How to start a clothing business

Before you start a clothing business

If you want to start a clothing business, first be prepared to:

  1. Love fashion and design.
  2. Work hard. Although this is true for all businesses, the fashion business is more time consuming. Remember that every season (2 or 4 times a year) you have to change your products. Selecting your products is a job that never ends.

When I started working in fashion, selecting the clothes for the season was the most difficult job. I had no experience in fashion. But after a couple of years (maybe 3 or 4), I started to “understand” the art and science of selecting a collection.

You can do better than me. Instead of 3 years, you can do this in a couple of months.

When I started, the internet was a place for geeks. Now you can learn a lot online.

To make a good collection, the more important skill you have to acquire, is to be capable of extracting the most important aspects of fashion shows and bring them to a day-to-day fashion.

Watch fashion shows, and then see the products in stores for the same season. Can you see similarities? Patterns? Colors? Fabrics? When you can do it, you’re ready to start.

Three types of business models to start a clothing business

There are three main types of business models if you want to start a clothing business. And you can combine any of theses business models.

1 – Creat a fashion brand and sell your products (with your brand) to other retailers, online or offline.

In this business model, you only have to be concerned with:

  • creating a good collection
  • selling the products to retailers
  • producing the products.

You can’t aspire to sell your clothes to Zara, H&M and other big retailers. Usually, these stores don’t buy from other brands. And when they do, it is from well known labels.

But there are stores, called multi-label stores, that buy from other labels. And they are always looking for new labels.

This seems the easiest business model to start a clothing business, but I think it’s not the best business model. If you choose this business model, you should always aspire to use the other two businesses models.

2 – Create an online store

Creating an online store is very easy, and not expensive.

The difficult part is to make clients to visit your web site and purchase.

On your first months in business, you can start a store on an external platform, like Etsy or Ebay.

There are some disadvantages in selling on these platforms, but there are also great advantages. And the two biggest advantages are: the access to a huge number of potential customers, and the credibility of these sites that make customers trust when they purchase.

Online stores are a cheap way to start a clothing business
It’s very inexpensive to start an online store.

3 – Create a brick and mortar store

A physical store, also called brick and mortar store, is the holly grail of a clothing business.

Every brand wants to have a physical store. Even brands that started as online stores or brands selling to retailers, when they reached a level of success, all of them opened one, or several, physical stores.

The big money is in physical stores. Physical stores can sell more, and you can learn much more with your clients, and make a much better brand.

Never the less, there are big cons to owning a physical store.

First, it’s the amount of capital needed. And secondly, it’s the skills you need. For example: displaying merchandise, window displaying, hiring salespeople, etc.

brick and mortar stores are the ultimate way to start a clothing business
Owning a physical store (also called brick and mortar), should be the ultimate goal, it you want to start a clothing business

My personal advice: steps to start a clothing business

Unless you have experience, never start a brick and mortar store, as a first step.

Based on my experience, there are steps that make your journey easy. Those are not the steps I used when a started, because internet was almost nothing, but these are the steps I currently use, and teach others to use.

  1. Make a marketing plan. You don’t need anything fancy. Just answer some simple questions, and you’re done. This will help you “see” the path.
  2. Register your brand, because you don’t want to waste time promoting a brand and then find the brand is already registered by someone else.
  3. Choose one or two products, not more, and start developing a small collection
  4. Solve the problem of where to manufacture the products. Tip: you can buy products from wholesalers (namely in China) and put your tag. This is a good tactic for the firsts collections.
  5. Start selling on Ebay, Etsy and other platforms. Probably, you will not sell a lot, but you’ll learn a lot. Learning is essential in the beginning.
  6. When you have confidence, and better products, start an e-store, sell to other retailers, or do both.
  7. The difficult part of an e-store is getting people to visit the store. You’ll have to spend some money on advertising and a lot of time promoting your store. More money on advertising, less time needed to promote.
  8. When you have a fixed clientele (clients buying from you more than once), you can think of opening a brick and mortar store. Try to find a place in a town, or zone, with people that are the same type of clients you have in your web site.
  9. And then open more stores. A chain store. I know this is a dream, but almost every big clothing business started as small business, probably in the home of the business owner.

So, there’s a path to be made. Start from the beginning, but never forget where you want to be in the end. Not everyone wants to have a chain of stores. That’s Ok. Maybe you just want to make some money, and then move to another profession. The first steps you have to take are the same.

To start a clothing business is still one of the “easiest” ways to make a fortune.

One of the richest man in the world (number two as I write this article) is a clothing retailer: Amancio Ortega. Mr. Ortega, the owner of Zara is even richer than Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk.

In Japan, the richest person, is the owner of the fashion empire Uniqlo, Mr.Tadashi Yanai.

And in Sweden, the richest person, is the owner of H&M, Mr. Stefan Persson

Why is this such a good business

1 — Everyone buys clothes

And always will. And luckily people want to buy new clothes every season.

2 — It’s highly scalable

The second advantage is that this business is easily scalable. If you have a successful e-store in a small country, let’s say Luxembourg, it’s easy to start selling to France, USA, Australia and all over the world.

If you have a successful brick and mortar store, it’s easy to open another store in another zone of your town. And then in another town. And then in another country.

The first store you open is a challenge, to say the least. But the second is easier. And by the 5th, it’s easier than making the clothing collection, I can assure you that, because I’ve done it my self.

If you want to know more about opening a fashion business, check my book:

“How to create a home based fashion business”

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