Start A Clothing Line: 10 Steps to Make it Profitable

In this post I’m going to share the 10 steps to bring your line to life and make it profitable. I’m going to talk about my experiences of starting a clothing line in silicon valley and what I learnt from fellow founders of all industries, ages, and nationalities.

There are 10 Steps that will help you start a clothing line and make it profitable. Especially doing Step #2 is what differentiates profitable from not so profitable businesses.

There are 10 Steps that will help you start a clothing line and make it profitable.
Especially doing Step #2 is what differentiates profitable from not so profitable businesses.

Many people want to start a clothing line but only very few will actually succeed with their brand. I’m going to share with you the secrets that make the difference between a profitable well-functioning fashion business and one that “kind of somehow survives”.

It is absolutely possible for anyone to succeed at starting a clothing line, even without relevant fashion experience or a design degree. Just look at companies like ThirdLove, Lululemon, or MM.LaFleur that were founded by an ex-Google employee, a yoga dude, and three business consultants. All of them are highly successful businesses today because these people knew how to build a business and make it profitable. So let’s dive right in.

 

STEP #1: Create a timeline and an action plan

I’ve already talked about the importance of an action plan here and I’m going to repeat it again: unless you’re looking for investors you should not waste your time on writing a full fledged business plan, instead you should write an action plan. The reason for this is that a business plan (with full sentences and a table of contents) is a presentation- and not really a working tool. You will never pick it up again and read through this 30+ page book.

What you WILL do is look at your one-page summaries, your worksheets, to do lists, goals, and time tables.

So write an action plan for different “areas” of your business and summarize all the milestones in your calendar (with reminders!). Personally I really like to use Excel because it’s easy to read, format, and edit later on.

This is what you should include:

  • Departments: Plan for different parts of your business marketing/sales/production, etc
  • Timelines: My action plans map out tasks/goals for this week, month, and year
  • Goals: They must be precise, actionable, and measurable
  • Actions: A prioritized “to do” list of actions to achieve each goal
  • Critical factors: Who/what do you need to achieve your goals
  • Duration: How long do you think it will take you to accomplish these tasks
  • The One Thing: “What is the ONE thing you could do that makes everything easier” (This book was a game changer for me in terms of productivity!!!)

Your First Steps:

Straight out of the gate you need to hustle. Write your action plan, come up with an awesome name for your clothing line, and check if there are any trademark conflicts. It took us over a month to write the business plan and we didn’t have our brand name until two months into the business. Granted, an action plan will be done more quickly but don’t underestimate the amount of work that you’ll need to do.

You also need to get your legalities sorted out and open a business bank account. This is important so you can pay your expenses through your business and make them tax deductible. Since you’ll be selling products and most likely use contractors to help you you should be careful which legal form to choose. You need to protect your personal belongings from potential law suits caused by product malfunction or employee misconduct. Thus, your only options are either an LLC or a Corporation.

I recommend you find a lawyer who you can trust and have him or her advise you. If you’re in California, you can always reach out to Jeffrey Burke, he’s an angel and he’s been my legal advisor for over 5 years now!

Now, let’s talk about TIMELINES.

Your timeline should be a week-by-week breakdown of tasks that need to be accomplished between “today” and launch day.

But how would How should you know how much time it takes to sew samples? And to organize a photo shooting? Or when to start selling? In a way I’ve already given you a rough timeline by labeling the 12 steps that it will take you to build a business. Throughout this article we will go over them step by step.

Assuming that you are going to put your full capacity (+40h per week) into this, you can have your clothing line together within 5-6 months. Say what?! I’m not sure if your surprise stems from 5-6 months being super short, or that you think this is a long time.

Truth-bomb: 5-6 months is on the shorter side, most likely it will take you longer to get everything together.

You can roughly assume that it will take you about 6-8 weeks to write your action plan, find a lawyer, open your business, get all the relevant documents, open a bank account, bring up the money you need to start, and get settled in your business.

The following 6-8 weeks you will be looking for factories and suppliers, you will start to source your materials, create samples (this easily takes 4-6 weeks with only one iteration), take photos and produce a few marketing materials. Boom 4 months are over and you didn’t even notice.

For the last 4-8 weeks you’ll be busy testing your products on real life customers, creating a launch strategy, initiating your production, and executing your brand launch. Six months are NOTHING when you have a million things to do so hurry up and start hustling.

 

STEP #2: LAUNCH STRATEGY

I briefly talked about having a launch strategy and period for your action plan and timeline. I mostly addressed the need of reserving some time for this important aspect of your business but I now want to take the time to talk about it in more detail.

The reason why LAUNCH STRATEGY is the second point on the list is because knowing when and how you enter the market is one of the most important decisions you will ever make (and you only get to make it once). Your launch strategy is, so to speak, an action plan for coming to market. However, there have been plenty of entrepreneurs (outside of fashion) who have developed methods to the madness for successful product launches. Without any doubt, the king of product launches is Jeff Walker, the author and inventor of the Product Launch Formula (PLF).

I wish I had known how to launch anything online before I started my business but the sad truth is, we never really learnt about that in fashion school. Or business school. Thus, I was beyond grateful when I learnt about the secret world of online entrepreneurs, including Jeff Walker. His teachings can be summarized as the following:

  • Email has by far the highest conversion rates for online channels. Thus you must curate your own list of followers
  • You gain trust and create excitement by delivering great value to your followers
  • Your launch is a sequence of actions taken in a specific order that is optimized for converting followers into customers
  • Always over-deliver to reinforce a positive experience and prime for future purchases

Guys, I know it sounds like rocket science meeting magic but I promise you it works. I’ve seen a ton of launches (in fashion and outside) and people are having amazing successes with it. Let’s take a closer look at those points and start picking them apart.

Email vs. …?

Claim: “Email has the highest conversion rate of all channels”. Furthermore, according to the Data Marketing Association 66% of online consumers made purchases as the result of a direct email marketing campaign. The only other sales methods with a higher conversion rate is in-person sales but as a new clothing line it’s not always feasible to open your own store. Thus, email is your best bet for reaching your customers.

Why does it have the highest conversion rate though? Email is like a private area and people actually take the time to open and read your messages. Imagine this: social media is like going to a bar. There are hundreds of people flirting with you by posting content your eyes and heart likes. Then there’s this one person (or brand) that asks for your phone number (email address). People think twice about whether to hand out private information but if they do  they’ll read the messages they receive. Thus, e-mail is your best bet in conveying a brand message.

Launch Sequence

This will depend vastly on what you’re selling but one of the most interesting articles I’ve read is this one from the founder of Harry’s, a men’s shaving brand. I’m very well aware that you’re not going to sell razors BUT I think you can gather plenty of information and strategy from this post.

Generally speaking, your launch sequence consists of 4 steps:

  1. Gathering email addresses and building your tribe
  2. Getting your tribe excited
  3. Launching
  4. Over-delivering value to create positive word of mouth

What you want to avoid at all costs is “launching to crickets”. Instead, you want to build anticipation similar to how Hollywood or Apple build anticipation before the launch of a new movie or the latest gadget. I’ll be talking in the next part about how to gather email addresses and create value. It is YOUR job to develop a strategy how you can get your audience excited. Please take at least a month before your official launch date to focus ONLY on building up excitement. Nothing is worse than launching your clothing line and no one cares.

Take at least a month to build excitement to make sure people care Click To Tweet

 

STEP #3: START BUILDING YOUR AUDIENCE

The easiest way to build “an” audience is on social media. The tough part is converting them from your Instagram, Facebook, or Youtube channel to your email list.

For FashionFounder.Me we started an Instagram account a few months before we launched and we had over 10.000 followers by the time we launched the blog. We also offered people a free e-book (via the link in our bio) and delivered it via e-mail. This is basically an exchange, people are giving us their email address against valuable information.

Learn how to create a beautiful, fashionable Instagram feed.

How can you make use of this kind of exchange when you don’t even have a brand yet? By sending sneak peaks. And pre-launch gift cards or shopping credit. For my clothing line we asked them to follow the link for a free $50 gift card (our products were around $100), then we sent them the gift card and our brand story, sneak peaks, and other valuable information via e-mail.

How do your followers gain trust with a clothing line?

I’m sure your clothing line has some kind of story that’s share worthy. Otherwise, why would it be on the market? Are you all about sustainability and “green fabrics”? Are you all about minimalism? I’m sure there are people out there who care about the same things as you and those are your tribe.

If you’re all granola hippie find “your people” online. They’ll be happy to subscribe and they’ll appreciate when you send them newsletters including tips and tricks. It could be on how to reduce waste. Or how to shop for clothing that will LAST. Did you know fashion was the second largest pollutant in the world? Only Petroleum is worse! Those people will love your newsletters and open them every time.

A case study: Emails from BCBG vs. ThirdLove

Here are two wonderful examples of newsletters done right and wrong. One is by ThirdLove (remember, an ex-Google employee who opened a lingerie business) and the other is by BCBG, an old-school fashion business (which recently declared bankruptcy – sad face!).

 

Do you notice how ThirdLove is sending valuable information? It’s a 5 step infographic about the lifecycle of your bra (sorry, I had to cut the email to fit it in, see the full version here). They don’t actually talk about sales or discounts at all and it’s an amazing, non-spammy way to remind people about your brand and message. Plus, I bet you that at least 85% of all women who read this email thought “dang, guess it’s time to replace at least some of my bras”. And guess who’s there to replace them? ThirdLove.

Now look at the email by BCBG. For many women, Valentines Day is all about their date and wearing a pretty dress, which is BCBG’s bread and butter. The whole email is centered around the 30% Off. Actually ALL of their emails are centered around discounts and never around how awesome their clothes are. Need proof? Take the newsletters of January 30/17; February 1st2nd, or 3rd 2017… I’m sure you get the gist…

How a value-focused BCBG email could look like

For Valentine’s day BCBG could have written the best email ever about, let’s say different date looks and DATE IDEAS. The romantic date, the “he might propose” date, the galentine date, the “married date” etc.So many women are planning Valentines Day for their significant other and I bet you they would devour those emails. That would have been of great value to their mostly female customer base and it would take the pressure off BCBG’s profit margins.

In fact, their current email strategy has trained me to never shop at full price at the store because I know, a 30%, 40%, or even 60% discount might be just around the corner. It frustrates me to see a brand I like struggle so much. BCBG has barely survived the last couple of years and it has now filed for bankruptcy. Don’t devalue your product. Don’t be BCBG.

In a Nutshell

Silicon Valley is amazing at selling online. That’s their thing (duh!) so LET’S LEARN FROM THEM! If you wanted to learn how to sew couture you wouldn’t go to your community college sewing class, you’d try to find a course in Paris offered by the Chambre de la Syndicale Haute Couture, the official “Chamber of Haute Couture”, no?! (Thankfully the internet makes it much cheaper and easier to take courses. so no need to go to Paris). So let’s be smart and learn from the best. Build a list, engage your followers, and teach people what you want them to know about your brand.

Build a list, engage your followers, and teach people what you want them to know about your brand. Click To Tweet

 

STEP #4: DESIGN & RESEARCH

It’s finally time to design your clothing. I’m not going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t design but I AM going to point out something about market segments and the business side of designing clothing.

The following slide was taken from a presentation I held at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. How to start a clothing line and which market segment to pick

There are four market segments along two axis: uniqueness and value. Literally, the most basic reason why people value clothing is because they don’t want to be naked. They have no interest in style and they don’t see the craftsmanship that goes into clothing. They rank very low on uniqueness and are your value shoppers (bottom right, the $ sign).

The most basic reason why people value clothing is because it's not socially acceptable to be naked Click To Tweet

Don’t compete on price

We’ve reached a point in the fashion industry where it’s virtually impossible for new or established clothing lines (remember BCBG?!) to offer a greater value for a lower price than Forever 21 and co. As a new clothing line you don’t have anywhere near the quantities that F21 and co are able to sell and the profit margins in this segment are so low and bad that it’s almost impossible to enter this market. The only exception I could see is to enter the market with a very substantial investment or maybe if your family already owns the majority of the supply chain which would give you a huge break on production costs. Thus, if you’re a new brand, don’t go for this market, you won’t be able to survive.

Don’t be redundant

The next segment is the bottom left one, depicted by the skull. Why a skull? Because this segment is called suicide. Brands in this segment are not unique and don’t offer great value.

Not even established brands manage to survive here, as can be seen by the cases of The Gap and American Apparel going bankrupt (again and again). Pop-quiz: can you tell which online store screenshot comes from the Gap or American Apparel? And $35 for a simple turtleneck? Why would you pay that when you can get an identical one at H&M for literally half the price.

Don’t be silly

So can you be super unique? Sure. But in order to build a profitable and sustainable clothing line you must not forget to also be valuable to your customers (not being naked). If you don’t make your clothing also wearable, you’ll find yourself in the top left corner and this may be the result.

The hair sprout. As funny and profitable it may be to create a trend like this in China, this is not going to be a sustainable business model. People will not walk around with sprouts growing out of their heads for the next 20 years but they have and will buy Birkin bags or little black dresses for decades. Fads like these are going to last one season and then it’s over. The joke has been made and nobody will buy hair sprouts again.

Sadly trends like the hair sprout aren’t the only things that fall into the top left category of high uniqueness and low “value”. It breaks my heart to say that but art-focused fashion designers like Alexander McQueen or Iris Van Herpen also fall into this section. As much as we all love and admire their artistry, it is very difficult to become profitable for these brands. When the Gucci group bought the McQueen brand in 2000 it did so for vanity. McQueen hadn’t made a single penny off his line during the first 15 years (!!!). He was financed by the industry for his artistry and skills, and it took another 7 years until McQueen finally became profitable.

Do create something that is unique AND valuable

Thus, unless you can afford to not be profitable for a long time, I highly recommend that you approach your clothing line as a business. Keep the customers in mind and try to create something that is unique and valuable.  Here are a few examples of unique and valuable products:

So, do you need to be a fairly established clothing line or located in the US or UK to create such unique, recognizable products? The answer is no, absolutely not. Coco Chanel was a master of creating unique products. She introduced pants for women, jersey, fashion jewelry, the little black dress (LBD), and Chanel suit.

Another, more recent example happened in the active wear industry. A young active wear line called Michi NY created (somewhat outrageously) sexy active wear with plenty of mesh in its leggings and strappy bra designs. Their clothing became so popular that larger brands soon copied them. They quite literally revolutionized the active wear industry. 

Conclusion

In order to build a profitable and sustainable business you must be valuable and unique. Don’t compete on price because you can’t win this fight and don’t hop on a silly trend that won’t sustain over a long period of time. You don’t want to be the hair sprout company.

Research

As I described in my free e-book “How to Find a Garment Factory You Can Trust” finding the right factories and suppliers is time-consuming. Thus, you should start researching factories and suppliers right from the start. I highly recommend you reserve the first week(s) for researching, calling, and visiting as many people as possible.

 

 

Google is a great starting point for finding out where your competitors produce if they’re fairly big and listed publicly. Once you’ve found a few suppliers and gotten in touch with them you should leave the house and visit them in person.

Bring your sketches, swatches, and everything else to these meetings. If factory owners or suppliers tell you that something is too complicated to make, LISTEN TO THEM. Ask how you could make it easier. They’re the experts and you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble in production later.

 

STEP #5: AUDITIONING FACTORIES

By now you should have found a factory (or several) willing to produce your samples. This is their first test. Are the samples on time? Is the quality what you want? If they fail to deliver on time know that this will probably happen in production too.

I highly recommend planning in a buffer of at least 2-3 weeks for your sampling process, maybe even more if you don’t know any trustworthy factories yet. It is INSANE how much factories will delay your processes so be prepared.

More potential delay can be caused through fittings. Since this is your first round of production you don’t have any “pattern blocks” to build on. Meaning, you have to create everything from scratch. This takes time and has an extremely high chance of errors.

Expect to spend at least a week with fitting and testing your garments, washing them, etc. All problems must be recorded and adjustments must be made accordingly. Changing a pattern can take 7-10 days depending on how busy your pattern maker is. Then you have to sew another round of samples. Please don’t forget to plan in another 2-3 week buffer for this, JUST IN CASE.

 

STEP #6: SOFT LAUNCH & TESTING

Entrepreneurs, listen up!!! Do not skip this absolutely crucial step or you will dearly regret it!!! I know I did when I was young and inexperienced. I’ve taken inspiration for this from a common theme in Silicon Valley: create, test, improve, start over. Sadly clothing isn’t like software that you can keep improving while it’s out with your customers. It’s still possible to test your designs though by doing a soft launch.

Do some pop up stores to see what people are saying

Sure, you could have your friends try on your clothing but that’s not going to give you any real feedback. They don’t want to hurt your feelings and would never tell you all of the problems with a garment.

Paying customers, on the other hand, aren’t scared. They will tell you right away if something doesn’t fit right. If a style line is unflattering or if the fabric is itchy. If you hear the same feedback over and over again you know what to change BEFORE you spent thousands of Dollars in production.

I know samples are expensive ($50-100 per item) can quickly add up. BUT it’s better to spend $1.000 on samples for testing than to spend $10.000 on production. Plus, you can always sell those samples and make the money back.

How do You Organize Pop Up Stores?

Simple. Ask around. Find some charity events at schools and churches. Higher-end fitness studios love to do pop up stores, especially if your product is relatively casual. You can also ask some stores if they’d let you sell your product for a few hours on the weekend (if necessary against commission). Be creative, I’m sure you can figure out a few more places.

What do you need for a Pop Up Store?

Pop up stores are super easy. All you need is an industrial grade garment rack, sturdy but flat hangers that can be transported easily, some marketing materials and a credit card reader – just in case. With trunk shows you always want to think functionality first. Of course there are prettier racks (drool!) or hangers. BUT they cost over three times as much and can’t be collapsed. Remember, you have to get all of your stuff to and from the trunk show location! The main focus is not the best possible brand experience (you don’t even know what that is yet) but hearing what potential customers have to say about your clothing.

 

STEP #7: PHOTOS & MARKETING MATERIALS

It is time to organize a photo shooting so you can create some marketing materials and a website.

My recommendation: keep it as cheap and simple as possible because things will change. What do I mean by things? Your designs. Message. Fit. Colors. Photo shootings are a chicken and egg problem for your clothing line. You only want to photograph finished products but in order to do testing you want to have some photos and marketing materials ready.

Low Cost Alternative:

Ask some photographer and model friends if they can help you out. Don’t have any? Go to any fashion school, put a note on the black board and ask for volunteer photographers. They’ll be eager to have images for their portfolios. Same is true for models by the way. Ask a local agency if they have any “new faces” who need shots for their portfolio. Most likely they will have girls that will do your shooting in exchange for some product.

Full-blown Photoshoot:

Okay, so working with students and new faces isn’t your thing? Taking pictures isn’t your thing either? Okay, then go for a full-blown photo shooting. Here are what you have to expect in terms of cost:

  • Studio Rental: depending on the size it’s between $200-$2000 per day. Here’s a studio with a wide variety of options
  • Photographer: depends vastly on experience and service. I’d budget at least $600 for a 6-8h workday
  • Equipment Rental: usually around $100-$300
  • Model: roughly around $70-100 per hour for a normal model in a small agency. An IMG girl gets 4-5 digit numbers per hour.

If you publish the photos you have taken on social media you have another great way to create value and give your fans some #sneakpeaks. Everything, from factory visits to photo shooting sneak peaks can be material for Instagram stories or Facebook Live Videos. Start upping your social media now to start gathering a tribe that is ready and eager to buy when you launch.

Most designers focus on the above-mentioned tasks only. Sure, sorting out your production and raw material sources is important. But just as important are the tasks that I laid out in the following months.

 

STEP #8: MANAGING YOUR CLOTHING LINE’S CASH FLOW

This is a tough one, I’m not going to lie. Trying to manage the cash flow for your brand new clothing line is like trying to catch smoke with your bare hands. Starting a clothing line is crazy expensive and those expenses are really hard to plan for. You should plan on being able to survive without having an income for at least 6 months or better, one year, until your line starts to throw off some income. Don’t be surprised though if it will take you even longer than that before you can take some money out of the business to pay yourself.

You basically have four ways to finance your business: (1) either you’re very fortunate and don’t need external funding. Or (2) you decide do a crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter or Indigogo. (3) You could decide to go for an angel investor. Or (4) you could try to finance your business through pre-orders. Each of these approaches have their advantages and disadvantages and I’m going to go over them one by one to help you make up your mind.

Self-financed:

Self-financing your business is the “easiest way” to start a business. You have money and you spend it on your future. Done. Well, not so fast. Self-financing will allow you to keep control of your business and means that you will be the sole owner and benefactor of all income earned.

Sara Blakely, the lady who founded Spanx, was 100% self-funded and now she’s reaping the benefits by owning 100% of this billion Dollar business. But getting there was not always that easy. Your personal funds are limited and you have to manage them wisely.

Furthermore, with every penny you spend on your business you also loose out on the opportunity to buy something else for yourself (a house, car, etc). I also found that the psychological pressure of spending your own money feels different than spending someone else’s money.

Here are a few ball-park figures you can use when setting up your budget: 

  • Lawyer fees for getting incorporated: between $500 and $2000 depending on how complicated your case is
  • Trademark fees (with a lawyer): roughly $1000
  • Developing a new style (with a pattern maker, sample sewer, and professional marker/grader): roughly $800
  • Production quantities: minimum 100-250 units (in the US). Read more here about unit costs
  • Shipping products within US: USPS $2.40-6.40; UPS/FedEx at least $10
  • Photo studio rental: $200-$400
  • Photographers: $400 – $1000
  • Hair/ Make Up Artst: $150 – $400 per person
  • (Fit and Photography) Models: $80-$150 per hour
  • Gifting an influencer (below 30-50k): the cost of samples + shipping

Ways to relieve your budget:

  • work with students, new talent, or DIY your photos/videos/marketing materials
  • outsource time consuming work to Virtual Assistants* (VA) overseas
  • use Fiverr and upwork to get stuff done quickly and at a good price
  • sew the first samples yourself to see if you even like the design/proportions
  • schedule trunk shows for the weekend mornings when people have time to shop

Crowdfunded:

Crowd funding is an interesting phenomenon. Inventors and entrepreneurs introduce their ideas to “the internet” and the internet decides whether or not they want to support these projects. If everything goes well you will have cash in hand before you have to pay for any production and a list of customers who agreed to purchase your product despite a several month delivery time.

Don’t be fooled though, as easy as it “seems” to use crowd funding to start your clothing line, only one third of all projects succeeds at reaching their goals. If you just jump in you’re very likely to fail. But don’t abandon crowd funding campaigns just yet. If successful, they can be terrific marketing and financing boosts for your clothing line and really put you on the roadmap.

Luckily, there’s a clear method to the madness and I don’t think there’s anyone better-suited than Khierstin Ross to talk about it. On her blog, Crowdfunding Uncut she goes over the strategies how she helped companies generate millions of Dollars through Indigogo and Kickstarter. If you’re serious about crowd funding your clothing line you should absolutely dive into her podcasts and listen to what she has to say.

Investor-funded:

Finding investors for your clothing line can be quite difficult. There are a million and one clothing lines out there and unless you really have a breakthrough innovation or already a very promising customer base investors will hardly be interested.

In fact, most venture-capital (VC) or angel funded fashion companies, that I know of, have founders with ties into the VC world. They’ve either worked for a VC firm and been an investor, or they know investors through other ways.

Take a look at this list of VC funded fashion companies, how much money they got, and who funded them:

As you can see from this list, once you find investment it’s certainly not pocket money. So how does that work…? In the beginning you will head out in the search of a business angel who will help you out with a seed investment. You put together a business plan and presentation of your business that you will have to present to the angel.

Be prepared to pass several rounds of serious interviews, being asked lots and lots of questions, and getting even the most fundamental assumptions of your business questioned. Once you passed this round you’ll end up with a couple hundred thousand Dollars to start your clothing line with in exchange for a share of your company. This is generally the catch with investors, in order to get financed you have to be comfortable with giving up some of the control and ownership.

After some time, when your clothing line is starting to reach the limits of how much it can expand under your current financing conditions it’s time to head out for your series A investment by a venture capital fund. VCs typically don’t (or can’t) assess or finance smaller ventures below $1-$2 million. They focus on companies that are at a later stage and already show some promising signs of success. From here the process tends to be quite similar. You put together a plan detailing what you need the money for, how you’re planning to spend it, and what they investors get in return. You pass interviews, questions, and may or may not end up with investment to continue your business.

 

STEP #9: LAUNCH DAY!

Wohoo! It is time to launch your clothing line! Congratulations for making it this far without going crazy. Or maybe you were already a little bit crazy to start on this endeavor to begin with?

Either way, I’m glad you made it, now it’s time to start hustling. And right off the bat, I have a confession to make. Throughout the last couple of months you should have prepared gathered email addresses, social media followers, and networked with people during your trunk shows. Your production is about to be done and your clothing line is ready to hit the market. Great!

The month leading up to the launch period should be fully reserved for your launch. You should send out emails to every editor, include press kits, and maybe even send some test-samples to important people. Ask them for coverage during your launch week or offer to write guest posts for their publication. Just before your launch week is also the best time to gift influencers, should you choose to do so. Ask them beforehand to commit to posting a certain number of photos at specific days of the week to make sure all of your efforts come together in a timely manner.

During your launch week, you should send out a series of timed emails that reinforce your message, deliver value to your customer, and prime them for buying. You can reuse this email sequence at any time in the future when new subscribers are opting in to your newsletters. One of the best email sequences I have ever seen was by ThirdLove.

It consisted of five emails and this is how it looked 

  • #1 on Day 1: personalized welcome mail from the head designer
  • #2 on Day 3: reinforce their messaging. “The best bra is the one you never think about”
  • #3 on Day 5: Bras 101 – all about the perfect fit
  • #4 on Day 7: Bras 101 – this is how you should care for your bra
  • #5 on Day 9: The ThirdLove Philosophy

You guys, this is groundbreaking. And this is what I mean with “when it comes to selling online, we have to learn from Silicon Valley”. If we all sold this well online then there would be a whole lot more successful new clothing lines out there. Third Love basically stretched out our communication over almost two weeks instead of just one day (and then “sale time”). They delivered value by teaching me how a bra should fit (which woman can claim she really knows?!) and how to keep them in good shape. They also took a moment to instill their philosophy once again at the end of the period to make sure that I’ll remember.

Keep this in mind when you’re building your email sequence for your launch. And before you get going, I highly recommend that you go out and buy the book by Jeff Walker, Launch, it will tech you everything you need to know about launching your clothing line online.

 

STEP #10: THE 80/20 ANALYSIS AND GROWTH

Congratulations. Your clothing line is on the market since a few weeks now and you survived your crazy launch week. Hopefully you’re starting to get online orders somewhat consistently and everything is more or less stable. I know, that’s a lot to expect from a young clothing line but hey, we’re not here to be average, right?

Now it’s time to look at what you’re actually doing. How are you spending your days and where do you make the most sales? In person? How exactly are you doing that? Can you do more of that? Can you hire someone to do sales? If so, try LinkedIn, Indeed, and Craigslist to find a suitable yet affordable candidate.

What if most of your sales come through your website? Great! How do people find you? Use Google analytics to figure out where your customers come from. Instagram? Facebook ads? Pinterest? Whatever it is, focus more of your energy on what is working and stop wasting time on platforms that aren’t generating any return.

How about other busy work like posting online? Writing invoices? Or keeping your books? Is there a software that could do this for you? Most major banks will integrate with quickbooks and automatically transfer all of your actions to your accounting software. During tax season your CPA just needs a copy of the file and you didn’t have to do a single thing. Is posting online eating a lot of your free time? Outsource it. Or at least, outsource parts of it. Get a virtual assistant or a freelancer to do it for you so you can focus all of your energy on building your business.

Your goal should be to eliminate 80% of the busy work and only focus on the 20% that create actual results. 

The 10 Steps to start a highly profitably clothing line including an action- or business plan template.One more word about scaling your business:

Imagine I offered you the following deal: you give me $1 and in return I give you $2. That’s a great deal for you, and you’d try to do this deal more than once, no? What if you gave me 500 one Dollar bills and in return I gave you 500 $2 bills (yes, they exist). That would be amazing, you would have just doubled your wealth. Your return on investment (ROI) would be 200%.

That is something to keep in mind as you’re building your business. If something works, try to do more of it, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. If one FB ad is generating you a great ROI don’t change it. Do more of it.

What if it isn’t possible to do more of something due to, for example, time constraints. The day only has 24h and you can only do a certain number of tasks per day. Let’s say we’re talking about attending events to sell your clothing. You can only be at one event per day but that’s where you get most of your income from. That’s fine, you should consider hiring someone. Don’t have $2500 to spare at the end of the month to pay a salary? What if that person can attend eight events per month and generate at least $1000 per event. Wouldn’t they bring in at least $8000 per month then? Same as with the Dollar bills, you’d be trading $2500 per month in salary against $8000 in sales.

The important part is that you need to be able to build a system so that other people are able to generate at least the same results that you would generate yourself. Don’t make yourself the bottle neck. Your clothing line has to be able to function without you. Want to read up more on that? Take a look at this book called Built to Sell. It’s a quick and easy read and shows you exactly how to build a business that is self-sufficient.

Virginia Ribeiro de Assis
[email protected]
6 Comments
  • Delaya B.
    Posted at 01:45h, 15 November Reply

    This is the MOST information that I have ever seen after spending years scouring the internet for fashion industry related info. The time you have put in is evident and information is definitely on point!

    • Virginia Fabricius
      Posted at 10:13h, 16 November Reply

      Thank you so much Delaya, I’m happy you found this post helpful!
      Feel free to leave requests or suggestions for more content!

  • Jeannine Cavallo
    Posted at 03:27h, 11 February Reply

    Thank you so much Virginia! I agree with Delayla after spending so much time scouring the internet looking for answers to my questions I am so happy to have finally discovered Fashion Founder.Me.

    • Virginia Fabricius
      Posted at 12:51h, 11 February Reply

      Hey Jeannine! Thanks so much for the nice comment, always happy to help! I felt the same way about the lack of information when I started half a decade ago so I’m happy this blog is fulfilling its purpose!

  • JF
    Posted at 08:10h, 20 May Reply

    Virginia, this is a goldmine. And to think this is just the first article I read on your blog. There’s a lot in here, enough to guide us through the first six months of business birthing, at least. Thank you for the enormous value you give us! I can’t imagine how it would’ve been for us if I didn’t find you! I’m buckling in and rolling my sleeves up. Thank you!!!

    • Virginia Fabricius
      Posted at 12:14h, 24 September Reply

      Hi JF!

      Thanks so much for your kind words and I’m glad you found this post helpful! It always makes me happy when I can be of service! Feel free to suggest other topics that would be interesting to you, I’m always happy to include suggestions in my content considerations!

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