How to start a clothing line

A business for the creatively inclined, learn what it takes to become a fashion entrepreneur here

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What is a clothing line business and who is it suited to?

If you have artistic expertise, a strong design ethic, and a real passion for creating a brand, running a clothing line could be for you. The term ‘clothing line’ covers a wide variety of different businesses; some design and produce their own clothes, whilst others hand-pick clothes from designers and outlets to present them as part of a new, cohesive clothing brand. Generally, the term refers to a collection of clothes and accessories presented under the umbrella of a distinctive brand.

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Whichever avenue you decide to take, this is a business that requires an abundance of one particular trait: passion. In some sectors, you can start a very successful business without ever having a real passion for the sector or subject matter itself, but the design and branding-led nature of the clothing and fashion business means that genuine passion for what you are creating is a must if you want to stand out and enjoy success.

It is also not a business for the unimaginative. You should have a strong artistic bent and be creatively inclined generally; trying to copy what others are doing in the industry is a recipe for failure. “You have to be able to see what works and what doesn’t work from a creative point of view straight away,” Harry Broster, co-founder of skatewear-inspired clothing line Timeless Clothing, explains. “A brand’s perception is everything and this goes a long way. Having a creative eye in the running of the brand is essential.”

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Despite this, you don’t need expertise in making clothes to get started. Chloe Nicolls, founder of vintage-inspired clothing line Henri Castro, liaises with independent designers and artists to resell their clothing as part of her own brand, showcasing their work whilst building a clear identity for her own venture. “I quickly discovered I wasn’t that good at the technical side of it – my degree was in English and I didn’t have any experience before starting,” she explains, “but I had a collection of vintage pieces and companies that I really liked as a consumer.”

Indeed, Nicolls believes experience of the fashion industry as a consumer is invaluable when starting a clothing line. “I think you definitely need that consumer insight,” she says. “I had an idea of what worked and what didn’t just from being an avid fashion consumer myself. You can read all the books on it you like, but unless you come at it as a consumer you can’t get those insights.”

As you will see from our ‘earnings’ section, starting a clothing line is no route to fame and fortune; your earnings will be unpredictable, and a huge part of any success will be down to simple timing and luck. But if you are a creative person with a real passion for the fashion industry who wants to start a flexible, low-cost business – a fashion line business could be perfect for you.

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