Read This Before Starting Your Clothing Line
37 Common Mistakes & How To Avoid Them
Since the start of Apparel Entrepreneurship, we have worked with numerous clients around the world and helped them run and scale their clothing brands. All entrepreneurs want successful, profitable businesses, and everyone faces challenges to get there. Encountering problems and making mistakes is part of running an apparel business. Are there any mistakes that are more common than others, and what can be done to avoid them? Are there any lessons learned from the mistakes made? For everyone who is about to, or already run a clothing brand, we have made it a bit easier for you. We have examined the most common mistakes clothing brands make when starting and running their clothing lines.
Here is a list of 37 common mistakes, and what you can do to avoid them if you want your brand to succeed and grow.
Lessons Learned From Planning the Clothing Business
1. Thinking it’s unnecessary to research the market, and relying on the gut feeling that the brand is absolutely needed.
Perform a thorough market scan to see what exists in the marketplace and what doesn’t. Is there a need for your clothing line? Is there a gap in the market? You need to make clothes that your customers are willing to buy. It is also important to differentiate your apparel brand from what already exists if you want to avoid to always be in second place.
2. Not understanding the need for being the clothing brand’s own consumer. Relying only on Google and Youtube for information regarding your customer.
You can find information about your customer to a certain extent, but to fully understand their need for clothing, you have to be in their shoes. If you are the customer, you will totally understand what the clothes purpose are, what you want the materials and fit to do for your garments and what functionality they should have. You will also lack the real drive, to make the ultimate clothes for your niche, if you are not your own customer.
3. Failing to understand the need for writing a business plan, and instead deciding things along the way.
Creating a business plan will force you to think about some tough questions that will help you start and run your clothing business. You can early on see some apparent obstacles, and you can handle them in a structured manner without surprises.
4. Skipping the product launch schedule.
Creating designs, tech packs, patterns, and prototypes takes time. This needs to be coordinated with sourcing, fabric production, lab-dipping, product manufacturing, sales, and marketing. To not create a launch schedule, and not working with clear deadlines, is a recipe for disaster.
5. Thinking there is no need to do a budget and cost analysis on how much money is needed to launch the brand.
It happens, surprisingly often, that clothing brand founders don’t calculate how they will finance the business and how they’ll make a profit. Without getting into details, you can make some basic calculations reasonably quick to see if it is at all feasible, or if you need to adjust the business case. If numbers aren’t your thing, you should involve someone good at math and finances.
6. Starting with too big of a clothing range.
Starting with an extensive apparel collection costs a lot in product development, and will add time to reach the market. Before you have tested the demand for your clothes on the market, it is a good idea to start small. Make a few garments really well, and get noticed for how fantastic they are. When you get the first clothes right, you can begin to add other styles to your collection.
7. Starting without a price strategy.
You need to have a strategy for how you will price your clothes, make a profit, and position your apparel brand in the market. If you don’t have a strategy for this, you’ll soon be out of business.
8. Starting with wrongly priced products.
First of all, your prices must allow you to make a profit to stay in business. If you have too low prices, this may be difficult to achieve. If your prices are too high, you may sell too few garment pieces and potentially miss the relation between quality and price. The pricing also reflects the positioning of your clothing brand and should be well in line with your strategy.
9. Looking at what the competitors are doing and believing that it’s “safer” to copy their stuff and strategy than to go your own way.
What your competitors are doing has obviously already been done. You don’t need to do the same thing. Make your own mark. Copying someone else’s strategy usually means you are making some wrong assumptions since you don’t know the ins and outs of their clothing brand. What is their actual business model(s), what are their production quantities, how large are their overheads, what are their quality requirements, who is their target customer, etc.? Stay clear on who your target customer is, serve them in the best possible way and make your own mark in this industry.
10. Starting an apparel brand to get rich.
With a few exceptions, it will take years to start earning money, and even longer to get rich. Having money as the only incentive takes the focus away from creating the best possible clothes.
11. Not knowing the brand’s reason for being.
Understanding why you are running your clothing brand should be one of the first things you determine. The ”why” will help your business stay on track and make all the decisions you have to make evident. The importance of this should not be underestimated.
12. Never determining and understanding the core values of the business.
As soon as you have determined why you are in business, you need to assess your core values. What is your brand really about? What do you want to promote and what goes against your values. With a clear why and clear values, your business will be much easier to steer. You need to have the why and the values ready before you continue. If it’s not done, then you need to get back and determine your values.
13. Ignoring lead times and production capacities.
Clothing product development takes time. Making fabrics and producing clothes takes time. Shipping, ordering, and communication adds even more time. You need to make a clear plan with deadlines to allow you to launch the clothing line in time. Typically, manufacturers plan their production one year ahead of time, so you need to talk to them early to fit into their schedule.
Lessons Learnd From Running the Clothing Business
14. Thinking friends and connections will gladly work for free or for a fancier dinner on your project.
No one really wants to work for free. Everyone has things to do, and if they help you, it would be nice to get something in return. Even if you find someone to help you once, it is not a solution for the long run. Be prepared to pay for professional help. Don’t expect people to work for free.
15. Knowing what’s best for your clothing brand, there is no need to listen to “experts”.
No one understand your brand and your values better than you. You are great at many things, but you also need to know your limitations. Put your ego aside, realize you can learn valuable tricks from the industry, and feel the pulse of how the market works. By being responsive, you can avoid costly mistakes that have already been made by someone else.
16. Trusting everyone and hoping that everybody want’s what’s best for YOU and your clothing brand.
As with most things in life, people care mostly about themselves. So how can you make your clothes and your brand to be about your customers? Don’t be naive to think that business partners and customers will do what is best for you and your interests.
17. Letting the EGO take control.
If you want a thriving apparel business, you need to focus on what’s best for your brand and your customers, not you. No one knows it all. Curiosity and the constant will to learn more will make you stay sharp and focused on what matters most: the success of your business.
18. Talking, discussing, and throwing out ideas, but never taking action.
Everyone has ideas. An entrepreneur takes action. Running a clothing brand means putting in the hours and perform some work that drives the business forward. There are too many talkers out there. Start to hustle, work hard, and continuously do things that give your apparel business forward motion.
19. Thinking the project will run quickly and hustle free.
Working with product development means problem-solving. Hurdles and unexpected speed bumps are part of running a business. Good thing humans are great at adapting to new situations. By changing your perception and expectations, you will always be ready to tackle problems that will arise.
20. Outsourcing all parts of the clothing business, and in the end, having no understanding what those parts are.
To stay in full control of your apparel business, you need to understand all parts involved. You will be very exposed if you outsource everything. You need to understand the processes not to be dependent on external parties.
21. Forgetting that it is all about the customer and not about you.
Remember that the customer is the hero. You are making clothes to satisfy your customers. It is all about them, and not you. There are too many painful examples of businesses that forget this.
22. Giving up as soon as there is a problem. Using bullshit excuses why it is legit to quit.
Excuses are easy to come up with. As an entrepreneur, you need to be persistent and believe in your idea. See problems as challenges and understand that they are part of running a business. There is no easy and straight way to success.
23. Underestimating the importance of design in all aspects of your business.
When making clothes, design is the core of your business. This is what will make your mark and differentiate you from the competition. If you are not good a design, bring someone on board who is. You also need to design your brand and marketing messages, your graphical profile, your website, and your communication. Plan for profit and success, and start incorporating design in all aspects of your clothing business.
24. Borrowing and overspending money and counting on covering the expenses later.
Too many business count funding as a win. Look at it as what it is; a loan. You need a profit from the start, not sometime in the future. Again, if you are not good at making calculations, take help from someone who is.
25. Listening too much to self-proclaimed experts with no relevant experience.
Everyone has opinions. Make sure you check the source and that the information you receive is relevant to you and your apparel business.
26. Focusing on dumb shit. E.g., spending a lot of time and money on business cards.
Put your money and energy where it drives your business and clothing line forward. Focus on what is actually essential and not unimportant details.
27. Comparing yourself and not understanding the difference/disadvantage of being a new player in relation to an established brand.
A new apparel player and a large established clothing brand are not in the same position, so stop comparing. There are considerable differences in quantities and relative product development costs.
Lessons Learned In Product Development
28. Failing to plan for collection consistency in colors and materials.
Have you ever watched the tv show Project Runway? The judges’ most used word is probably ”cohesion”. You will need a red thread through your collection, to make it clear what your brand is about, and to not confuse the customers. You also want to avoid getting trapped in minimum order quantity issues.
29. Using cheap materials and cheap workmanship because no one will notice.
The customer won’t notice cheap materials and workmanship when ordering clothes from your online store, but it will pretty soon become evident when they start using them. Don’t cheat the customers. Bad garments will eventually kill your business.
30. Treating suppliers and manufacturers like shit because they “work for you”.
Remember that working with suppliers and manufacturers is a partnership. Focus on being overly precise in your own communication. Most issues with manufacturers arise from the brand’s own poor communication. Start treating your supplier/manufacturer relationships like a collaboration, like a win-win partnership that you are both parts of together. So start by taking a look at how you can improve the relationship.
31. Thinking the suppliers and manufacturers can “read between the lines” and that you don’t need to follow up, confirm and double check things.
You are accountable for your business and brand. Be overly clear in your communication, confirm that the receiving part understands you, and stay on top of things. Triple check things and don’t leave it to chance. It’s your clothing brand, your responsibility.
32. Not testing your products enough: usage, washing, function, and quality.
To make great clothes, you need to incorporate enough time during the product development phase to allow for testing. Let intended users wear the clothes. Try them in their real environment and wash them a few times. It is better that you notice flaws, instead of your customers. With enough planned time you can correct things that are not working and launch great garments.
33. Making everyone your customer. The thinking goes: the wider the audience, the better.
Not everyone is your customer. Determine who your target customers are and make an excellent offer for them. Don’t waste your energy trying to please everyone. Focus on your niche, or there will be too many compromises degrading your clothing styles.
34. Thinking that it’s enough to make the products and then people will come to buy it.
Making garments is only half the job. You need to sell them as well. All selling requires some kind of effort. Plan for this early on and incorporate it into your strategy. To start selling once your clothes are in the store is too late.
35. Believing that selling online is free and doesn’t involve any sales costs.
There are millions of websites and web shops on the Internet. Your website and clothing line won’t get noticed unless you put in some serious sales and marketing efforts. Just as with any kind of sales, this will involve time and money investment.
36. Thinking there is no need for calculating how much you need to sell to succeed. And never create an action plan to achieve it.
Based on your business plan, you set your sales targets and strategy. You can easily calculate how much you need to sell, to make a profit and stay in business. With the sales numbers, you can create an actionable plan to help you succeed.
37. Waiting to get started with social media activities. Thinking there is no need to let the customer in on your story early.
Growing an audience takes time. You need to share your story long before your products are ready if you want a flying start. You don’t even have to tell them about your exact clothing styles from the start, just let them in on your values, the reason you’re starting your clothing line, and the unique selling points.
Do You Want To Successfully Run & Grow Your Clothing Brand?
We can help you with:
Your pricing strategy
Finding manufacturers & material suppliers
Creating a realistic launch budget
Your branding strategy
Your detailed project plan
Getting by the hurdles that are holding back your progress