How to Start Your Own Fashion Label

How to Start Your Own Fashion Label - Style Nine to Five

Becoming a fashion designer doesn’t have to be a forgotten childhood dream. Have you ever considered starting your own fashion label? This may seem intimidating or downright impossible, but if you’ve got design skills and the creativity to back it up, you’re already off to a good start. Here’s what you need to know to start your very own fashion label.

Build Your Brand

Before you start designing the clothes, you need a label identity – what do you want your clothing to say when people wear it? A good fashion label needs a strong, cohesive aesthetic. More than that, your label should be innovative. Ask yourself: what’s a niche that I can tap into? What’s a need in the fashion industry that is not currently being fulfilled? What’s the end goal for this brand – a premium boutique, a department store brand, or something else? What’s the demographic I want to target? The answers to all of this and more will help you identify what you want your label to look like.

In short, determine what will make your clothing stand out in a saturated market and solidify an authentic label identity. Your label’s branding will be impacted by this, too: the identity you come up with should be kept in mind when naming and marketing your label.

Get Down to Business

Now, it’s time for logistics. You need to come up with a business plan and determine a business structure. Essentially, making a business plan means you’ll be expanding upon everything you decided on previously. Write out your label’s mission and values, what products and services you’ll be providing and the void they fill in the industry. You’ll also need to research a number of factors for your business plan – consider the current market, your target audience, and the competition. Come up with sales goals and a production plan. If you’re more of a creative than a businessperson, there are plenty of business plan templates and examples just a Google search away. This is a part of the process that cannot be shrugged off – it’ll inform everything you do moving forward, and most likely require continual edits as your label grows.

While creating your business plan, you’ll also be thinking about the numbers. Not only sorting out the pricing of your clothes, but the cost of actually running the label. Will you be hiring anyone? What is the cost of materials? Try and calculate the price of everything that you’re going to need and see what you can do with the funds you’ve got. Since you’re starting from scratch and may not have enough, you also might want to start looking into investors or crowdfunding.

Some paperwork will need to be filed at this point, too. Depending on what sort of business structure you’re going for, research and see what applies to you – for instance, you may want to register your business as a sole proprietorship or a corporation.

Cut to the Creating

Now, the fun part – getting the clothes made! You might want to work with a factory, a print-on-demand facility, or hire employees to sew the clothes with you. Do a lot of research into different label models and see which one would work for your designs and your price point.

If you opt for a factory of some sort, look for a high-quality, ethical one that specializes in the clothing you wish to make. It’s best to look for a local facility so that you can visit whenever you want, perform quality control more easily, and escape excess costs like shipping. Contact the manufacturer and offer a good first impression of both yourself and your vision. You want to show that you’ll be reasonable, reliable and fully committed to your label, and offer clarity as to where your label is in its journey. Be professional, but don’t shy away from letting them know your experience in the apparel industry, your expectations, and ask for a quote so you can budget appropriately and build this into your business plan. The more transparency, the better – it’ll allow for a positive relationship with your manufacturer, and ensure that the quality of the products will reflect what you had in mind.

If you choose to hire employees, determine which positions you’ll need: definitely tailors, but do you also want a buyer to be in charge of materials? A patternmaker? Other designers? An accountant or bookkeeper? Once you decide, begin the hiring process and wait for the applications to pour in. Be clear about being at the start of your label’s journey, and ensure that applicants know exactly what they’ll be making and that they will have experience in this area.

You also have many options when it comes to fabric. You could head to local fabric stores, or look for suppliers online, as most suppliers have a catalog on their site and will allow you to request samples before committing to a purchase. If you have your own ideas for prints and colours, try reaching out to fabric mills, but be warned that this option can be tricky if you’re not familiar with textiles. If you don’t feel confident in this area, you can hire a sourcing agent – essentially, a middle-man who you can pay to work with fabric mills for you.

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Master the Marketing

Once you’ve got your label established and your designs being manufactured, there’s one more key element to having your own fashion label: you need to spread the word. Nowadays, digital marketing is the key to selling your clothes, so it’s necessary to establish yourself online whether you’re selling your clothes through a website or in a local store.

Make sure any visuals advertising your label are top-notch. Consider hiring a professional photographer, website designer, and graphic designer, and remember to keep your label’s identity consistent throughout any artistic processes.

Craft a press release or press kit and reach out to media outlets – particularly those tapped into the fashion world as well as your demographic – to try and get the word of your label’s launch out there. If you can find the right influencers, they’re also important to reach out to.

There are a lot of factors that go into creating a fashion label, but plenty have done it before and you can too. Do your research, get to work and watch your design dreams become a reality.

Need some guidance in your new creative endeavour? Ask Style Nine to Five founder, Christie Lohr, One Career Question for the expert insight you need to get started.

Emily Morrison is a media professional with passions for writing, film and popular culture.