The garments business might be easy to break into, but it’s not easy to succeed. Out of all the clothing business opportunities that exist, a whopping 53% of clothing lines will fold after four years. The competition is fierce, but if you play your cards right, you can have success.
If you want to jump into the garments business, you'll need a solid clothing company business model and some killer marketing.
Pick Your Garments
There are a lot of clothing business opportunities out there, but you can’t start an actual garments business unless you figure out what you want to sell. Nailing down a product line is the first step. Perhaps you want to focus on lingerie and loungewear. Maybe you want to jump into the world of custom denim. You may want to launch a t-shirt line, which has a notoriously low bar of entry because there are very few startup costs.
Whichever type clothing company business model you decide to go with, make sure you’ve got a unique angle. You’re competing with the likes of major designers and fast-fashion brands that can drive down costs by manufacturing their products overseas. That being said, customers don’t mind splurging on high quality, unique goods. Just make sure your clothing line is worth it.
Find Your Suppliers
Suppliers are the bread and butter of a garments business, but this requires some research. You can go about it in two ways: either find a manufacturer to create your garments or find wholesale suppliers to sell you your product line.
Brands like Forever 21 and Nordstrom have buyers who pick their product line after going to trade shows and meeting with suppliers and designers. You’ll have to fill this role on your own. Start by researching wholesale suppliers online or looking at popular wholesale distributors like Alibaba. Remember: foreign online wholesalers have notoriously cheap goods. This isn’t necessarily a good thing for your brand unless you’re in the fast-fashion space where people want to buy cheap trendy items that they can throw out at the end of the season.
If you want to offer a higher-end product, you should reach out to some of your favorite indie designers. These designers often sell designs at wholesale prices to boutiques and e-commerce stores.
Consider Manufacturing Your Own Goods
Depending on your clothing company business model, you might want to manufacture your own goods. This, again, takes a lot of research. It would be wise to reach out to someone in the garments business for advice, but you can also research it online. If you get your goods manufactured outside of the United States — as brands like Topshop and H&M do — you’ll be able to keep costs down. If you’re starting small with only a couple designs, you’re probably best off working with a small manufacturer in the states.
Handle the Business End of Things
This is the part all businesses need to follow — it’s not just unique to the clothing industry. You’ll need to apply for a business license and decide your tax structure. You’ll need to get the proper insurances (usually, general liability if you have a physical location that employees or customers visit) and you’ll need to either take out a business loan or find the funding elsewhere. Thankfully, you can launch a small, home-based clothing line for as little as $1,000.
Choose Your Sales Method
There are a lot of clothing business opportunities out there. You need to decide how you’re going to sell your garments. Maybe you want to open a brick and mortar store. Maybe you want to be a designer who sells things on their e-commerce website while providing wholesale garments to department stores. You can even start by launching an Etsy or eBay account and expand later.
Most people don’t know it, but the massively successful women’s clothing brand Nasty Gal was once a small eBay shop that sold vintage garments. They later expanded to manufacturing their own clothing lines, landed a Netflix series based on the founder and eventually sold to the UK-based fast-fashion brand Boohoo.
Market Your Line
Once you know how you’re garments business is going to turn a profit, you need to execute a great marketing plan. What works for a lot of clothing brands is to start on Instagram and launch an influencer marketing campaign. This means you’ll give highly followed social media users free swag (or some cash) in exchange for a post about your garments business. It’s a grass-roots effort, but it has results.
Mariel Loveland is a small business owner, content strategist and writer from New Jersey. Throughout her career, she's worked with numerous startups creating content to help small business owners bridge the gap between technology and sales. Her work has been featured in publications like Business Insider and Vice.