If you’d like to start a clothing line with no experience, this post will help you.
Over the past few months, we’ve literally received hundreds of questions from new brands who want to learn how to start a clothing line with no experience. We’ve received questions that range from starting a brand to starting a clothing business to starting an online clothing store.
These are actual client questions we’ve received. Have you ever asked any of these questions before?
- What is the first step when producing my own clothing line?
- I have the idea for a new swimwear and activewear line but how do I get started?
- How do I start a garment importing business in Europe?
- I want to start an online sock company, where do I start?
- How can I start a high-end clothing line and how do I select my brand?
- How is a new clothing line created from design, manufacturing, to shop floor?
- I am wanting to start a clothing company similar to Ralph Lauren, where the heck do I start?
Questions regarding branding increases the scope of the main post topic which involves your overall marketing strategy. This is an entirely large topic on its own. So in the interest of brevity and relevance, we’ll only be discussing the activities and actions required to start a clothing line with no experience.
How to Start a Clothing Line With No Experience
Even at this early stage, it’s recommended to begin creating something called a customer profile or a buyer persona. This will help you to develop a clear understanding about your target customers, of their desires and lifestyle choices. Understanding who your customers are, what their interests are, how they live and dress, will help your business connect with them better.
We were going to outline more regarding this topic, but the lovely folks at Shopify had already written a much more comprehensive report on this. So if you’d like to learn more about creating buyer persona’s for better marketing, then click this link: How to Build Buyer Personas for Better Marketing.
And if you’re also interested to learn more about properly developing a corporate and brand identity, then this excellent in-depth report by the marketing specialists at HubSpot is perfect; click this link: The Marketer’s Guide to Developing a Strong Corporate and Brand Identity.
Oftentimes, and incorrectly, new designers assume that manufacturers are all too eager to spend their time designing their clothing for them. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Manufacturers are interested to produce as many garments and as quickly as possible in order to move through new productions in a seamless transition. Time is money in the manufacturing world, and they expect that brands will already know what they need to produce.
Manufacturers often express their irritation when designers consume hours of a managers or a sample-makers time labouring over minute design details – which should have been clearly agreed before pattern-making began. In reality, the responsibility for producing your clothing designs rests firmly on your shoulders.
This is why its essential to always start your designs by including all the details of your clothing into something called a Tech Pack (or spec sheet). Tech packs are the blue prints for your clothing, and tech packs are what manufacturers use in order to calculate your production quotes. This is the internationally recognised and accepted method for communicating your designs to manufacturers.
In this post, we’re outlining how to start a clothing line with no experience. So, does this mean you need experience to create tech packs? No.
All you need to know about creating tech packs are in the following points. There is a free downloadable eBook on our website’s home page that will help you get started. Or you can visit the Design Tech Packs page of our website for more.
- Manufacturers are looking for a single document that highlights all the information about a single article of clothing. Each new garment should have its own tech pack. A bikini set would be in one tech pack but a t-shirt and shorts would be in two separate tech packs.
- A tech pack must show images of the front and back of each piece from a straight on angle. Creative sketches are not useful here. The manufacturer just wants to understand what you’re producing and wants to clearly see all the details.
- Probably the most important aspect of your clothing is the fabric. You may not know exactly what fabrics provide the best performance, but you should at least have some idea of what kinds of fabrics you want your customers to be wearing. Its easy to go on Google, visit online shops with clothing similar to yours, and check out what fabrics they use. Manufacturers can always provide recommendations along the way but first we need to know what you envisioned.
- With fabrics come fabric colours. In the clothing manufacturing world, we use Pantone’s colour codes as a standard. Just visit Pantone’s website, go to the colour-finder tool, and play around with the colour palette to get your colour codes. Put them in your tech packs.
- The front and back images should also have the seam-to-seam measurements highlighted clearly on them. The best thing to do is to draw seam lines on a garment’s image itself, give it a letter (eg: A, B, C, etc.), and provide the measurement for that seam in some sort of chart so we can see which measurement matches which seam. Now tell us which size these measurements are for. To see examples of acceptable ways to do this by clicking this link – click here.
- What if your clothing has materials such as buttons or zippers? No problem. Go on Google, find images of the materials you’re looking for, include them with your tech packs, and highlight how and where they are to be utilised. There can be loads of possibilities so don’t be overwhelmed. Just provide an idea of what you’re looking for, your manufacturer should be able to help you make the best decision.
- Finally, manufacturers need to see your artwork in case you want to print or embroider anything on your clothing. There are costs to creating screens for printing, or programming fees for setting up embroidery machines, and costs for embellishing clothing can vary greatly from one manufacturer and method to another.
- A final bonus for us is when clients actually provide tech packs for their custom labels and swing tags. You don’t need this in your tech packs, but if you have these early on, you can immediately start receiving quotes that include this additional cost.
Here is an example of CMA’s downloadable tech packs. This is a tech pack for a t-shirt but the points above and the format in this image applies to all clothing. Click the image to enlarge.
Does this mean you’ll be on your own when you first venture into clothing design? No.
For example, when working with Clothing Manufacturers Asia, our Production Managers already provide feedback and recommendations that can save you a lot of time and money in miscommunications with factories in foreign countries.
There are services out there that will design tech packs with you for a fee. Some manufacturers offer design services for an additional fee. Alternatively, we recommend working with design interns who are looking for experience and exposure to working with clothing brands.
Possibly one of the toughest hurdles when you’re trying to start a clothing line with no experience is finding the right manufacturers. This is actually why we started CMA in the first place; to help designers to produce their own clothing ethically without having to do all the arduous research and sourcing.
Helping designers and retailers to ethically produce clothing is fantastic and we get a thrill from doing what we do. But nothing depletes our batteries like when we receive enquiries that start with “I want to make cheap but quality…” Stop right there!
Providing quality clothing through unbeatable service should be the main focus of all clothing businesses. The words cheap and quality should never be used in the same sentence when discussing your clothing production! Start with quality from the onset, your customers will appreciate it – and pay you for it.
It’s paramount to conduct extensive research when considering your manufacturing partner. Although there are more and more ethical manufacturers popping up around the world, the industry has a long way to go to atone for its sins.
In another post, we highlight that just on Alibaba alone when you search the category of “Apparel”, you are faced with over 7,000,000 listings. Can you say needle-in-a-hay-stack?!
When you source the right manufacturer or clothing manufacturing agency, you’ll know. They’ll be professional, courteous, service-oriented, informative and helpful, trustworthy, clear about their process, experienced, transparent about their fees and payments/billing process, can aggressively protect your intellectual property rights, and have a phone number where you can reach a real decision-maker.
Even seasoned designers and established retailers produce samples before they move into mass production of a new clothing line. Whether you’re producing 30 pieces or 300,000 pieces, allotting a good amount of time for the sampling phase is key to correctly producing your clothing line with quality.
This is also the time when you can test the printing quality with print strike-offs, test embroidery, test fabric options, test design elements, test materials options, and more.
If you have them, then it’s ok to send your patterns from the beginning but this will only be useful once the sampling begins. It is however, not useful when asking for quotes – it’s like asking the manufacturer to complete a jigsaw puzzle before making their calculations.
Oftentimes, we are asked whether physical samples can be sent in order to replicate from, to create new samples. The short answer is, yes this is ok, barring certain legalities. But tech packs would need to be sent to your agency/manufacturer along with your samples in order to highlight your specific alteration instructions.
Like some of our clients that offer a wide range of garments, you may end up working with more than one manufacturer or maybe from more than one country, which means it can take a little time to finalise various samples from multiple locations. Get started early, and give the sampling process the time it needs.
It’s important to note that the sampling phase is also the perfect time to correctly organise your supply chain. Sometimes it can take more than one sampling run to perfect your clothing so, take your time, get everything right, then when you’re really happy with the results, move into mass production.
Making your samples can be exciting. You’re witnessing the creation of your art through clothing. But what happens next? What do you need to know and do now?
If you have chosen your manufacturing partner well, then this next transition from samples into mass production should be smooth. The only thing your agency / manufacturer will need to notify you about is something called a Lead Time and what your production timeframes are.
But this doesnt mean that all your other activity needs to stop. The benefit of working with an agency like Clothing Manufacturers Asia versus a factory is that we do not have a cue or wait times for our activities. We can continue to source for and project manage your production during the lead times.
Production timeframes are entirely dependent on the complexity of your clothing’s designs and the number of pieces you’re producing. And of course there may be the possibility of some rejections as the QC (quality control) process catches pieces that do not meet the expected quality or finish.
Your agency/manufacturer should be able to provide packaging and labelling in-house or have the right contacts to connect your production to.
Just to reiterate that it would be an awesome bonus to your manufacturer *wink*wink* to have tech packs prepared for your labels and tags, as well as your clothing. There are some standard designs in the industry for things like clothing care labels, but swing tags can vary greatly. Generally most options are possible if you have solid suppliers lined up.
Keep in mind that if you’re looking to produce woven labels or screen print washing instructions on your clothes, this is considered an additional production activity and it may require an additional amount of embroidery or printing. This will impact your production costs.
- If you want to know how to start a clothing line with no experience, this is the best blog post in the world. You’ll love it so much you’ll just want to share it with everyone you know!
- The first thing to do is to identify and articulate what your brand stands for, and what your brand message is, in order to attract your intended audience.
- Create buyer persona’s so you can better understand your specific customers’ desires and wishes. This will be part of your overall marketing strategy as well, so its very important.
- Get your styles and designs figured out before you connect with manufacturers. Prepare proper tech packs so that manufacturers can provide accurate quotes for you. Be prepared. Tech Packs = Accurate Information.
- Finding the right manufacturer is paramount. Using an agency may be the ticket to effortlessly start a clothing line with no experience and avoid getting cheated. Do your research.
- When you’ve found the right manufacturing partner, immediately start your pattern-making and samples productions. Things can take longer than you expect. It’s the perfect time to assess your designs, and your partners.
- Once the samples look good to you, provide approvals so your production team can get started right away. There are lead times which means you need to wait in the cue until your production can begin.
Get ready to sell!
- Your agency/manufacturer should be conducting regular quality control checks throughout your production to ensure that you receive quality clothing during each order.
- By properly selecting your labels, tags, and packaging, you can ensure that you’re ready to start selling as soon as you receive your stock.
We wish all new and budding designers the best of luck when you start a clothing line with no experience. We hope this post has been helpful for you