How to Start an Apparel 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. If you haven't decided yet, check out our guides to Sole Proprietorship, Partnerships, LLCs, C Corporations, and S Corporations.
Now you're ready to register. If you are registering an LLC, the form is usually called Articles of Organization. If youʼre forming a Corporation, the form is called Articles of Incorporation. You can find these on your stateʼs corporation agency website. Youʼll also need to choose a registered agent, principal place of business, and business purpose. Keep in mind that all of this information, including your address, will be public.
Tip: Call in your business attorney if you’re not sure which entity is the right fit for your company.
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 operate on a first to file system. That means the first person to file the trademark gets the exclusive rights to use the name. So if someone else files first, they’ll own the rights to your name and you won't be allowed to use your brand anymore and you can be sued for using it.
Think about how many brand pieces feature your company name: your website, social media, business cards, product tags, marketing materials, press links, inventory, etc. You'll need to change all of that, pull back all inventory with the brand on it, and possibly pay monetary damages. You'll lose customers, money, and valuable momentum.
Bottom line: if you’re building a brand, you need to
3. Create your apparel
If you’ve read our popular blog post, How to Start a Business, you 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. Promote your line
There are so many ways you can market your apparel brand. You can use instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, email newsletters, and influencers to promote your brand online. Find out where your customers are online and join them!
You can also check out tradeshows and trade organizations for apparel like Magic or New York Now.