How to start your own clothing brand
To private label or not? That is the question.
Many clothing boutique and online store owners ponder this. They're on the pulse of the market, know exactly what styles sell in what colors and sizes. They carry famous brands because consumers want brands. They know their customers, they ask themselves what would happen if shoppers have a choice between a famous brand and an unknown one, same fit, same quality but cheaper? What if the small brand was their own store's micro brand?
Let's look at the pros and cons of starting a private label clothing line.
Own private label brand
Same quality and fits as big brands
Flexibility and control
Not a well known brand
Little or no experience in apparel manufacturing
High startup costs
Keep reading if we had you at lower retail and better margins...
So how do you go about doing it?
Some fashion brands literally spend hundreds of thousands a year designing new clothing lines. They have large designer teams and expensive sample rooms. Being at the leading edge of fashion is one thing; most people however are looking to start with 2 or 3 bodies in a few colors or washes. These kind of clothing lines can be made for hundreds, not tens of thousands. There is no need for designers or sourcing departments. The key is knowing what you want to manufacture. If as in the above example of a boutique or online store, the task is a little tedious but straightforward. To break it down step by step:
Determine exactly the styles, colors and sizes you want to make.
Obtain existing garments with the fit you are looking for.
Get a pattern maker service to scan those garments and make patterns.
Find a trim supplier and get a trim package going.
Have a sample making service make your samples.
Search for a cut and sew clothing factory whos MOQ (min. order) is lower than your quantity.
There are companies online offering these services for any garment type. It's best to choose companies in a city that is known for making the garment type you are looking for. So if jeans in the USA for example, Los Angeles would be the city of choice. With a little refinement, your online search will bring your to find that city.
Most pattern makers and full package factories can work from a picture, drawing or sketch.
There isn't a need for a fashion designer unless you are manufacturing something very particular. If step #2 is a challenge, a picture or even a drawing is enough in most cases. Pattern makers and sample room technicians are trained to understand what designers are looking for and turn their ideas into actual garments. Even if the photo is of a similar garment to base themselves on, they should be able to make exactly what you have in mind. If your design is based on an existing style, give them a sample instead of a picture.
Wondering about the fabric? There is no need to worry about it; if you clearly describe what you want to the sample making service they will find the right fabric. The factory may then either source that exact fabric or select one that is really close from their inventory.
Whoever makes the first sample will also issue a spec-sheet. The specsheet is crucial for the factory making the clothing to produce more accurately.
An even simpler way is to look for factories that offer full package garment production. Many subcontractors have their own design, tech and pre-production departments. They offer full service production that includes sample making. These companies can take your designs, make samples, develop your trim and produce your garments. Finding the right contractor to do that is crucial, the best way is to search online for reputable companies that specialise in the type of garment that is being made. We used to recommend going to visit factories, however since there are dangerous viruses going around sometimes, it may be best to talk to them on the phone and make arrangements to have a sample made. Then it's easy to see the quality of production.
In a rush?
However simple, clothing manufacturing takes time. First samples take 2 to 8 weeks, production usually 4 to 6 weeks and all the time in between for approvals and corrections. Someone who needs to move fast should keep things as simple as possible and give as much detail as possible to the people making the garments. Good communication saves time. Another thing to do, for those who don't already have, is to start the trim package development right a way. Trim can be developed at the same time as the clothing. Since for most garments factories only need the branded trim at a later stage and trim development can take up to 10 weeks, it's a wise choice to start as soon as possible.
Not sure what trim is needed for your garments? Ask the pattern maker you selected, not only should they know, they should also be able to refer a few trim companies to work with.