How To Start a Clothing Business Online in 5 Easy Steps
Learning how to start a clothing business online can be tricky and time-consuming.
There are so many things to take into account: What niche should you choose? What’s your business model? How will you source products? Should you dropship, private label, or cut-and-sew?
But that’s not all: Competition is strong.
Not only are there countless clothing companies out there – big and small – it’s also pretty difficult to invent an entirely new product to stand out from the crowd.
If you want to be successful in this game, you must create an attractive brand, dominate a small niche, and market your products effectively.
So, where should you start? In this article, you’ll learn exactly how to start a clothing business online from home in five simple steps. Plus, we’ll share five different ways to start a clothing company.
Let’s dive in.
- Step 1. Define Your Niche
- Step 2. Source Products
- Step 3. Brand Your Clothing Business
- Step 4. Build Your Sales Platform
- Step 5. Market Your Clothing Business
- Summary: How To Start an Online Clothing Business From Home
Step 1. Define Your Niche
When starting a clothing business, the more specific and specialized your niche is, the easier it is to stand out from the crowd and land customers.
For example, “athleisure” is still pretty broad.
Every superstore brand creates athleisure clothing now, so you need to narrow down your specialty further to attract your target market. For example, you could sell “athleisure essentials for the environmentally conscious LGBTQ+ community” – now we’re talking.
This niche is specific enough for you to cut through the noise and resonate with your target market.
Now, perhaps you want to sell bohemian summer dresses, high fashion men’s clothes, or athleisure essentials – whatever it is, you can drastically increase your chances of success by following this simple rule:
Be part of your target market.
Take travel apparel brand Encircled. “As a management consultant, I was traveling about 100,000 miles a year and constantly frustrated by the lack of stylish, versatile travel apparel,” said Kristi Soomer, the founder of Encircled.
“While packing for a trip to Costa Rica, I dreamed up the idea of the Chrysalis Cardi, one-piece that can be worn over eight different ways.”
Kristi was in a great position to sell these types of clothes because she was her target market. Her advice? “Know your customers. Find out everything you can about them.”
So, before you jump into action, do some research and answer questions like:
- Who’s your target market?
- What do they want most?
- Who are your key competitors?
- How will you differentiate your brand from competitors?
- Where does your target audience spend the most time online?
Basically, live by the advice of “the father of marketing,” Philip Kotler, who once said: “There is only one winning strategy. It is to carefully define the target market and direct a superior offering to that target market.”
Step 2. Source Products
The next step when learning how to start an online clothing business is to choose a business model – this will dictate how you source products.
There are five main business models that you can use to start a clothing company:
- Private labeling
Each of these ways to start a fashion business has its pros and cons. Let’s take a closer look at how to source products with each model to help you choose the best model for you.
If you want to know how to start a clothing line with no money, this section’s for you.
Dropshipping is the easiest way to start a fashion business because you don’t need to purchase or store any clothes upfront.
Instead, you partner with clothing suppliers and add their products to your online store. When you land a sale, the money is automatically split between you and your supplier. Then, your supplier will be notified and will ship the order to the customer for you.
The key advantages of dropshipping are that it’s free, simple, and has little-to-no risk. It’s also very easy to offer a large selection of items and test new products from many different suppliers simultaneously.
On the other hand, you can’t add branding to clothes, so it can be difficult to differentiate your products from competitors’.
If you want to learn how to start a clothing business online with dropshipping, check out Oberlo. This free tool makes it super easy to start selling dropshipped products through a Shopify store in minutes.
Print on demand works the same way as dropshipping, with one key difference: You can add custom designs to clothing.
To get started, partner with a print-on-demand supplier, upload your designs, and add clothing products to your online store. When you receive an order, your supplier will print the product and ship it to the customer for you.
Like dropshipping, you don’t need to purchase or store products in advance – or package and ship products to customers.
That being said, print-on-demand products typically have relatively low profit margins. Also, you’re often restricted to generic clothing products like t-shirts, hoodies, and hats.
Here are some examples of print-on-demand products from Printful:
If you have an eye for fashion, you could learn how to start an online clothing boutique – this is the process of selling a carefully curated selection of fashion products from other brands.
For example, The Heat Check sells rare sneakers from various brands online.
When starting out, you can source single clothing items from sites like eBay and resell them through your online store at a markup. However, it can be difficult to make a profit when sourcing products this way.
Perhaps the most effective way to start an online boutique is to purchase products wholesale – this is when you buy clothes in bulk and then sell them individually. There are plenty of wholesale websites online – including Handshake.
(Shameless plug? Maybe. Awesome tip? Definitely.)
Here at Handshake, we’ve already handpicked a unique selection of eye-catching clothing products from quality brands to help you get your online clothing boutique off the ground.
4. Private Labeling
If you want to know how to start a clothing business online where you have more control over designs than the previous methods, consider private labeling.
Private labeling is the process of working with a manufacturer to customize existing products to your specifications. For example, you could contact a manufacturer about one of their jackets and ask them to change the color, attach a hood, and add your branding.
In other words, you have more control, and you don’t need to design and manufacture clothes from scratch.
However, keep in mind that you will have to purchase inventory upfront. Also, you’ll need to decide whether to store and ship products to customers yourself or have a service like Shopify’s Fulfillment Network handle it for you.
If you want to learn how to start a clothing business online from scratch with completely original designs, colors, and materials, check out the cut-and-sew model.
This is easily the most challenging way to start a fashion line.
With this model, you must have the resources and skills to design clothes or to hire fashion designers. You’ll also need to manage pattern-makers, fabric-sourcing, and manufacturing. And of course, all of this requires a hefty upfront investment.
It can also be quite a long process.
For example, the US clothing manufacturer Clothier Design Source has a four-step development process that lasts four to seven months.
And just like private labeling, you’ll be responsible for managing logistics and order fulfillment (although, again, you could simplify this process with a service like Shopify’s Fulfillment Network.)
To get started, spend some time researching pattern-makers, manufacturing services, and B2B marketplaces – here are a few links to get you started:
Step 3. Brand Your Clothing Business
The next stage of learning how to start a clothing business online is to create a brand.
A strong brand is essential if you’re to catch people’s attention, resonate with your target audience, and build lasting customer relationships.
To get started, choose a name – you can use Shopify’s business name generator to help.
When you find a name you love, move on to creating your brand visuals. Both your name and brand visuals should clearly represent the personality of your brand.
For example, Silk Laundry sells luxury silk fashion items using a minimalist black-and-white aesthetic and sans-serif fonts.
In contrast, Shinesty sells outrageous and absurd vintage clothing for themed parties and events – which is why its branding is colorful and in-your-face.
You can use a logo maker like Hatchful to help you simplify this process. This tool will produce visual assets automatically optimized for your website and each social media platform – oh, and it’s free!
Step 4. Build Your Sales Platform
The next step to consider when learning how to start a clothing business is choosing your sales platform.
Your sales platform includes your website, social media accounts, advertising profiles, marketing tools, and analytics integrations.
Start by signing up for Shopify.
This ecommerce solution provides everything you need to start your own clothing brand from one simple dashboard with no technical knowledge required – regardless of which business model you choose.
Here’s the best part: Shopify provides a free 14-day trial and costs only $29 per month.
Once you’ve signed up for a free trial, you can customize your website’s appearance with a Shopify Theme designed especially for clothing and fashion brands.
You should also set up a Facebook business page and optimize your brand’s Instagram profile. You may also want to set up accounts on other platforms where your target market spends a lot of time, such as Pinterest, YouTube, Twitter, or TikTok.
Step 5. Market Your Clothing Business
Phew! Now you’re all set, it’s time to launch your clothing business and drum up some sales.
There are many ways to do this – here are three effective marketing strategies that can be an excellent place to start.
1. Social Media Marketing
Drive sales by engaging your target market consistently with eye-catching content and personal messages.
Research shows that apparel brands experience the highest level of engagement on Instagram – so that’s where you should focus most of your time and resources.
2. Paid Advertising
All of these platforms can be used to drive sales, but again, you may want to focus your efforts on Instagram when starting out.
3. Influencer Marketing
You can also partner with Instagram influencers to promote your clothing business to their followers. This can be a highly effective way to land sales.
Make sure to choose influencers with engaged followers who match your target market.
Summary: How To Start an Online Clothing Business From Home
Shopify Plus projects that worldwide ecommerce fashion and apparel revenue will grow tremendously in the coming years – here’s how to carve out a slice of this $475 billion pie for yourself:
- Define a niche and target audience: The more specific you are, the easier it will be to cut through the noise and capture your target market’s attention.
- Source products: Choose one of five business models – dropshipping, print-on-demand, boutique, private labeling, or cut-and-sew.
- Brand your clothing business: Choose a name, create a logo, and define an aesthetic that represents your brand’s personality and appeals to your target market.
- Build your sales platform: Create a website with Shopify and add functionality with Shopify apps. Then set up your social media profiles.
- Market your clothing business: Generate sales by promoting your products on social media, through paid advertisements, or by partnering with Instagram influencers.
Learning how to start a clothing business online can be tough, so take it one step at a time.
Why do you want to start a clothing company? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!