How to Start a Clothing Brand
It’s a great time for independent apparel brands!
Consumers are increasingly drawn to the sustainability and innovative designs of independent apparel brands. And investors always have their eye on a company with a loyal following + great sales.
But the apparel industry is heavily regulated so you’ll need to follow the law closely. Here’s what you need to know…
1. Start your company
If you’re operating a business without registering as an LLC or Corporation, you’re taking a big risk. Your personal assets can be taken to pay your business debts. That means you can lose your car, house, and bank account on a product injury, a bad business deal, or a freak accident. Is it likely? Probably not. Is it worth all that risk to save a few hundred bucks on registering? Definitely not. Register your company with the state and follow certain formalities, so only your company assets are at risk.
Youʼll start by completing the state paperwork to register your entity. First, you'll need to decide what kind of entity is the best fit for you.
2. Lock down your brand
A trademark allows you to own your brand. It means you're the only company who can use your company name, logo, slogan, domain name, personal name, product name, or hashtags. Here's why it's key: without it, you can be sued, forced to rebrand, or have your customers stolen by copycats.
Trademarks give you the exclusive rights to use the name nationally. So if someone else registers your trademark, they’ll own the rights to your name nationally. You'll only be able to use it in your geographic region (typically your city). That's not ideal!
Think about how many brand pieces feature your company name: your website, social media, business cards, products, marketing materials, press links, inventory, etc. If you want to operate nationally, you'll need to change all of that + pull back all inventory with the brand on it, or possibly pay monetary damages. You'll lose customers, money, and valuable momentum.
Bottom line: if you’re building a brand, you need to trademark it asap!
3. Create your apparel
Have a plan for what you’ll sell. Once you decide on your designs, you’ll want to create a tech pack to help you outsource your clothing to a contract manufacturer. You’ll want to have a contract in place with your manufacturer that spells out the items produced, specifications, production + payment timelines, and inspection rights.
It’s also important that you and your manufacturer adhere to federal regulations about apparel labeling and production. The law dictates what your apparel labels need to say, from fiber content to care instructions, what flammability testing needs to be done, and what records need to be kept.
4. Create a website
You need a gorgeous branded website to attract customers + convert them to buyers. You’ll also need a personalized subscription terms + conditions to secure your customer service policy.
Thinking it doesn't matter? Think again! Your online policies have a big impact on customer happiness and your bottom line. Plus, they'll need to meet certain legal requirements to prevent fines and lawsuits.
Your policy tells customers what they need to know about buying from your shop. You'll want to spell out the rules for placing orders, how they’ll ship, and how to cancel an order.