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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Here are some tips that may help some of you starting a clothing brand.

1. Do research. Tons of it! Figure out your target market and your competitors, and read everything you can and soak all of the information you can. You'll probably only remember 25% of what you read, but that is 25% more then you knew before. Now with the internet, free information is in front of your finger-tips.

2. If you're not a designer, but have ideas, try looking for a freelancer designer. A skilled freelance designer should be able to take your sketch or idea and create your vision. Although hourly/project rates are important to look at, one major aspect that is commonly missed is the designers communication skills.

3. Focus on branding. Longevity of a brand consists of customer loyalty. Believe it or not, it's not all about how cool your design is. Choose a theme or style for your brand and stick with it.

4. When looking for a manufacturer or screen printer, be honest and realistic. (before you contact a printer, make sure you have a good idea of what you want & what you need).

5. Although freshly starting brands are afraid to print more than 1-2 designs to start with, if you have the capital, try to print at least 5 different designs. Imagine this from a customers stand point...A customer may "enter" your store whether it is your website or a physical retail, and there they see 1 single design stacked on a table.
This doesn't show much confidence and may turn the buyer off. I see this happening a lot with newer brands that launch a website with only a couple of designs. Remember, visitors take a glance at your website for about 5 seconds before they decide if they want to stay longer.

6. Re-invest your profits into more designs and more shirts. This part should be placed into your business plan. This simple part of business is over-looked by start ups.

7. Patience is key when starting a clothing brand.

8. Figure out a marketing plan. Don't figure since you have great designs that customers will seek you out. It's Vice Versa! You need to keep plugging away and reach the consumer. Put it in front of their face day in and day out. Once again, be patient, it could take awhile. One important thing: Talk, Talk & Talk. Simply talking about your brand can stir up interest.

This is not a complete list, and there is much more to this industry. Some can be explained, some just have to be experienced. I will add more things as they come along. If you have more tips to add to this list, please do so! :)
 

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Excellent thread!.. And one I'll be keeping an eye on.

Number 3, choosing a theme. An idea I strongly agree too.
My thoughts are that once a theme is found, you should work hard to find a market/group/organization of people and market your self.
Be true and honest with these people. So you can learn what they are/ would be looking for in such a New label.

Dan
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
A couple more things that came to mind today:

1. Don't focus too much on making money. A lot of start up brands start to put all of their effort into turning a profit. Once they start doing this, they lose focus on their brand. Money is always great, but it's not everything.

2. Don't copy. Okay, okay everyone is "influenced" by another artist or designer right? There is nothing wrong with that as long as it is INFLUENCED, but don't take it overboard. Never will there be a 100% original design (intentional or not). Put your own style into your clothing and make it something you would wear and be proud of.

3. Don't sweat the big stuff. What do I mean by that? For instance, if you cannot afford to make custom hoodie pulleys, DON'T! If you cannot afford custom packaging, DON'T! That can come later, if you try everything the larger companies are doing, you will be broke.

4. If you are designing on your own with a vector/bitmap program, you should consider purchasing a pen tablet. It will allow you to create different pen strokes and pressures and is a more natural tool then using a regular computer mouse.
 

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1. Don't focus too much on making money. A lot of start up brands start to put all of their effort into turning a profit. Once they start doing this, they lose focus on their brand. Money is always great, but it's not everything.
Not becoming profitable is the quickest way to go out of business.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Not becoming profitable is the quickest way to go out of business.
Very true, but I am seeing every clothing brand trying to be the next millionaire overnight. They naturally begin to focus all of their energy on money which can also lead to business failure.

Money is always great, but spread your energy evenly.

1. Attend tradeshows. To name a few of the largest would be MAGIC, POOL, & PROJECT. These shows feature major retail lines as well as independent lines. It also allows you to view future trends that might take place. If you cannot afford to attend all three, I at least suggest visiting Magic Marketplace which will be the most "general" fashion trade show. Magic Marketplace also features a Sourcing section, which allows you to connect with fabric sources, embellishment sources which are located in the U.S. or overseas.

2. The toughest part of a clothing line is probably being recognized by major retailers (if this is your goal). Remember, the decision maker of products that fill retails stores are the BUYERS. Having experience with buyers, the major thing they are looking for when doing their job is looking for things that will obviously SELL! But if you land a major retailer, and they order 1,000 pieces per store, just think about it!

3. Buyers.........Buyers are great people. But that is not to say all of them are the most honest. When pitching your line to buyers, be aware that they may "take" your idea and have a line they already carry copy your idea. And guess what? The next season you might see a similar idea you had, end up on store shelves. Fair? NO. Does it happen? YES.

4. This one continues from #3 about buyers. Although you should keep in mind about the risks of showing your line, you cannot sell your line if you don't show it! Don't be too paranoid about your designs being stolen. Take steps that will help you, such as copyrighting your designs, perhaps trademarking your brand. But do not place "COPYRIGHT COPYRIGHT COPYRIGHT" all over your line sheet! Maybe one small "copyright" disclaimer on the bottom right corner will do.

5. Getting big too fast may not be as great as you think. I've seen brands growing too fast where they cannot fufill their orders on time. Retailers are a major pain when it comes to deadlines. When they say they need it by 12.4.08, they want it earlier or at 11:59pm on 12.3.08! If you don't get it to them on time, they can return it!

6. Always think ahead. If you are just starting out, don't design for this season. Look ahead and design for next season, or the season after. Retailers buy according to the following season.

7. Approach retailers or boutiques early. Buyers have specific budgets, and if you come too late, they won't have any money left for you!

Also check out the above members link to howtostartaclothingcompany.com, great information and a lot of start up brands in there to check out.
 

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These threads are very helpful, though I have a question...Would you recommend trademarking the brand name asap or wait till you registure a business name for tax purposes?

My reason for this question is because I believe I should just trademark the name that I want my line to be called because I want to have some fashion shows to promote the line though I'm not really prepared to jump into selling yet, also others said trademarking my name isn't as big of a deal as I'm making it...though I want to build a strong brand.
 

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6. Always think ahead. If you are just starting out, don't design for this season. Look ahead and design for next season, or the season after. Retailers buy according to the following season.
I have seen varying dates, what is the industry standard for each seasons start/end date?
 

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I would also add that you should have fun doing it. don't look at it as work or as a way to make a quick buck. everyone recycles the same ideas over and over again, the key is to do your own thing rather than doing what the other guy is doing. come up with a theme or just go with stuff you'd personally wear. if there's one thing i've noticed with t-shirts (brand or no brand) is that there's a lot of crap out there and people will buy it no matter what, because we're all pesky consumers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I have seen varying dates, what is the industry standard for each seasons start/end date?
That's correct, you will see a wide range of dates depending on the retailer. Small boutiques are even harder to guage because they are on their own timeline which could depend on their cashflow and financials.

A general rule would be 3 months before the actual date of each season - up to 6 months before the actual date of each season.

A reminder: If you plan to become a vendor of a retailer, always be sure to ask for clear requirements on their finishing choices. They may require you to apply their hangtags on a certain location, fold them a certain way, box and label them a certain way, UPC barcodes, etc.

Also plan ahead...if you plan to design for Spring 09, you should already have designs for it and be getting prepared to approach retailers at this point. This way you allow plenty of time for print or cut&sew production.
 

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Great post. Number #3 resonates hard with me and something I look back on often. Stick to your brand or identity...whatever your dream for the company my be. It's your vision and sometimes just making a buck isn't worth it. I had a big box retailer interested in a 10,000 unit test order, but with what they wanted to price the tees, I thought it would cheapen the brand. Its easlier to go down in price and offer sales or close-out pricing than go up from an initial low price point. Stick to your instincts and work hard at making your identity yours.
 

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I am a printer not a marketer. What I mean is that I think that you can only be good at one thing. If I spend time selling shirts I won't have time to print them and vise versa. I know that there are companies that do both well. I am not large enough to do that. I am the best in my area at printing but not the best at selling. I have gotten orders because of the quality and service I provide and lost orders because I am not a good sales person. My input is to be good at one thing and let someone else who is good at the other do the other. You know build a better mouse trap thing. If you are a printer get someone to market the tees, if your a good sales person get someone to print them.
Good luck to all in what ever you do.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I am a printer not a marketer. What I mean is that I think that you can only be good at one thing. If I spend time selling shirts I won't have time to print them and vise versa. I know that there are companies that do both well. I am not large enough to do that. I am the best in my area at printing but not the best at selling. I have gotten orders because of the quality and service I provide and lost orders because I am not a good sales person. My input is to be good at one thing and let someone else who is good at the other do the other. You know build a better mouse trap thing. If you are a printer get someone to market the tees, if your a good sales person get someone to print them.
Good luck to all in what ever you do.
That's a very good point. I agree that you should let the experts do there thing so that you leave enough energy and focus into marketing. (Marketing is what generates sales).
 

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One thing has been hinted at here, but I think it should be emphasized: You should have something that makes you different, and should be able to describe it in a single sentence. In addition to running my shop, my day job is reading scripts for movie studios. In Hollywood, they call that something different "the unique attractor," or The Hook. "Ghostbusters" has a great hook, for example; so did "Back to the Future" and "Jaws."

So if you take a look at the different huge tee companies out there - Busted Tees, T-Shirt Hell - they've both got easy one-sentence pitches. Whether or not you like their stuff, it's hard to deny the power such a resource has for marketing and branding purposes. I always knew I wanted to have a humor tee company, for example, so I decided to do only clean humor to set myself apart. The company's called I'm a Hot Tee, and our slogan's "Hot Tees You Can Take Home to Mom!" So it's a pun and it's memorable - two other things that can really go a long way.

How about you guys? Do you agree about the idea of having a simple-to-pitch unique attractor?
 
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