Start your own clothing brand


Your life sucks.

You spend all your time in a job that only just pays the bills and you know that if you dropped dead right now, the company you work for could replace you within a week.

You feel small, insignificant and underachieving.

You are embarrassed telling people what you do for a living because it is just not that sexy.

We have the antidote.

Start a clothing brand and watch your sex appeal soar to new heights.

The concept is easy enough and we will teach you to paint by numbers.

  • 1. Choose your market.
  • 2. Select your base products.
  • 3. Produce your designs.
  • 4. Find a t shirt printing company, screen printer or digital printer who understands you and your needs.
  • 5. Get your samples done.
  • 6. Get your website built.
  • 7. Market your website.
  • 8. Manage your stock holding and supply.
  • 9. Refresh.
  • 10. Manage growth.
  • 1. Choose your market.
  • Birds of a feather flock together. It is one of the reasons we are successful as an organism. We form collectives and alliances and tribes and cliques. It is an evolutionary driven imperative that was required to maximise the chances of survival in a dangerous world which you can use to your advantage. By creating a product that aligns with your chosen collective.
  • In the 21st Century, humans are not collecting together for survival, they are generally collecting together for social and leisure activities. They also collect around interests.
  • Crossfit, yoga, martial arts, music, skateboarding, surfing, veganism, protest, comics, film, football…………some are big collective interests and some are smaller ones and some are real niches.
  • 2. Select your base products.
  • These days you are somewhat spoilt for choice. The blank garment/white label market has expanded to provide you with most of the T-shirts and hoodies that your brand would need, certainly to start with.
  • You can buy a hooded sweatshirt for as little as £5.60 ex vat, depending on your volumes.
  • You can buy a T-shirt for as little as £1.50 ex vat, depending on your volumes.
  • You have options for ethical garments, sports garments, ladies fashion, polo shirts, fleeces, jackets……….there are over 2000 products!!!
  • Some products are better than others from a branding perspective as they have no inside neck label or they have a label that is easy to tear out.
  • Stanley Stella and Continentel Clothing are two brands that have only a small size label in back of the neck. This makes them easier to rebrand with your woven label or a printed inside neck print.
  • 3. Produce your designs.
  • This is the tricky bit. If you are not the creative element in your business idea then you will need someone who is.
  • Designing a logo is one thing but designing ‘artwork’ for T-shirts is another and there is no guaranteed formula for success.
  • It is likely that you at least have an idea. If you are unable to convert that idea into reality yourself, then you will need to give a designer a brief.
  • You can find a massive amount of inspiration on Pinterest and you can easily create a pin board to share as your ‘moodboard’ for your designer.
  • It will also help if you know a little bit about fonts and typefaces.
  • Your designer will know all the stuff that just sounds like gobbled gook to you and will be able to create a vectored PDF with text outlines.
  • 4. Find a screen printer or digital printer who understands you and your needs.
  • Not all screen printers and embroiderers are the same.

  • The first thing you need to realise is that your average print shop is a manically busy affair with an unbelievable number of working parts.
  • Customer service and technical expertise will vary enormously from one company to the next and the internal structure of the business will determine what your experience is likely to be.
  • There are lots of very small workshops with one or 2 sales people answering the phone and then 3 or 4 people in production. Their website will rarely give a clue to their scale.
  • There are pros and cons at this scale.
  • The pros are that you often get a very personal service when the business is not at breaking point with their workload; but there is the clue to the ‘cons’. If your account manager is off sick or they are overloaded with work and deadlines, who is taking care of you?
  • A well organised business will have a CRM (customer relationship management) database with all of your info and order history so that any one of the sales team can help you with your order or re-order. Each account is different and you will need an account manager to help you through the processes.
  • Read their reviews but bare in mind that even the best company in the world cannot always get it right. Look at whether they respond to criticism and how they remedy any problems.
  • Remember that your project needs to be collaborative and that they can provide you with technical and pricing assistance but your attention is required to double check mockups and make decisions and ask questions.
  • Make sure your concept is fully formed before you place the order as changes along the way will slow the production process and cause delivery delays.
  • 5. Get your samples done.
  • Be prepared for costs at this stage.
  • Screen-printing and embroidery processes are labour intensive and take time. There is a large amount of work that needs to be done to your artwork and in the processing of your order before it can even reach the production phase.
  • Most printing and embroidery equipment is designed to run 10 or 12 items at a time so the workshop has to stop production at these volumes to do samples and this leads to lost capacity for them and costs which need to be covered.
  • Most of these costs are in the creation of your colour separations or embroidery disc. These are often referred to as ‘setup’ costs.
  • Along with these will be the cost of the garments, the labour to produce and the carriage.
  • Don’t be surprised if this amounts to anything from £50 -£200 for a single garment depending on your requirements. Most of these costs however will be removed from your actual order if it goes ahead as these setup costs do not get repeated because the screens or discs are now made.
  • 6. Get your website built.
  • This has never been easier.
  • There are ‘drag and drop’ online website building platforms like Moonfruit, Squarespace, Wix etc…that allow you to select templates that have the basic wireframe architecture and navigation already laid out for you to drop your image and text content straight into. They have online shopping and payment processing widgets that will collect payments from your website.
  • The determining factor in creating a good looking website however, does hinge on your ability to produce good looking content. Mainly photos or graphics to be precise. In my view, this is 90% of what makes a website compelling and professional looking.
  • You will need to optimise your website so that it can be found in an organic Google search and this is all done through aspects like keywords, titles, metadata, alt tags and good content to name a few. Matt Cutts is Googles ‘head of search’ so read anything he has to say. You can Google him J
  • It is unlikely in the early stages that organic searches will drive traffic to your site so you need to plan for a marketing strategy that pushes traffic to your site.
  • Easy for me to say I know, but the concept really is that easy.
  • 7. Market your website.
  • Your website is your shop. You won’t sell a single thing if no-one finds it.
  • No-one will find it unless you advertise that it exists and there are a number of ways to do this.
  • All of these cost money so think carefully and think ‘targeted’ but also understand that all marketing is experimental and speculative.
  • Some options in today’s digital world are Google ad-words, Facebook advertising, Instagram and ‘influencers’.
  • In the ‘real world’ attending events where your tribe collects is often the most effective use of time.
  • In my view you need to ‘focus’ on your audience with targeted adverts in Facebook and Instagram. You can define them by their interests, age, sex and location and define a daily budget for clicks to your website. The results are highly measurable, controllable, stoppable and changeable if you decide they are not working.
  • Also consider sending your product for free to ‘influencers’ who are thought leaders and visible to the people in your audience. For example, if you have decided that you want to start a clothing brand that appeals to people who love Muay Thai, send your T shirts out to some of the top fighters who may not have sponsorship deals and to up and coming fighters that are getting respect and traction. Have a small stand in the foyer at fight events, especially if your fighter is on the card. They all have facebook and Instagram pages and are very visible to their followers. Their posts can link to your website if you offer them an incentive. Free clothes is usually a good one.
  • 8. Manage your stock holding and supply.
  • This is usually the biggest cost and the most problematic issue for the startup.
  • You have no idea how this is going to go so you don’t want to spend a load of money on stock you might not sell. Unfortunately you are going to have to take a risk of some sort.
  • You will probably be thinking that you want to find a printer with low minimum orders and really fast turnaround and you may find one, but be prepared for a standard response when you speak to most.
  • It can take an hour for setup the production equipment to do a run of screen-printed or embroidered garments. This means that your average supplier will not want to do this for low numbers and will have min order quantities.
  • This min orders will have a high unit price because the supplier has a lot of work to do proportionally for a small order and all of their costs need to be factored into the unit prices.
  • Most screen-printers will have min orders of 10 pcs per design. Some have less, some have more.
  • If you have 1 design and if you want to offer a T shirt in this design in 2 x colours, you are going to need a min of 1 of each size in each colour.
  • There are 4 basic sizes from small to extra-large so that means you need at least 8 x T shirts.
  • If you sell those T-shirts quickly then you need to replenish your stock and that can take 10 working days with most printers.
  • So, there are a couple of problems there.
  • You are buying min orders and will pay the highest unit price making it almost impossible for you to make any money and when you get a sale on your website, your customer then needs to wait at least 10 days until they get their shirt. Not good.
  • Therefore, accept that you need to take a little bit of a risk, order 5 x of each size, maybe only offer 1 colour to start with and accept that you will probably lose money in the first few months until you get an idea of the rhythms.
  • Not many printers offer a ‘drop ship’ service where they will print your orders on demand from sales taken from your website on a fast turnaround basis.
  • You can’t keep selling the same design to the same people and trends do change.
  • Boredom…I gets to us all. You probably only have 12-24 months of life in a T-shirt design before you need new ones.
  • You might observe a standard diffusion curve with your product which is a standard academic model for innovation and product uptake with an interested audience. It is inevitable that interest will wain so plan for this.
  • Refreshing and being consistent with your marketing is also necessary. The ‘digital attention’ span for your audience is limited and needs refreshing as often as they refresh their feed. Almost.
  • They may not be ready to buy right now and you never know when they will be. Don’t forget that late night, drunken purchases by bored couch surfers is also an opportune time for your posts to go out.
  • 10. Manage growth.
  • Unless you are super lucky or happen to be a genius at spotting trends and opportunities and then executing super clever strategies to exploit them, you are going to lose money or break even at best in the first few months or first year of trading.
  • It’s OK.
  • Managing growth is largely about guessing what you can sell in the future and being able to afford the stock or have cash flow arrangements with your suppliers, ensuring your processes and supply chain are geared to fulfil while constantly communication your proposition to existing customers and new prospects to secure new business.
  • It will turn into a full time job.
  • Cash-flow is often the biggest killer of start-ups.
  • No screen-printer or embroiderer will give you credit in the early days. You will need to pay for your orders 100% up front until you can develop a working relationship and some trust or they get you to complete a credit application where you provide references.
  • It is common knowledge that start-ups are a risk for credit so don’t be surprised if you get rejected for credit or if you only get a small amount. It’s not personal, it’s business.
  • If you are only just breaking even in the first few months/year this will almost certainly be down to your inability to take advantage of the economies of scale by making larger orders with your suppliers and getting the cheaper unit prices.
  • If you are making profits in the early days, these are going to be needed to help develop your business further. Marketing, stock, website all cost money.
  • At some point it is all going to be too much work for you and you will need to employ some help. You will be an employer, a boss.
  • Your empire building has begun.
  • You are self-made.
  • Standby!
  • Go!
  • Hold fast!
  • Author: Arron Harnden.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *