A fun, flexible business for creatives and fashion fans, learn how to start your own clothing line with our detailed step-by-step guide.
As a new clothing brand, social media may well be instrumental to your success, helping you to cultivate your brand voice and show off what you’ve got to offer – all for free!
It’s wise to test out all social media platforms to see which get the best engagement, but you will likely find that Instagram and Pinterest work best for your clothing line as they’re image-based. For efficiency, you could consider using a social media management tool.
Be sure to regularly share high-quality, professional images of your clothing (amateurish shots won’t reflect well on your brand), and do some digging into the hashtags that are big in your genre, and with your target audience (#outfitoftheday or #ootd are good starting points!). This will make your posts easier to find.
Remember, clothing is an integral part of people’s lifestyles; so you’ll want to reflect your target customer’s lifestyle – or the lifestyle they’d like to have – in your imagery. If your clothes are for active outdoorsy types, for example, share images of them being worn out in beautiful natural surroundings.
Social media is also a great opportunity to create early brand advocates, so be engaged and respond to potential customers who get in touch with you. You might also want to play around with competitions and giveaways to boost interest in your brand.
Bloggers, vloggers and social media influencers are hugely influential in fashion. An accessible and genuine source of reviews and recommendations, fans trust what they say. So, having a big name show off your brand to their vast audience could be a turning point for you.
While the magic of bloggers is that they appear to be average consumers, the most prominent will receive hundreds, perhaps thousands of samples on a regular basis. It goes without saying that sparking their interest with yours is key.
Do some research into local bloggers and influencers and select only those who would be known to members of your target audience, and who wear the type of clothes you’re selling.
Get to know them by introducing yourself and asking if you can send something (try not to come across as salesy). Make sure it’s something you know they’ll love – you might decide to personalise it for that extra touch.
Displaying your range at fashion fairs and trade shows is an excellent way to get it in front of the buyers, influencers and press that attend these events.
Moda, for example, is one of the UK’s biggest fashion trade shows. Taking place twice a year in Birmingham, the event features seminars, workshops, catwalks, exhibitions and a networking party.
You can search for fashion events taking place around the world using Fashion United’s events calendar.
Whether you’re taking payment for your clothes through your website, in a shop or over the phone, the first thing to do if you’re selling your clothes directly is set up a merchant account. This authorises your business to accept credit or debit payments from customers. Find out more in our guide to merchant accounts.
When a payment is made, it’s processed by your merchant account – which essentially holds the money while checking the payment can be authorised; for example by checking that the customer’s account actually holds the funds needed. The money is then transferred into your business bank account.
Choosing how you’re going to sell your clothes may sound like a simple decision, but there are actually quite a few different routes that you can explore…
As explained in section six, having a professional website ready is key, and enabling people to buy your clothes through your website is an excellent way to start collecting sales.
Having shipping capabilities is important here as you’ll need to be able to professionally package and post your clothes.
Hammon suggests: “Exporting goods outside of the EU is tax exempt. It can be an option to offer free international shipping as the money saved from VAT covers the shipping fee for higher valued goods – this can open up a huge market.”
While it may be tempting to charge your customer the whole shipping cost, you’ll find that many will be put off by this. Instead, consider offering free shipping (and upping your clothes prices slightly to cover it), free shipping for purchases over a certain value, or a flat shipping rate.
Bird advises focusing your efforts on ecommerce to start with: “We’re 95% ecommerce driven. We didn’t want mass retail and I liked the direct-to-consumer approach. We can control all of our marketing output, our logistics and our customer service, which I think in the early days is so important.”
Taking payment online
To accept customer payments through your website, you will also need to integrate your site with ecommerce software. Magento, OpenCart or WordPress with WooCommerce are well-known examples.
Ecommerce software and a payment portal will enable you to add a shopping cart functionality and give customers a page where they can securely input card details.
If you’re looking to go global straight away, Hammon advises being wary of different currencies:
“I have designed our website to be user friendly for all of our international customers, as well as domestic; wherever you are in the world, when you visit the website it will recognise this and ensure you can purchase the clothes in the currency in which you operate.”
Interested in comparing card payment options? Compare quotes today
Getting your products up for sale on online fashion marketplaces – like Etsy, or fashion giant ASOS’ hub for independent brands, ASOS Marketplace – will boost your exposure across the UK.
Plus, you’ll often get business support as part of the deal. Setting up a boutique on ASOS Marketplace, for example, will cost you a monthly fee plus commission on sales – but you will receive advice on things like pricing, promotions and ways to generate more revenue from a member of the ASOS team.
Markets are an excellent place to test out your range and see how much interest it gets without commiting to something permanent. Costs to rent a pitch vary by market, but many sell casual spaces for as little as £10 per day.
Try to choose fashion-focused markets, or look into those which are popular among your target audience. You might also decide to take your stall to local and national festivals and fairs you know your target customers frequent.
Visit our comprehensive guide to starting a market stall to learn more about making a success of market trading.
Taking payment in a shop or market stall
To take payment in a shop, you’ll need an electronic point of sale (EPOS) system, which will encompass not only a cash register, but also a barcode scanner, a monitor, a receipt printer and, in some cases, a credit/debit card reader.
A key tool for small businesses, EPOS software can also help you to track stock, track sales, view your latest prices and provide a speedy customer service. You can buy EPOS software and the hardware it’s designed for (i.e. registers and scanners) separately, but often it’s more convenient and cost-effective to look into packages that include both.
You can compare retail point of sale systems here.
If your EPOS system doesn’t come with a card reader, you’ll need to buy one separately. You may find it helpful to have a look at our round-up of what we think are some of the best card machines for small businesses.
Having your clothes on sale in department shops and fashion boutiques will give your brand unprecedented exposure and will usually mean good things for revenue – while stores will pay wholesale (read, significantly reduced) prices for your clothes, it’s likely they’ll order a lot of units.
You will need a good track record of sales, plus a strong infrastructure with the capability to accept big orders and manufacture a large volume of clothes – so it’s not something to consider as soon as you’ve started.
When you are ready, it’s as simple as looking for shops that reflect your clothings’ style and retail pricing and arranging meetings with their purchasing agents (if you’re working with a PR or marketing agency, they may be able to help with this).
Get a catalogue of your clothing professionally printed and have it at the ready to show them.
Opening your own clothing shop is another route to go down – but you’ll have to spend significant capital to get it going, and you’ll have a lot more to lose if it doesn’t work out.
So, before opening a shop, you will need to build up a strong sales history by selling in any of the above capacities; develop seamless manufacturing capabilities; and drive brand awareness through effective marketing to give yourself the best chance of success.