Starting your own fashion brand: 5 frequently asked questions
- Gerdine Annaars
- 31 Aug 2021
- Edited 26 Sept 2023
- 8 min
What could be more exciting than launching your own online clothing shop or your own brand of trainers, fashion accessories, or jewellery? In addition to the creative side of this business, you will also need to find a good supplier and learn about the costs of starting your own clothing line. 5 questions from new business owners in fashion.
Around 5,430 entrepreneurs launched their own online fashion brands in 2022, a third of whom are under 25 years of age. They run their own clothing line or sell trainers, bags, hats, or jewellery on social media, their own online shop, or on online platform such as Shopify or Bol.com. If you would also like to break into the fashion industry, check out these 5 questions from new business owners in the industry, so you will be well prepared and know what to expect.
- How do I launch my own brand?
- How do I find a reliable manufacturer?
- How much does it cost to start a clothing line?
- I plan to sell my products online. How should I get started?
- How can I get influencers to promote my fashion brand?
If you take the following steps, you are off to a good start:
- Identify your target audience by conducting customer research. You will find out which online channels your clients use, what age range they cover, how they earn their money and what they spend it on, what their interests are, what their needs and requirements are, and what their priorities are in life.
- Decide what brand identity you want to use to reach your target audience. Clothing, trainers, and jewellery are available everywhere. Why would someone want to buy YOUR product? Decide what you represent and come up with a brand message.
- Determine your market segment. Are you aiming for high-end fashion (with the prices to match) or will you go for a high-street brand? This is a key decision, as it affects a lot of other aspects, ranging from the quality of the fabrics and materials you use to the look and feel of the website, packaging, and labels.
- Come up with a brand and trade name. Check that the name is not already taken.
- Come up with a logo (in Dutch). Make a rough sketch or collect examples of items you like. You can then find someone to design the logo for you.
- Design a collection. Keep it simple, starting out with a few basic items.
When it comes to finding a manufacturer or supplier, you should take a methodical approach. You should pay attention to the following (list is not exhaustive):
- Quality. Can the supplier meet your requirements?
- Quantities. Can you place smaller orders?
- Shipping costs. How much will you pay in shipping costs? Note: you will pay more for more remote destinations.
- Ordering samples. How much do you pay for samples? These tend to be quite expensive. Enquire if you can deduct the expenses from your first order.
- Price. How much do you pay for the products themselves? Small quantities will often cost you more money with the supplier.
- Reputation. Are you dealing with a reliable party?
- Mixed orders. Can you order multiple colours and sizes as part of the same order?
- Delivery times. Can the manufacturer deliver the products in time? Fast delivery tends to be more expensive.
- Payment terms. Will I need to prepay a portion of the costs?
- EU product . Can the manufacturer comply with all the European product requirements?
- Production capacity. Can the manufacturer quickly scale up and increase their output if your product catches on?
- Slow fashion. What can they tell you about production and working conditions?
- Trade agreements. Are you entitled to purchase discounts? These discounts are often available in countries with which the EU has signed a trade agreement.
Many Dutch designers have their products manufactured in Italy, Portugal, or Turkey. But a growing number of business owners choose local production, because it is more sustainable. Also, the direct lines of communication make things a lot easier, for example when correcting samples.
When you are first starting out, it can be hard to get manufacturers to take you seriously, and contacting people online or making phone calls will often get you nowhere. These will put you in touch with suppliers. New business owners, who tend to order very small quantities, are of no interest to large manufacturers. There is also the fact that these fledgling business owners are an unknown quantity, as you cannot be sure if they will actually go through with their idea. This is where a network such as the Enterprise Europe Network () comes in, as they will put you in touch with small suppliers.
At fashion events, you can find inspiration (online) and make contact with suppliers and other service providers. Examples:
- Amsterdam Fashion Week
- Dutch Sustainable (in Dutch)
- Première Vision Paris
- London Fashion Week
The cost of launching your own clothing line depends on a variety of factors, including how much of the work you will actually take on yourself. You are looking at seed capital between one thousand and several thousand euros.
Doing it all yourself
If you do everything yourself, ranging from design to purchasing and from cutting to sewing, this will save you money, but at the same time is very time-consuming. You also need high-quality basic equipment: a professional sewing machine will easily set you back between €2,500 and €3,500. You should therefore consider buying a used machine, as this is not only sustainable but also a lot less expensive, being available for a few hundred euros. A fabric cutter, measuring tape, and other supplies will add up to around €250. You may also want to buy special software, for example to draw patterns. How much this costs depends on your needs and the type of software you end up choosing.
If you decide to outsource your entire production process, your costs depend on, among other things, the quantities you order and the quality of the fabrics you buy. Usually, somebody just starting out in the fashion trade will start with 50 units. They then need an average of between €2,000 and €3,000 to cover production, including transport, if they have outsourced it to a company outside the Netherlands. Most manufacturers require advance payments. They will use the prepayment to buy the fabrics, , and accessories (zippers, buttons, rubber bands, and the like) and deduct staff costs that way.
Printing for basic items
Are you buying basic items and using a printing or embroidery service? The prices of the basic items depend on the quality of the clothing items and the terms set by the supplier, including shipping costs. The printing method you choose also determines the price: screen printing, transfer print, or digital printing all have different prices. Screen printing produces the best results, but it is also the most expensive option. If you favour embroidery to printing, you should request quotes from several providers. You should be aware that you will be charged a start-up fee when you place your first order. The embroidery service will produce an embroidery card which they will reuse for your follow-up orders.
Fixed and variable costs
You will also be required to pay various fixed and variable costs for your online shop. This includes fees you pay for a business account, insurance policies, accounting software, website maintenance, payment module for your website, social-media advertising, an e-commerce platform, packaging materials, and flyers.
You may require a loan to start your new business. For seed capital, you can choose to borrow money from family and friends, apply for a bank loan, apply for , or organise crowdfunding. Alternatively, you can also involve an in your plans. Take into account that you will no longer be able to make decisions on your own.
Tip: watch the video Van danseres naar modeontwerper (‘From Dancer to Fashion Designer’, in Dutch), in which Rochelle Willemsen of fashion label Kill Them With Your Colour explains how she managed to secure funding.
Many new business owners in the online fashion industry start out by selling through social media channels (in Dutch) and online . This is relatively easy and inexpensive. This is how they gauge if their products will catch on. The next step, then, is to open their own online shop. If you plan to start selling online, there are a couple of things you need to check:
- Register with KVK. Combining a business with studies and/or a job is not a problem. Not 18 yet? You can start a business, but there are a number of things you need to keep in mind.
- Most designs are subject to (in Dutch). It usually does not take long for successful and innovative fashion brands to be copied by others. You should therefore consider model or record your collection in the . I-DEPOT gives you official proof that you owned the design on a specific date. This will come in useful if you were ever to find yourself in a dispute about who the designer is of a specific item. You should also protect your brand name .
- Take out legal assistance insurance, so you have this to fall back on if you encounter problems with a supplier or customer.
- The insurance can help you with capital, but can also provide good advice and assistance, to help you avoid high legal fees. If you have business partners, make a point of drafting a contract. If a conflict arises between you and your partners, the rules are clear and the business can keep running.
If you would like your fashion label to be promoted by influencers, you must start by doing researching and creating an action plan. Influencers wield a lot of power in the fashion world, generating publicity for your brand. You pay influencers to promote your brand, or you might send them free products.
You can contact influencers directly or through an agency, and the agency will put you in touch with an influencer who aligns with your brand and target audience. Be sure to do some advance research and check content posted by the influencer you have your sights set on. If most of the content they post is commercial, many followers are likely to lose interest. If the number of followers is growing rapidly, find out if the channel is genuine, as these may be paid followers. Decide for yourself in an action plan what you would like to achieve. How much money would you like to spend, who would you like to reach, and through what channels?
Agree with the influencer on price and the volume and type of content to be posted. Agree to check in with each other at some point to assess the partnership. If you are not satisfied with the results, you can agree with the influencer to make some changes to the campaign. Different types of posts about your brand or your new collection might be more appealing to the target audience, or you might want to try a different channel, or your timing might be off.
You must prepare carefully for your meeting with the influencer or the agency by complying with the Influencer Marketing Roadmap (in Dutch).
Influencer marketing trends
Marketing platform Emerce has noted a recent shift in influencer (in Dutch). Labels are more likely to partner with authentic influencers. It is no longer just about reaching a wide audience, but also about the influencer’s authenticity and personality. Keep up to date with the latest trends and follow the podcast series about influencer (in Dutch) on the Frankwatching marketing platform.
Want to know more? The podcast series Je Business de Baas (in Dutch) features six young people talking about setting up their business and the struggles they deal with.