Table of contents

How to start your clothing brand

Chapter 3: Your first collection

3.1 Your design

How to create a design

Your design has to be powerful and creative. It has to reflect your brand story. Even if you are a designer, it’s an expertise to create designs for clothing. Always choose an expert, and take into account that there are certain technical requirements and limitations to print a design on clothes.

Don’t choose a cheap design. You can ask your cousin’s girlfriend to make a sketch but there is a major difference between a great design and a regular design. So be selective, choose the best. We all fall in love with our own products but can you look at your own brand from a different perspective? What would potential customers think when they see your clothes? What looks unprofessional and what could be improved? Those are questions you have to ask yourself before presenting something as a finished product.

Pinterest is a great way to find inspiration. Below, you can see 4 inspirational boards, each with a different style.

California collection
St. Tropez collection
Copenhagen collection
Berlin collection

These 3 articles help you create more compelling and creative designs:

The popularity of the product is based on your design. Merchandise Essentials can create your design in order to develop qualitative clothing.

Discover our design service.

How many designs

Create 3-5 different designs: 1 basic/subtle design, 1-3 iconic designs and 1 in your face or crazy design.

After the first release of your collection, you can evaluate which design was the most popular. You can check the reactions of your customers and eventually, you will see how many pieces were sold out the fastest.

Why do we advise you 3 types of designs? Well, your audience will vary: some people like subtle casual clothing, while others prefer special eye catching prints. It’s important to cater to the wishes of your audience. After your first collection, you’ll be able to determine the most popular style of your designs.

3.2 Your clothing

From essential clothing items like T-shirts, hoodies, polo shirts … to accessories like beanies, snapbacks, tote bags … which items, fabrics and colors fit your clothing collection? We always advise our clients to offer a variety of different items: T-shirt, sweater & cap/beanie for example. This way, you have products in every price range.

You need to know what products your customers want to buy. For example: when it’s summer, T-shirts will be popular. For winter, it’s likely that more people want to buy a sweater. Fashion always works in seasons, whether you’re a small brand or a global player.

Always choose different clothing products for 1 design. For example, the printing technique screen print is possible from 25 pieces. You can choose 1 T-shirt style and 1 sweater style with the same print to get to 25 pieces in total. This allows you to diversify your items in colors while still receiving the best price offer.

3.3 Quality

Quality is important. No doubt about that. If you are not making a qualitative product, why would people buy it? I don’t think you would want to sell something you’re not satisfied with. Spending money on quality is a must if you want to have success with your clothing label. Choose professionals for production, who understand that you are building your own clothing brand (and that you’re not just looking for a promo shirt). Some clothing brands want to print on their clothing themselves, which is a very bad idea. There’s still a difference between printing on clothing and building your clothing brand. Our advice would be to focus on your clothing brand and use your resources on your clothing brand, unless you want undesired results and lots of returns.

Conclusion: you need an expert who wants you to reach your goals.

Labels & Branding

3.4 Labels & branding

A lot of starting clothing brands make the mistake and print their brand name or logo on T-shirts, because they want to get their name out there. Okay, you can have 1 or 2 designs with your logo on it, but imagine every fashion brand in the world only printing their own logo on their T-shirts. That would be very boring, right? It’s a good thing that labeling was invented.

Clothing labels are the solution to your expansion problem. They help you to get your name out, while still leaving you the opportunity to be creative with your designs and art. Not only are clothing labels valuable for your brand, retail stores will never sell your products if there are no brand labels inside. So if you’re trying to venture into retail, clothing labels and even hang tags are a must.

From 50 pieces, we can offer you a custom label for your clothes. Also the use of hangtags and polybags will make your products more qualitative. Things like that give a great impression when your customers receive your products. You need to spend money to make money. It’s all about looking at your brand in an objective way.

Reading tip

3.5 Example of a perfect starting collection

In the previous chapter, we looked at the production cost of an example collection. This collection had 230 items (150 T-shirts, 50 sweaters & 30 caps). This is not the only option. Below, you can find an example of a perfect starting collection if you want more clothing items.

16 Red T-shirts + print 1 + label
16 Blue T-shirts + print 1 + label
18 White T-shirts + print 1 + label

25 black T-shirts + print 2 + label
25 navy sweaters + print 2 + label

25 white T-shirts + print 3 + label
25 white hoodies + print 3 + label

10 blue caps + embroidery 1
10 black caps + embroidery 1

With this combination you have 150 clothing items and 20 caps in 9 styles.

You have a wide variation, but also decent quantities for every print/embroidery so you’ll have a great start. All garments are also labeled (200 in total).

3.6 Photography

Photography, an essential part of branding that is overlooked by so many clothing brands. If you have an awesome T-shirt, you have to take equally as awesome photos.

The first important type of photography is product shots, they’re essential for your webshop because your visitors will get a clear visualisation of your products. Everyone likes to see a product before they buy something, whether it’s in a physical store or online, so make sure you’ll amaze them with just one single photo! You can discover the packshot service from Storelaunchers, they are experts in photography.

The second important type of photography is atmosphere shoots, these images are for marketing purposes. What style is your clothing brand, what vibe do you want your potential clients to feel … Atmosphere photos can be used almost anywhere, such as social media, banners on your website, your lookbook and other marketing tools. They have to represent your brand and attract people.

As a starting brand you can contact a photographer, a friend or hire a professional. These professionals are expensive, but as your brand grows they are worth it. If a € 1.000 photoshoot helps you to sell € 20.000 in apparel, that’s a great investment! Look for a partner you can trust with a certain skill level & always ask for a portfolio.

Again for packshots, we always recommend a professional photographer. Depending on the quantity, packshots cost between € 10 and € 20. So that’s a small investment that can drastically increase your conversion percentage.

Discover Storelaunchers photography services

Here are some examples of good photography

Marc Jacobs - photography

As you can see, the pictures in this webshop are very consistent, which is good. The background is the same in every picture and the models have more or less the same attitude. The clothes are in the spotlight and that’s also what you want people to see when they visit your webshop.

Levi's - Photography
Levi's - Photography

This is a good example because this webshop shows its products on a neutral background. Both photos have the same atmosphere and the focus is on the T-shirt and not on the model …

Blake Seven - Photography

These atmosphere photos are professional and there’s attention to every detail. The focus is on the product and while the background is not neutral, it’s a perfect choice as it fits the atmosphere. Note: the T-shirt refers to California and even the licence plate is from California. Everything in this photo is linked with each other and it’s the small details that make this photo amazing! (Blake Seven)

3.7 How to sell your clothing line

Your e-commerce flagship store

If you start a clothing brand, you probably won’t have enough money to have your own retail store. And when you’re starting out, it’s very difficult to offer retail stores the big margins they are looking for. That’s why it’s very important to have your own sales channel: your own online store. We are living in a digitalizing world where e-commerce is becoming the norm for purchasing whatever we can think of. It’s a never ending trend.

  • You can start out small
  • You keep the margins for yourself, so you can build scaling capital
  • On your own webshop, you can craft the perfect brand experience

Isn’t a webshop very expensive?

It depends! Building a completely custom e-commerce site (webshop) is quite expensive. But if you work with a specialised partner that knows everything about the fashion industry, you can save a lot of money on features that don’t work… Keep in mind that your webshop needs an excellent User Experience (UX) design and User Interface (UI) design because everything has to be user friendly. Most important of all, your webshop has to showcase your clothing products perfectly. If you want to sell your clothing brand, make sure that your clothes are highlighted.

We cannot emphasize enough how important a well built webshop is. Our partner Storelaunchers can help you to set up a highly converting webshop for your brand.

Sell in retail stores

The brick and mortar store still is the main place where people buy their clothes. I can imagine how starting brands dream of selling their clothes in physical stores, but how do you get your clothing in those stores?
Everything starts with prospection. From our own experience, we’ve learned that stores are most open to a commission based system when working with starting brands, so keep that in mind. A commission based system means they only pay you if they sold one of your products. Make sure you are well prepared before you start prospecting. Who’s your target audience and which stores match with that audience? What are your goals? Also, a good prospecting list can help you a lot when you start contacting stores.

Do you want to learn how you can sell in retail stores? Discover the Masterclass ‘Selling in stores’ from Storelaunchers.

Retail margin

When deciding on the price you want your customers to pay for your products, you have to take into account the retail margin. When you sell your products to a retail store, they will charge their customers your price times 2,5 (approximately).

Here’s an example.

Brand X pays € 19 for the production of one finished sweater and sells it to the retail store for € 27,60. That means the retail store will charge its customers € 69 (€ 27,60 x 2,5). Brand X has a profit of € 8,60 per sweater and the retail store has a profit of € 41,40.

Extra value of retail: Retail helps you to get your brand out on the market. It gives your brand the established added value and brings it to an audience that probably wouldn’t have found you online or in e-commerce. So even if your margins are lower in retail, it helps you to build volumes, which is good for margins and brand awareness, which in turn is good for sales.

Open a pop-up store

A pop-up store is an interesting concept for both bigger and smaller brands. You can use such a temporary shop to explore locations, increase the awareness and/or coolness of your brand.

Some of the advantages:

  • Build up relationships with your customers
  • Increase sales
  • Boost the awareness for your webshop
  • Reach a new target audience
  • Create a sense of urgency
  • Test a certain location, product or market
  • Less expensive than a traditional store

We can conclude that the pop-up store is a powerful tool for clothing brands.

open a pop-up store

3.8 Marketing

Pre-launch

Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to wait until your clothing line is launched to start with your marketing efforts. Just start right away!

You have to identify your target audience and start building a relationship with them, long before the launch of your clothing line. Launch your social media channels, share relevant content and tease your audience with behind-the-scenes posts. That way you take them on your journey, even before they can buy your products. When you launch your clothing line, you will have customers who cannot wait to buy your products!

Let’s focus on social media, it turns out that it’s an effective and cheap way to launch your fashion brand. Start building your community and get likes on your Facebook and Instagram page. Ask your friends and family to share your brand massively. Also, post samples and digital simulations online to create some buzz around your brand. Your pages have to be alive by the time your collection gets launched.
Make use of general announcements to make your fans curious, such as “We are launching in two weeks” or “Limited edition”. That way, You create a feeling of urgency and scarcity. By offering pre-orders, you can already make money during the pre-launch phase. But to convince people to pre-order something you have to give them an incentive, like a discount.

Keep in mind, this phase is the ultimate way to collect feedback from friends, family and fans. This is very important. By paying attention in this phase, you already know what works and what doesn’t before you launch your collection. Your future marketing efforts will be based on these experiences and knowledge.

Rufus and Royce shares some knowledge (An example of pre-launch selling)

Rufus and Royce is an American clothing company specialized in embroidered shorts. This brand already started selling products in the pre-launch period, using digital examples. People who already believed in the brand could pre-order their favorite products, this created buzz around the brand and proved to be very effective.

Launch

Marketing will be very important during the launch of your fashion brand. Here are some ideas to start with.

Launch your brand with a giveaway campaign, this will be great for your brand exposure. However, it’s important to approach this in a creative way because you don’t want to be the brand known for giving away free things. Another approach is to give everyone who buys something in the week of your launch the chance to win something. You can boost this on social media, which will create brand exposure.

The most important thing when launching your clothing collection: make sure that everything works!

  • Links to your site have to work
  • People have to end up on the right landing page
  • People have to be able to buy your products
  • All payment methods have to work

Find something that makes you stand out, be different from other brands. What made Rufus and Royce different wasn’t what they did but their approach. No other brand is specialized in embroidered shorts. Also, take your time to take epic pictures. When launching your collection you need impressive pictures, this will have a big impact on your sales.

Another important thing is your service. You have to create an amazing experience for your customers, right from the start. I’m talking about nice packaging, excellent customer guidance, a nice gift…

Be true to yourself and stay realistic. Is there enough reach for a crazy launch? Or is it better to opt for a soft launch and come forward with something crazy later on?

Post launch

The fact that your brand has already launched, doesn’t mean that you can stop communicating with your audience. Keep using social media to tell people your story. At the start, you created your brand story which gives your brand a personality, don’t forget about this. Every social media post you publish has to be aligned with your brand story. Keep your audience up-to-date about your brand: What’s new? What’s happening? What are the faces behind the brand?

Storelaunchers tips & tricks

As mentioned before, it’s important to continue your communication. If you communicated with your audience every day during pre-launch and launch, then you can’t stop doing that. Also, keep an eye on your online data! If your numbers tell you that most of your audience lives in the east-side of your country, then it would be stupid to boost your marketing efforts in the west-side.
Keep maintaining your social media, website, webshop… Change your banner once in a while, update your products, add new pictures… You have to keep moving forward. If a customer visits your webshop several times in two months, it can’t always look the same. Otherwise, your visitors will get bored.

Key message: keep listening to your audience, what do your customers want?

Reading tips: Launch your marketing strategy right away!

If you are committed in starting your own clothing brand, we highly recommend the masterclass of our partner Storelaunchers: Start your own clothing brand.

Put your reading skills to the test and

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