First steps to create a clothing brand

Today we're starting a series of articles specifically targeted towards those who are creating a clothing brand and aren't quite sure how to go about it.

In the upcoming weeks, we'll be discussing - among other things - the correct pricing strategy for each piece you sell, whether or not to offer free shipping, the importance (or lack thereof) of social media, tips for impressing your customers with shipments, and the marketing significance of the moment of shipment.

Previously, we've talked about the steps to take and ideas to keep in mind when printing T-shirts, but today we're going to take a step back in time, back to basics, to the moment when you start thinking about making your own custom T-shirts, and we'll explain some of the most important steps to take.

It's important to understand that starting a clothing brand isn't just about putting together some cool designs and making T-shirts to sell on a website. It's much more than that.

At Maudlin Merchandise, we've worked with various clothing brands (some larger, some smaller), and we can say with quite some certainty that some had fabulous prints but couldn't sell the pieces, while others, with lower quality images, ended up being a success. This goes to show that design alone isn't enough! You ALWAYS need to have a business model, think through every detail so that when problems arise (and they do!), things are easier to solve.

How to create a clothing brand:

  1. What are your aspirations for the company?
  2. Your Designs
  3. Defining your target audience
  4. Reaching your target audience
  5. Brand Identity
  6. Distribution and sales channels
  7. Evaluation

  1. What are your aspirations for the company?

Many people make too many mistakes when they're thinking of starting a clothing brand, and in most cases, that's crucial for the (un)success of the brand. The biggest mistake is probably thinking of the clothing brand as a joke, where you draw some designs and try to sell some T-shirts. No. A clothing brand has to be seen as a business, which is essentially what it is. It's a business where there are purchases (T-shirts and T-shirt printing) and sales (customized T-shirts). There are stocks and money transactions. There are times when you make investments and others when you profit. Therefore, we always have to see a brand as a business and work on it as such.

When we started Maudlin Clothing (it was as a clothing brand and not as a textile printing company), we made the same mistake. And it was one of the reasons things didn't work out (although we made an interesting profit).

What are your motivations for opening your company? Do you just want a few people to wear your clothes? Then this guide isn't for you, and you can close the site. Here, we address issues that matter to those who really want to start a brand and have some success compared to the "big dogs"!

  1. Your Designs

A big mistake that 90% of clothing brands make is thinking about designs before doing any kind of research on T-shirt printing methods. It's true, and this type of guide that we've written so many times on our blog serves exactly as an attempt to open the eyes of even one customer.

It's also true that when we think about starting a clothing brand, the first thing we do is open Photoshop, Illustrator, Corel Draw, or another design program and start pouring ideas into drawings. It's natural, excitement speaks louder. But we can't think that printing T-shirts is like printing a sheet of paper on our printer because it's not. There are many rules to follow with designs. You can't make designs with thousands of colors because then the investment will be (much) higher, and the final quality of the print will be lower! You can't make full-body prints because there are no techniques for printing those images. You might say you've seen big brands with that type of printing. Of course, you have. But the important part to remember is that. Big brands! Brands that don't make 10 or 20 T-shirts but thousands or tens of thousands. Brands that can sell their pieces for €40 or €50 and still be successful. Brands that can afford to print the T-shirts before they are even sewn. In a production for an independent clothing brand (indie), this is totally impossible. So be careful with the images you make. Research, see what flex, screen printing, direct printing are. Don't draw anything without seeing the characteristics of these prints because most likely things will go wrong afterward.

  1. Defining your target audience

Defining your target audience is extremely important. We all know that we can't sell the same piece of clothing to a 16-year-old boy and a 70-year-old lady. It's impossible to succeed with that business model. So it's very important to think about what we want to do with our company and to whom we want to sell our pieces. We can imagine a target audience in the 16-24 age range to start. But what is this? There must be more than 1 million people between 16 and 24 years old in Portugal, and I can assure you that THEY ALL have different tastes. That's where a second segmentation arises. The "tribes" or species (as a famous mobile phone brand now calls them). It's important to know if we're going to sell our pieces to the hip-hop crowd, hardcore, metal, rock, skaters, inliners, traceurs, etc... the survival of the brand depends on this exercise of reflection and segmentation.

On a more personal note, when we started Maudlin, still exclusively as a clothing brand, we decided to "attach ourselves" to music, especially Portuguese underground music. We've always been very connected to Portuguese music and have friends in bands. It was our thing. So we decided to hire the same designers who made T-shirts for the bands - also our friends - and that's how we started. I can say we were successful, we sold hundreds of T-shirts in just a few months, sold out our second and third collections. It was good times. But due to the lack of a business model, things quickly started to go wrong. And hence the importance of point 1.

But this is to say that everything is made easier when our target audience is well-segmented, and we have some roots within that audience, we know what those people want. Remember that it's the end customer who will buy the T-shirt from you. You need a SOLID design! Something that creates a "wow factor" in people. Something that isn't too seen, that is fresh.

  1. Reaching your target audience

As we mentioned in the previous point, it's extremely important to have a target audience. We also talked about the importance of segmenting this target audience to reach a more homogeneous and closer audience to the pieces you sell.

Reaching your target audience isn't complicated or expensive at all. Let's take the example of music once again.

Online: There's no shortage of music websites. We have Blitz, HornsUp, Metal Underground, among dozens of other sites. Almost all sites nowadays have spaces for advertising, and generally at very attractive prices. Maudlin has been advertising its services on some of these sites for about 2 years now, always with very good results. You can also ask for a "guest post," where you write an article for the site, and of course, use that article to promote your brand.

Offline: In the case of music, it's extremely easy to advertise offline and at low costs. All cities have concerts, no matter how far apart they are temporally or how few people attend. Why not talk to the organizers of these concerts and ask for a small stand to sell your materials? At Maudlin, we joined some bands a few years ago and traveled the country with them, selling our stuff (in exchange, we offered roadie services and gave away some T-shirts for these bands to wear!). It's something that has a lot of success but is psychologically and physically exhausting. Still, you'll have fantastic memories for the rest of your life. You can also hand out flyers at these concerts. Don't forget to include a brief description of the brand and put the website. The quality of the flyer, whether it's in color or black and white, doesn't matter much.

  1. Brand Identity

The identity of your brand is extremely important. It's the perception that customers have of your company/brand when they see your pieces. Do they see a legitimate clothing brand with potential to grow? Or do they see a joke that won't lead to anything?

There are some ways to make the perception of your brand superior in the eyes of customers. Of course, these tips will raise production costs, but wouldn't it be worth paying €1 more for your pieces if you could sell them more easily and retain customers?

An excellent way to improve people's view of your brand is to make high-quality prints; never give up on screen printing or direct printing! NEVER! Print quality should never be something you skimp on. If someone buys a piece from you and doesn't like the quality, they will never buy anything from you again and may even want to return the pieces.

Make personalized tags. I know opinions are divided on this, but we believe you should have your own labels, never leave the original labels of the T-shirts. This adds value to your product and is something that customers will appreciate.

Use higher quality T-shirts. For customers who want to start selling clothes, we recommend our 150-gram pieces; they are made by TH Clothes and are of much higher quality than average. The end customer may not know anything about the weight of the pieces, but they will surely be able to distinguish a good T-shirt from a bad one. This piece is extremely soft and smooth, adapting to people's bodies in an incredible way. If you prefer thicker clothing, why not a 190-gram T-shirt?

It's also important that your designs are easily recognizable on the street. Do something characteristic in all of them so that people are curious when they see your T-shirts and always want to know more. Use images with bright colors or even T-shirts of various colors, inspire your designs in something specific for each collection. Create value! Make a difference.

  1. Distribution and sales channels

Once again, before starting production of any kind of material for your clothing brand, sit down for a few minutes and think about how you'll distribute the pieces and what your sales channels will be.

From our point of view, you have two valid options, and the decision of which one to choose will have to come from you.

Online: Selling online is always a good option when resources are small. You just need to create a website (you can do it yourself or pay someone to do it) and try to sell through it. Don't forget the ideas we gave you in point 4 about places to advertise your website. This is a good option especially for small clothing brands with limited financial resources.

Selling online doesn't mean all your advertising is exclusively online. Not at all. Post posters on the street, send SMS to your friends and ask them to forward them to other people. Innovate and take risks;

Offline: Offline sales will possibly be a bit more complicated to do and with some logistical barriers. Unfortunately, most stores buy pieces on consignment. And what is consignment? Consignment is when you go to a store to sell your pieces, and they say they'll keep the T-shirts but only pay for what they sell. What they can't sell, they return to you. This implies a greater investment on your part because you'll have to distribute the pieces to several stores and run the risk of having capital tied up because, although you don't have the T-shirts in your possession and can't sell them on your website (because you're out of stock), these can be returned at any time, leaving you with a larger stock from one moment to the next.

  1. Evaluation

It's always important to do a monthly evaluation of your business. See how much you bought, how much you sold, and how quickly. Analyze what you're doing right and wrong. If necessary, read this guide a few more times and take note of what you find most important.

Be optimistic and have expectations, but remember that it's also important to have your feet firmly on the ground.

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