Shirts are a wardrobe staple all over the world. And in today’s time where T-shirts are merged with pop culture, their success will only go up from here. In fact, the global market for the custom printing industry is expected to worth over 10 billion USD by the year 2025.
Starting up a business in one of the most competitive industries today is no doubt nerve-racking. There are so many things to take into account: production, design, sourcing, marketing, and more. Taking the first step is one of the most important factors of success. However, with careful planning and execution, you may just be able to wing it. In this article, we'll provide you with a roadmap to starting your own clothing line.
A step-by-step guide on how to start a successful clothing line
- Choose a niche
- Source high-quality t-shirt & printing service
- Create your designs
- Partner with a manufacturer
- Build an online presence
- Market your products
1. Choose a niche
When entering the world of the clothing business, it’s important to choose a niche. This will help your business stand out and better attract the right target market without breaking your bank. Focusing on a specific interest group is one of the best ways to build a successful t-shirt business.
There are a lot of different things to take into account when choosing a niche, but doing your research and understanding your audience is crucial. Narrowing your focus too much can also be risky, so make sure you’re including a variety of interests and target markets in your planning. But finding the right niche is one of the best things you can do to ensure the success of your t-shirt business.
For instance, a niche in the superhero category is hard to sell in the market. You’re going to want to tighten it up a little more. An example of a more specific niche would be t-shirts with Marvel heroes that relate to comic collectors and hobbyists, or to someone who's just riding along with the movie fad, as pictured below:
2. Source high-quality t-shirt & printing service
Quality is important when it comes to branding. Your customers will associate your brand with the quality of your products, so it’s important to pick your blank t-shirts wisely. Do not attempt to compensate quality for sales or your customer satisfaction and future sales will be at risk.
Your clothing store can set itself apart from the heavy competition by sourcing premium quality T-shirts. If your products easily shrink or rip after a few wears, customers are unlikely to purchase from you again. Investing in high-quality products will help your business grow and create a positive reputation.
Furthermore, choosing a printing style for your clothing line is as baffling as deciding on your niche. So, take time and educate yourself on the possible printing option that fit your needs.
Here is some printing style cheat sheet for you to choose from:
Screen Printing - The most common printing style that uses a stencil and ink – screen printing is usually used for simple designs with fewer color options. Screen-printed designs are vibrant because the ink sits on top of the cloth.
Direct to Garment (DTG) - This printing style uses a machine that captures a wide variety of colors and is best used for designs with colorful, intricate details. Most merchandise t-shirts use DTG printing.
Embroidery - If you feel that print is too bland and flat for your style, perhaps embroidery will tick the box for you. Not only on t-shirts but embroidery can also be used for other merch as well like caps and tote bags.
3. Create your designs
After you establish your niche and source your supplier, you need to start creating designs and sourcing talents. This can be the most challenging part of the process for many entrepreneurs who are starting a clothing line, especially those who have no experience working in the wholesale industry before.
Partnering with a supplier with an in-house graphic designer might just be the perfect solution.
Design is one of the main things that should pop when it comes to running your clothing line. It is the first thing customer focuses on when they look at your brand. So, make sure to tick the right box and create an original and high-quality design.
Here’s a cheat sheet on how to make attractive clothing designs from Design Shack
Your next step after creating your final designs will be to get them on mockup images so customers can see what the final printed shirt will look like. Another option is to model the designs and photoshoot them in a studio; the process is much longer and more expensive than mockups but it will give your brand a legit, professional look.
4. Partner with a manufacturer
If you’re starting low on capital but eager to pursue your clothing line business, the made-to-order method will save you thousands of dollars. Start getting orders from your website without shelling excessive cash on inventory and by the time you get your first order, your backend partner will be fulfilling those orders. The major benefit of made-to-order items is they lessen your upfront capital risk. Of course, there’s a challenge with this, too. Finding the right trusted partner to fulfill these orders is one.
Running a clothing line store can be difficult, especially if you’re doing it on your own. By partnering with a manufacturer that helps you provide your services, you can focus on marketing and sales while they handle the production process. This allows you to continue running your business without having to worry about day-to-day operations.
When partnering with a manufacturer, be sure to factor in important aspects such as their cost, minimum order quantity, shipping time, and quality. Furthermore, you may want to find a manufacturer that has an in-house graphic artist or digitizer for embroidery items to make your transaction extra smooth.
5. Build an online presence
In today’s digital age, it’s essential to have an online presence if you want to build a sustainable, and profitable business. Also, having a website is a great way to share your voice and brand with the world. Your website is a representation of who you are and what you do, so it’s important to communicate effectively.
Think about where to sell and market your product. Would you like to build your own website? Marketplace? Etsy? In-store? Perhaps you’d like to venture into all of them? Regardless of your platform choice, it is important to know your market, as T-shirts can be flexible or very niche. Look up your competitors and find out where they are selling and marketing their tees.
One thing to consider when online selling is to test how to display your t-shirts virtually. The focus should be on the designs and not the brand. Make sure that your shirt designs pop, along with the cost and sizes. Adding too many features to your online store might throw people off and steer them away from buying. It is also important to consider that the function and features of your website will funnel visitors into purchasing and not just browsing.
6. Market your products
To be successful in the custom clothing industry, you need to focus on marketing your brand. If you want to be seen on top, you need to work on your digital marketing.
Here are some research-based tips from Sixads on how marketing brings the best results for entrepreneurs in e-commerce:
- Narrow down your target audience and plan personalized marketing campaigns.
- Run automated targeted clothing advertisements to save time and increase sales.
- Photography is key in fashion marketing. Learn how to take quality photos of your products or hire a professional photographer.
- To stand out from other clothing brands, take your social media seriously. Enable shopping features, use social proof, foster connections with micro-influencers, run contests, and work on your hashtag strategy.
- Use affiliate marketing to drive shoppers to your website.
- Include email marketing in your marketing campaigns. Consumers like getting relevant emails that help them with their purchase decisions.
- No matter how great your fashion marketing is, if your website is difficult to navigate, you’ll lose many potential sales. Polish your product pages and ensure your online store looks great on all devices.
There are several factors to consider when launching a successful clothing line. Creating a strong identity for your brand is crucial, as is knowing your target market and understanding the competition. It’s also important to have a solid business plan and to be strategic about where and how you sell your products. By following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to launching a successful clothing line.