A clothing line really doesn’t take much investment if you avoid expensive pitfalls.
Here’s a rough outline of the start-up costs:
Pro: – $2,000-$5,000 for professional, online store platform. Would include Graphic design and layout.
Semi -Pro: Under $1,500 Do some of the graphic work yourself, and use a free template. Only have to pay for programming and e-commerce set-up.
Cheapies: under $500 Free open source Magento Template and use of paypal. Avoid the bulk of all the costs by researching free templates and resources for small online businesses. Can also utilize store platforms like UStrendy or Etsy.
Manufacturing is less expensive per piece the larger quantity you produce. If you order 6 of a dress is will be around $25 for manufacturing in the US by a local sewing contractor. If you order 120 pieces of that same dress, cost goes down to $19 per piece. So on and so forth. *
With any small business you need to start small and simple. Expanding your line too fast can kill any business. Start with a simple product, like camisoles or t-shirts. Once you have established your market and customer base you can expand to other styles/products. Most young designers dislike the idea and want to start full-board all at once. Patience is key, you’re running a business to make a profit, not to look good.
So say you start small, 2 styles, 30 pieces of each (60 total) and 4 colors.
Sourcing Costs: fabric/notions/trim/care & content labels
Production: cut and sew per piece
Delivery: if the company is in your city, you can pick up. If they are out-of-state you will have to pay shipping.
Costs vary depending on how expensive the fabric you choose, and how complicated your design is to manufacture.
But on average, for a small run of 60 pieces you are looking at $300-$1,000 depending on the design (i.e. dresses cost more than tshirts).
*Note: Everyone thinks production overseas is so much cheaper than here in the states. Actually, that’s just a quantity misconception. Asia has minimum orders of average 10,000 pieces. If you do some careful searching you can find factories that produce for 1,000 piece minimums. The reason is seems so much cheaper is because you are ordering a much larger “bulk” quantity. The minimum wage is the same. If you were to order 10,000 pieces Stateside you would find very little difference in price. There are other factors, but we won’t exhaust them here.
If you are planning on operating an online store, you will need to consider how you ship your packages. We used USPS and their Dazzle Shipping Software (monthly rate). You can purchase a label printing machine from Dazzle for around $150. The Label stickers themselves are free. USPS also provides free “USPS” shipping envelopes and can be ordered on the USPS website. We wanted a more professional look so we opted for Uline Poly shipping bags. You can visit their site for pricing. Bags came in 1,000 quantities and were about .16 cents each. ($160)
Other options include Stamps.com, or printing the labels individually from the USPS website and taping them on the packages. You will need to contact USPS to arrange for regular pick-up deliveries at your home or warehouse.
We didn’t do any paid marketing when we initially started. Blog giveaways, trades and magazine articles were our primary source of word-of-mouth advertising. Creating a blog that has regularly updated content with your “keywords” throughout can drive traffic to your site organically via Google search engines. For more info about Search Engine Optimization and online business read Search Engine Optimization and Call to Action.
You will approach all your local boutiques and small retail stores, ask for the buyer, set-up an appointment to show them your line. Find other brands that you would like to be positioned by and find the stores in your area that carry those brands. Initially, they probably won’t buy it outright, you will have to do consignment. 60/40 or 50/50. Wholesale to stores is going to be your primary means of selling. A lot of people think you can just start an online store and be successful. The problem with this concept is that your future customers have no idea how to find you. You have to establish yourself as a brand through retail so people can know what to google in the first place.
Once you have the product in hand, it’s time to brand yourself. I’ll be honest, photos make or break a site. I can immediately tell how professional a company is by the images they use. Approach a photographer who specializes in studio or fashion work and offer them a bid- (how many hours, locations, looks) If he doesn’t like your offer he can counter and continue the conversation from there. For a half-day shoot costs will be around $500 depending.
If you don’t want to hire a professional, become one yourself. You need good images with good models. I would not recommend using friends/family or the next door neighbor for models. Get someone who knows how to make clothes look good. Models cost on average $45-$50 an hour, or a flat rate for the day. Models can be found on modelmayhem.com or your local modeling agency. When approaching an agency you need to have 1)model release forms 2)outline of the shoot 3) monetary reimbursement all listed out and presented to the agent. Models are also open to trade for pics, or trade for product. If you are doing your research you should already know some models personally from your interaction in the local fashion community.
For these 5 categories you’re looking at costs around : $2500
That’s not bad at all.