If you have made your way to this post, we are going to believe it is safe to assume that you are interesting in launching your very first apparel brand. It is an exciting endeavor to commit yourself to, and we commend you for taking the leap. Whether you want to start an apparel brand as a creative outlet, to create a new stream of income, or to occupy some free time – you can count on it being a roller coaster filled with challenges and learning experiences. As entrepreneurs that have started several apparel businesses, we will attempt to help you avoid some of the hurdles we faced, and streamline your path to launch.
You can expect to read about identifying your brand, sourcing blank apparel, managing screen printing and embroidery, building a Shopify store, and marketing your brand.
Identifying your brand
The first step to building an apparel brand is to know what your brand is, and what it stands for. Questions you may want to ask yourself are: what is important to our brand? What are our core values? Are there specific causes that we care about? What is our mission? The answers to these questions will inform every decision you make about, whether that be about product, employees, or partners.
For example, at Soft Goods, our mission is to build a garment factory that is rooted in ethical, transparent, and premium goods & services. This one sentence informs every decision we make. Should we offer above or below industry average wages? Above. If we’re late on a job, do we make an excuse or tell the truth? Tell the truth. Can we cut corners and save money by using a cheaper, lower quality fabric? No. Our mission makes it easy to answer questions about our employees, management style, and product. Find your mission.
Sourcing blank apparel
Once you lay the foundation for your brand, you can begin thinking about how that translates to physical product. Is it more important to be premium or accessible? Do we need tons of color options or just the basics? Pigment dye or reactive dye? Are we ok with our apparel being produced overseas, or does it need to be made in America? 100% cotton or poly blend?
Based on your garment preferences, there are a number of wholesale suppliers that can help filter through the endless sea of choices. Suppliers like S&S Activewear and Alpha Broder can be a great starting point to narrow your search. If you are looking for blank apparel that is off the beaten path, that could be unique to your brand, you will have to do a bit more research on your own. Having a strong understanding of what you want will make finding the perfect blank apparel even easier.
Decorating your apparel
Once you find the right blanks to act as your canvas, you will need to find a shop to help with screen printing, embroidery, or sewing tags. These decorations will make your garment unique, and make it true to your brand.
The most common decorations are screen printing, embroidery, and sewn tags. Screen printing is popular on all blank garments, and is a cost effective way to print your brand’s artwork. Embroidery can be a bit more costly than screen print, but provides a more elevated feel. It can be great on thicker fabric like fleece, and with simpler designs. Sewn tags are a nice finish to any garment. If you are building a premium brand, we recommend exploring this decoration to put your product over the top.
Because there are a great deal of these shops in most towns, Google is a great place to start. Search for the service you are looking for, and compare your options. Reviews are your best friends. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask specific questions. The great decoration shops will help guide you through the process, ensuring that your vision will come to life exactly as you are picturing.
Creating a store
With all this product, you will need a place to sell it. At the current moment, Shopify is the most bang-for-your-buck ecommerce solution on the market. For as low as $30/month, you can have a professional looking website that customers love. Our Soft Goods website was built on Shopify.
Through a platform like Shopify, it is relatively easy to get started. You can customize their theme templates with colors and logos to match your branding. With some simple product images and descriptions, your collections can look beautiful. You can be ready to sell in no time.
Marketing your brand
Now that you’re ready to sell, you need to let people know! The lowest cost and easiest way to spread the word is through social media. Brands are built on social media. Having an active and authentic presence on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and more will help you reach new customers and build trust along the way. Create content that adds value to your audience. Think of how it relates to your mission. Is the content you are posting benefiting your mission?
Paid advertising is natural evolution, and should be explored once you have a strong organic following. It is important to have some credibility before jumping into the world of Instagram ads, otherwise your efforts may fall flat. Have a strong sense of who your audience is and where to target them. Are there specific keywords they are searching that you could target on Google Ads? The better you know your customer, the more effective your paid advertising will be.
Commit to action
You can read forever about the best ways to launch an apparel brand, but nothing will be more valuable than getting out there and learning for yourself. These tips will help you set your course and move in the right direction, but there is no substitute for hard work. Now it is time to put in the work!