount. Remember that no matter what a company claim, shipping is never free and always costs. If you have more significant ideas for your company, you can always organise warehouse fulfilment for orders, although this obviously has a more considerable cost.
It is up to you as the company’s owner to determine how you will handle returns, package insurance and pricing for shipping.
Once you have started your online fashion business, you have the creative control to determine whether you scale up or maintain a small and personal online store. Because of this, the options are near-endless for potential, and if you have the ideas, you can certainly make your dream a reality.
London College of Fashion
British Fashion Council