Ever wondered how to start a clothing line? There are so many opportunities when it comes to selling apparel online. People always need clothes, and fashion trends constantly change—there’s always something to sell and someone to sell it to.
But with that opportunity also comes lots of competition. So when you’re figuring out how to start your clothing business, it’s important to find ways to stick out in a saturated market. That’s why we outlined a methodical approach to starting your clothing business.
How to start a clothing business
1. Do market research
When you first get started, it’s a good idea to get acclimated to the industry and its current state. What’s the current landscape for selling apparel online? Market research will tell you who’s selling, who’s buying, and why—along with other insights that can inform your approach to your clothing business. Here are some resources for conducting market research:
- Calculating Market Demand: How to Find Product Ideas Your Customers Want
- How to Conduct a Competitive Analysis for Your Business (Plus a Free Template)
- The State of the Ecommerce Fashion Industry: Statistics, Trends & Strategy
2. Choose a clothing product to sell
You might launch with one special clothing product, like t-shirts, or choose to create a whole collection for your debut, possibly niching into a category selling vintage clothing or an online boutique. Regardless of your approach, it’s a good idea to find the best product idea that will resonate with your target customer. But choosing which clothing product(s) to sell is about more than creating something people like—it also has to be compelling enough to make people want to buy.
- Video: How to Validate Your Product Ideas
- 100 T-Shirts: A Different Way to Validate Your Business Idea
- 12 Trending Products to Sell in 2021 (and Ideas for How to Market Them)
- Find a Product to Sell: 12 Strategies for Finding Your First Profitable Product
- Product Ideas: 17 Places to Find Profitable Products (2021)
3. Choose a business model
There are a few different business models you can use for your clothing business, each with its own benefits and challenges.
Print on demand
The print-on-demand business model is when you outsource the manufacturing and order fulfillment to a third-party service. You create a printable design, and the print-on-demand company will put that design onto your clothing product and then ship it out to your customer each time an order is placed. Though it typically has smaller profit margins than other clothing business models, print on demand doesn’t require inventory investment, so it’s low risk. Here are some more resources to help you learn about going the print-on-demand route for your clothing business:
- 21 Free T-Shirt Mockups and PSD Templates (2021 Update)
- Top 10 Print on Demand Companies (and How to Pick One) (2021)
- 10 Best Print-on-Demand Products to Sell [2021 Data]
- Her LGBTQ+ Lifestyle Brand was Inspired by a Dog
Dropshipping is another outsourced option. Essentially, you promote and sell products on your website, but a third-party dropshipper holds the stock and handles order fulfillment on your behalf. It’s similar to the print-on-demand business model, but dropshipping doesn’t require any printing. Learn more about dropshipping with these resources:
- The Ultimate Guide to Dropshipping
- How to Start a Dropshipping Business (2021 Playbook)
- Where to Find the Best Dropshipping Suppliers in 2021
- 10 Essential Dropshipping Business Tips for Beginners (2021)
- How to Find a Lucrative Dropshipping Niche for Your Business
For a more hands-on approach to your clothing business, you can also create your apparel by hand. You might have the sewing skills needed to start from scratch, or you can hire a professional designer to help. Browse Shopify Experts to find inspiring and creative professionals who can bring your vision to life.
- How To Source Fabric For Your Clothing Line
- The 7-Step Product Development Process [Explainer] (2021)
If you still want control over your product but you don’t have the ability to physically create the apparel yourself, you can work directly with manufacturers to bring your clothing designs to life. Working with a manufacturer is especially helpful if you have growth goals—it can be difficult or even impossible to keep up with growing demand if you make every piece by hand. However, it’s important to communicate growth goals with suppliers so you know they can handle it too.
- Top 13 Product Sourcing Apps for Finding Products to Sell on Shopify (2021)
- How to Find a Manufacturer or Supplier for Your Product Idea
4. Write a business plan
Your business plan serves as a roadmap for your clothing brand. It’s helpful for identifying goals for where you want to go in your business, potential challenges and roadblocks you might encounter along the way, and the resources you need to make it all happen. The business plan is helpful not only for yourself, but also for your team, partners, investors, and lenders, now and down the road.
- How to Write a Business Plan You’ll Actually Use (2021)
- Business Plan Template for Entrepreneurs (2021 Blueprint)
Free: Business Plan Template
Business planning is often used to secure funding, but plenty of business owners find writing a plan valuable, even if they never work with an investor. That’s why we put together a free business plan template to help you get started.
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5. Set up your business
There are a few steps to take before your business is “legit.”
Choose your clothing business name
Your business name is the first thing most people will hear when they learn about your clothing business. It’s important to make your name impactful—and that means different things for different brands. You might want to be super straightforward or have fun with something less literal and more creative. The Outrage and Phenomenal are two t-shirt brands that support social issues, for example. Their names make a nod back to their customers—people who are outraged at issues, and phenomenal women who take stands. That’s just one direction to take your clothing business. There are so many ways to get creative in choosing your name.
- Business Name Generator—Free Company Name Generator
- How to Start Your Own Brand From Scratch in 7 Steps
- Stuck on a Name? Here’s How to Choose a Memorable Domain Name Without Breaking the Bank
- Register your t-shirt business domain name
Create a logo
Your logo is a visual representation of your clothing company. And while you technically can shell out a bunch of money hiring a designer to do it for you, many clothing companies launch with a logo they’ve designed themselves. Our Hatchful logo creator is one tool you can use to play around with fonts, colors, and graphics. You can also use it to create your own logo ideas that you share with a hired professional as direction when you’re ready to invest.
- The Top 10 Paid and Free Logo Makers Online in 2021
- How to Design a Memorable Logo in 7 Steps (We Make One From Scratch)
Build your store
You’ve got the brand and the clothes, now you need a place to share it with the world: your website! Building an online store may be intimidating, but you can set up your own online store using customizable themes and templates on Shopify using their best in class website builder —no coding necessary.
- How to Build a Website From Scratch: A 9-Step Quickstart Guide for Beginners
- How to Start an Online Store (Watch Us Build One) (2021)
- The 8 Best Website Builders for Businesses [Ranked] (2021)
Choose your sales channels
When you sell your clothes online, you can sell them directly from your website. You can also add other sales channels to reach more shoppers on more platforms. Other sales channels may include online marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy, wholesale, retail stores, social media, and more. It’s all about finding out which channels your customers use.
- Find New Customers Faster with Shopify Sales Channels
- Reach the right shoppers at the right time with Shopify's Google channel
- Etsy and Shopify: How Three Makers Used Both to Grow Their Businesses
- Fashion and the Rise of Social Selling: Multi-Channel Strategies from Top Brands
- Connecting eBay to Your Shopify Account—Sell
6. Set up your logistics
Shipping and fulfillment are arguably both the least exciting and most important part of any online business. These logistics determine how products get to their final destination—the customer’s intended address. And there’s more to order fulfillment than shipping—you need to nail picking, packing, and shipping and ensure a consistent, positive customer experience every step of the way.
- Beginner's Guide to Fulfillment Services [Explainer] (2021)
- 10 Common Shipping Problems and How to Address Them Head-On (2021)
- The Beginner's Guide to Ecommerce Shipping and Fulfillment (2021)
- Dropshipping Fulfillment: Understanding The Supply Chain (2021)
- A Brief Guide to Shopify's Shipping Services (2021)
Free Guide: Shipping and Fulfillment 101
From deciding what to charge your customers, to figuring out insurance and tracking, this comprehensive guide will walk you step-by-step through the entire process
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7. Prepare to launch your business
Now that you have a roadmap to success and the building blocks to get you there, it’s time to wrap up all the loose ends and get ready for launch. There are a few steps you’ll want to take before pushing your online store live and opening it for orders.
8. Create and execute a marketing plan
Once your online store is running smoothly, you can focus your efforts on driving traffic to your website. Marketing your store requires research, strategy, planning, creative execution, and data analysis to see the results of your efforts.
- The 3-Step Guide to Building Effective Marketing Plans
- 11 Latest Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Business (2021)
- How to Build an Email List that Builds Your Ecommerce Business
- Clothing Photography 101: Take Beautiful Apparel Photos (2021)
9. Test, learn, and iterate
The beauty of starting your own business is you can evolve it as you go—even more quickly when you’re primarily online. Run some tests to learn more about what’s working and what’s not so you can optimize your store and campaigns for more sales.
- How to Find and Plug the Leaks in Your Conversion Funnels—Conversion (2021)
- 9 Google Analytics Custom Reports by the Experts (and How to Use Them)
- The Complete Guide to A/B Testing: Expert Tips from Google, HubSpot and More
- The Scientific Way to Generate and Test Business Ideas
- Product Line Extensions: How to Test Them Before Investing in Inventory
- Make Better Fulfillment Decisions With Order Analytics
Launch your clothing business on Shopify
Sell designer apparel, vintage finds, and everything in between on your Shopify store. With helpful resources, intuitive tools, and a dedicated customer support team, you’ll have support every step of the way.
Illustration by Pete Ryan