How To Start Your Own Fashion Brand - A Step By Step Guide to Launching A Fashion & Clothing Brand
Updated: Oct 28, 2020
Every big brand has an origin story just like there is an origin story for every super-hero. While brands like Amazon, Microsoft, Apple started in a makeshift office off of their garage; Google started as a school project and the best one of all Nike started in the trunk of a car.
As a famous author, Pablo Picasso once said
"Action is the foundational key to all Success"
It’s the hard work & continued hustle that paved way for these and many other companies as well as Fashion Brands to make it big in their respective fields. The vision is all that matters, everything else will start falling in-line once you start the hustle.
All these companies I have been giving examples of actually started in an era where the Internet was scarce and reaching out to people with your product was daunting. You on the other hand are in the era where the Internet is ruling almost everyone's lives. Every person has internet access. You can leverage its power in your favor to market your brand and move your brand up on the growth meter.
Having said that, everything comes at cost… So did the internet. With Internet has come a great amount of competition. Everyone is looking to make it big by leveraging the power of internet. The success of your brand depends on how you stand out in this colossal crowd of wannabe Brands & Celebrities.
You might be thinking, what the hell am I rambling about? I need a brand – a business first - to even think of marketing it and making it big. I can’t agree more. But you need to understand where you stand before you get into the process of creating your brand. You need to understand how fierce the competition is and No… I am not trying to demotivate you. I am just mentioning it because starting a brand or any business for that matter is a very long commitment and you need to be damn sure that you want to do this. Or else you are going to lose a lot more than just money in the process.
Also, a fair disclaimer. This blog is just to help you and give you an idea of how to set up a business. Do not treat this as a blog for financial advice or anything more than just an article. There will be too many variables in the real world and so you can’t blame me – the author of this post or the college in case some or all of the things mentioned in here does not work out for you.
Now, that you are motivated will all the examples and all the disclaimers out of the way, let us begin with step by step guide to starting your own Fashion Brand and making it successful.
1. Market Research – Identify the problem you need to solve:
Research is the most important and ironically the most overlooked part of starting any Business. I have personally seen people dive into action as soon as they get a Business Idea without proper research and most of them have failed miserably.
Make no mistake; start at ground zero. Look into the Fashion Market. Try to figure out what other businesses are doing, how they started out, what are the strategies they are implementing. It will give you an idea of where you want to start and where you want to reach.
While you are researching the market and trying to get to know as much as you can about it, make sure you try to figure out and list various problems & needs that are waiting to be solved in the fashion industry.
I will tell you why..!
Every Business that has made it big has one thing in common i.e. they were trying to solve a problem that has existed in the industry or society. No matter how small the problem seems, make a note of it and see if its something you want to solve through your Business and will solving this problem or fulfilling that particular need prove profitable to you.
One example of a problem or a need which is relevant to the Fashion Industry is the need for formal T-Shirts maybe. As far as I know, every T-Shirt is treated as casual wear. If you can come with a T-Shirt that could be worn as formal attire, you have solved a problem and filled a need in the market as well. The credit for this T-Shirt’s example goes to masterclass.com. That is where I read about this during my research for this article. But I am sure, with enough research and the knowledge of Fashion which I certainly lack, you will be able to figure out an extensive list of needs in the Fashion Industry.
2. What will be the USP of your Fashion / Clothing Brand ?
A Designer’s world starts with Brainstorming since the ideas start to flow more effectively & efficiently. Throughout the process, the ideas shall be shortlisted and put on board. This is the time where you can come up with your own unique selling proposition. This is the part where you will understand whether you stand out amongst the crowd or not. Whether you are any different from other competitors in the world or just the same as every other brand out there.
If you feel your brand won't be different or will not stand out, brainstorm some more, get some more ideas, think of another USP and keep doing this until you find something that is different but yet easily understandable by your customers. Because people don't buy what they can't understand.
Not only the brainstorming, but understanding your Target Market, your strength which would be a competitive advantage, and the industry standards would help you grow well in business and improve on your USP skills. Developing a USP is the first challenge for an Entrepreneur, the USP needs to be strong and memorable. One needs to monitor the latest trends the competition that could affect how customers see your USP.
3. Make a Plan, A Backup Plan and then a backup to that backup plan:
Planning is as important a part as Market research itself. Let me warn you that I will be saying this in all most every step of this post. Because we are talking about starting a business and each step counts. You stumble at one step and it might create a domino effect on every subsequent step and you run a risk of failing the Business. So, Tread Carefully.
At this point, you probably already have a list of problems/needs you want to solve/fulfill. Now, all you need to do in this step is to plan on how you want to fulfil this particular need in the market. This is one of those rare moments when I can say “Don’t keep it simple”. Make an elaborate plan and try to imagine real-life scenarios and think of the challenges you might come across and how you will be tackling them.
For example, say you have designed a T-Shirt that can be worn as formal wear. How are you going to bulk produce it? Do you want to get into a contract with a factory and let them manufacture it or you want to manufacture it at a home studio? If you decide to manufacture it in a home studio, then how will you be procuring the raw materials for it, etc... This is just a vague example.
Try and come up with more scenarios, more challenges, imagine the worst-case scenarios and make your plan accordingly. It will help you deal with almost all kinds of roadblocks. Also, in some cases, the Down-Top approach helps better than the Top-Down approach. That is first figure out what your end game is and then reverse engineer the whole plan. Start from the end and move towards the beginning.
Another important thing to consider while planning is identifying your target audience. You have to know exactly who your target audience is, what is it that intrigues them, where can they be found and similar things. This will make promoting your products & marketing your Fashion Brand much easier. One way of doing it creating what we Digital marketers call Buyer Personas. Buyer personas are basically a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customers. You can read more about Buyer Personas here.
Buyer personas include details such as Name, Age, Gender, Career information, Income, etc... (All of this is Fictional of course). For example, for your Formal T-Shirt, the target audience is company employees with the age group of 25-35. Based on this information, here is an example of a Buyer persona.
Age: 27 Years
Job: Software Engineer
Hobbies: Social Media, Music, Writing
You can go a step ahead and make this more extensive and you create more buyer personas like these and you will know who your target audience is and how you can market your new Fashion Brand to them.
You also need to have a part in your plan where you figure out how you are going to distribute your products. Are you going to set up a store or sell it on an E-Commerce site or maybe both? Basically, what I am trying to say is from beginning to end or end to beginning think of everything and plan for everything. No matter how small the details do not leave them out.
Once you are ready with a plan, it's time to start working on your backup plan in case anything goes wrong. I would even suggest having a plan-c along with your original plan and a backup plan just in case. The Fashion industry is volatile and dynamic. We don’t know what trend might die all of a sudden or what big change would come to play in the Industry. It's always good to be ready with an alternative plan in case there is some major change in the Fashion Trends or Fashion Industry that might affect your Fashion Brand’s business.
4. Brand Name & Logo:
Brand Name is how people going to recognize you. So, choose a name that’s short, sweet, come’s easily to mind, easy to pronounce & has a flow to it when they pronounce it. You can may be go ahead and just name the brand after your name as Ralph Lauren did. But if you think your name is not catchy enough, try to figure out the personality of your brand and select a name that reflects the personality of your Fashion Brand.
Here are some of the Fashion Brands whose names I think fits all the criteria’s mentioned above. If you have more names, feel free to add them in the comments below.
H & M
A Logo is how people will recognize your brand. So, make a logo that is easier to understand and which is not hard on the eyes. The best logos that I have seen are the ones that are just the name of the brand name instead of some cryptic symbol that has come out of some kind of cult. Choose the colors that create trust – Blue is one of those colors if you like it. Since you are a Fashion Designers, I don’t think I can teach you anything about colors that you already don’t know.
5. Start Designing, Set a Price:
Again, you are a designer. I won’t be lecturing you on how to design because you know that better than me. But, if you are someone who is looking to become a Fashion Designers, here is an article about What is Fashion designing & How to Become a Fashion Designer to help you out.
Once you have designed the clothe/products, produce a small test quantity of it. Make calculations on how much it cost and then set a price on each product. The test quantity you just produced, do a test run of those products and try to gauge how your potential customers feel about it. Try to take feedbacks and see if you can improve it in any way. Once you are satisfied with what you have made, it’s time for you to hit the market with your product.
6. Marketing & Advertising:
Adding on to Marketing or Advertising in Fashion is more of Visuals, aesthetics and making a splash. Once you have your product, Fashion brand name, Logo everything in place. You have half won the battle. It’s now time to bring in the Big Gun that is Marketing. Remember when I mentioned Buyer Personas this is the place that is going to help. If you have the budget you can mix Online & Offline marketing and reach your potential customers both on and off the internet. If budget is a constraint, I would suggest you go with Social media marketing and of course, if your product is good enough, people will see it. Fashion Brand is one of the very few industries where a Customer of your brand is the advertiser of your brand as well. Since they will be wearing your product and people can see it.
You can hire some models not super-models unless you are filthy rich and have a photo session with your products for your social media marketing campaigns. Start providing offers in the beginning and leverage people’s weakness of them having to get their hands on the exclusive stuff. Maybe try and create an illusion of your product being exclusive and luxurious and people will stand in line to buy your products. That is what One Plus did and that is what makes Apple so successful as well. Might as well use their strategy and see if it works for you.
There you go, you have started your own Fashion Brand with just some simple steps. I wish it was as simple as reading it, But it's not. As I mentioned earlier, there are a boat-load of variables in the world out there and your plan needs to flexible enough to sail through all those variables. Here is one last step, but it's not for everyone.
6.1 Promotional activities:
There is lot of difference between marketing and promotion. Doing promotional activity involves publicizing the product, organization, or venture to increase sales or awareness around the public. Having a promotional activity in a fashion venture can be challenging and diligent. Many brands have their collaborations, some conduct an event like an in-house fashion show or some give some offers, there are many ways any venture can promote their merchandise. One can be innovative in coming up with their own selling strategy.
Today in the world of the internet, it has become easier than ever to promote any product. As an instance of promotion, social media has taken up the biggest role from collaborating with bloggers or other bloggers or creating own fashion blog on many platforms and get yourself noticed on a larger audience. There are many more strategies which can be thought through, innovated and implemented.
7. Start Looking for Investment:
Now that you are selling your products and hopefully if the sales are good, start looking out for investments for your Business. Investments will help you in increasing the quantity of products being produced and in Marketing your Brand as well. It will definitely help you scale your business and even to take it to another level as well. But investments come with its own set of limitations, you have to be careful about that and you will be good to go.
Now that you have read the whole article, how easy or feasible do you think it is to start a business. Don’t forget to give me a share of your business if and when you launch your own Fashion Brand and start raking in tones of money (Just Kidding). Do let me know if you think I have missed out on anything in the article.
But before I say Adieu, I would suggest you read some books on Fashion Designing and Business and learn from them before you dive into it. That is all for this post, will see ya in the next one. All the best.
PS: Promotional Activities & USP section was written by the Faculty members.
If you are new to whole Fashion & Branding aspect. Here is how you can get started. Indian Institute of Fashion Technology offers various short-term and long-term courses in Fashion Designing and other aspects of Fashion Designing. You can know more about them and enroll into one of these courses and you can start contributing to Fashion Industry with your skills and knowledge of Fashion that you will gain at IIFT.
Here is the list of courses with links for you to apply: