Fashion Business For Beginners – Most people think that starting a clothing brand is a very good idea. A curated Instagram feed makes it look like you have a fun and useful clothing line and all that fun stuff. Popular poop clothing lines are constantly being released. Looks cool AF.
With all this hype, it’s no wonder you think starting a brand is a great idea.
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But I will tell you that what you see on IG and in the media is far from reality.
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I don’t want to be a dream breaker. In fact, I had my own clothes but “on paper” it was a great success but “in the books” it was a huge failure (not to mention I hated the fact of having my own brand) . I learned a valuable lesson, I wish someone had warned me about the situation.
That’s why I want to tell you what a clothing line is like, and why you want to think about something more fun and very useful in fashion. We’ll get to that in a second, but first…
Most people naively think that you can just create an idea, take it to the market, and your design will sell itself. When it comes to your clothing brand, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Here are all the things you need to consider:
Chances are you’ll be 3+ years in… and not only will you have no profit and money to pay yourself, but you’ll be big in the red. This means that you spent more money than you earned. LIKE THAT
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If you’ve done a lot of research, you’ll probably find tons of blog posts and YouTube videos telling you how to do it for free or $5. I’ve even interviewed someone who preaches this strategy on my podcast. me. But this is hardly a clothing brand – you created images and prints on t-shirts. You are a graphic designer. (And this market is more flooded than the clothing brand market right now. It’s still hard to sell enough to make it worth your while.)
One where you designed some products and designed them and built them from scratch? The numbers are strong…
There are parts of this process that you can do yourself depending on your skills, and some costs (such as materials and sewing) will vary greatly depending on your design, but let’s take a look at the high costs of starting a clothing line:
* Show price per piece. The more you build, the better price you can get. A t-shirt might cost $10 to cut and sew if you’re making 100, but $25 each if you’re making 10 (if you can find a factory to make those small ones).
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The list goes on, and there are a million little expenses along the way. You don’t know it because none of the experts out there talk about the hard truth and what it takes to start a clothing brand.
If you don’t do the math, your clothing investment will cost you at least $20,000 – $40,000 to get your first product or two to market. This is before you start trying and selling anything. Then you have plenty of time to push and promote the product even before your small audience wants something new and fresh.
It is difficult for AF to recoup enough of that initial investment to have money left over to start investing in new products.
And most of the fashion brands have not come so far. (It always hurts to burn money.) From my 15+ years in the industry and 100’s of clothing brand founders I’ve interviewed and know personally, I estimate less than 5% for 3 years and less than 1% very profitable.
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You spend less than 10% of your time designing and doing fun things like photography and runway shows and 90% of your time doing painful business like:
If you don’t understand the proposition, most of your time is spent on general planning, communication and marketing. It’s not fun. I did. I know many other people too. A bit boring.
You’ll find IG-worthy photos of champagne popping up at something interesting like a runway show, but after you’ve dropped $5,000-$10,000 on this show and don’t have a single sale to show for it. (Because it’s an insider industry secret, but fashion shows cost a boatload of people to bring in or attend, and all you get is great photos.)
Most people think you’ll make a kajillion dollars and be well on your way to stardom overnight. But the real thing is that it is known that the profit of clothing is low.
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According to industry analysts, you can expect a profit of 4-13%. This means that for every $100 you spend, you get $104-$113 back. And that is if, IF, IF(!!!) you make a profit. Most brands do not.
Let’s look at a real-life scenario where you can design a jacket that you plan to sell directly to the consumer (DTC). Development costs (customer research, models, technical design, drawings, etc.), we will look at the cost of goods (COG – this means a hard physical price for each jacket including things like materials and labor).
The cost is taken. Designing and developing the things we mentioned earlier will make you thousands. And you didn’t pay yourself all the time.
My friend, you are in the red. You are running a failing business. In other words, you have expensive entertainment.
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You have great photos to share with friends, family, and fans on IG, but behind the scenes, they’re eating 25 cent ramen and stressed AF wondering how you’re going to make next month’s rent.
I’m here to tell you the hard truth about essentials (which many experts don’t talk about).
And I’m here to tell you that if you want to be really strategic, you won’t get into all your clothes without some other kind of “distress”.
Let’s talk about what it’s like to be a fashion freelancer and why it’s better than starting a clothing line.
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Investment and start-up costs are almost nothing (compared to tens of thousands for a brand). Depending on the service you offer, you can get out of Illustrator and Excel subscriptions for less than $40/month.
You can quickly find customers and start making money in a few weeks (compared to years for brands). And it doesn’t matter where you live, you can work remotely with brands around the world.
You can pick and choose which parts of the process you do (compared to a brand where you do it all yourself or have to pay $$$ to hire someone). If you just want to do fun things like search design and trends? There is something inside.
The profit is very high (compared to a brand that – if you’re lucky – will reach a few%). Since the overhead is low (you’ll pay for some software but otherwise, it’s just your time), most of the revenue goes directly to your bank account. You can earn a lot of money. Cha-ching.
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In addition, if you decide not to depend on the side when starting your dress, it’s a double win in all aspects.
You will have extra money to cover the cost of your clothes. As you know by now, there is no such thing as enough money to throw your brand around. #winwin (This is exactly what some of my podcast guests have done, like Mat Booth and Christina Yother.)
You can double dip for some parts of the process. As long as it doesn’t infringe on your customers and you are independent with brands that complement and do not compete with yours, you may be able to use the same sources, suppliers and companies. #winwin
You can learn from their mistakes. Basically you get paid to avoid painful trial and error. Freelance opportunities abound with independent startup brands. This means you’ll get an unfiltered behind-the-scenes peek at every step of the process to see where things went wrong. There is no price. And of course #winwin.
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Being independent in fashion gives you the best of both worlds. You can do the design or the creative part and you don’t have to worry about the money or the marketing side.
As a fashion freelancer, you can do whatever part of the process you want and say “no thanks” to things you don’t want to deal with. You can start without experience or a degree in fashion, even if you are just starting out, and it doesn’t matter where you are.
I don’t create things or paint fantasy dreams. That’s how I built my $100k/year career working 25-35hrs a week and traveling 6-8 times a year whenever I wanted (without worrying about packing and shipping orders or asking for PTO).
And that’s why hundreds of students in my Freelance Accelerator: from Surviving to Thriving (FAST) have created a life they love.
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Like Arya from India who got 6 subscribers in the first week