Expert Advice: Running A Clothing Line

If you love apparel and design, starting and running your own clothing line can be one of the most rewarding things in the world. But like any other start-up business, there’s also a whole lot of struggle, missteps along the way, and tons of learning.

There’s no magic pill for success, but we wanted to give you a few hints. Rather than writing this one ourselves (after all, we haven’t run a clothing line… yet), we turned to some of the most popular faces around the industry and asked them one question:

“What advice would you give to someone starting a clothing line?”

And here’s what they had to say (in no particular order).

From Eric, Linty Fresh:

BE UNIQUE! There are TONS of clothing lines out there and I see/hear about new ones starting every day. For you to succeed, you’re going to need to give people a compelling reason to choose you over everyone else. What is that reason? What element of your business will make people buy your stuff, wear it proudly, come back for more, and most importantly, tell their friends about you?

In the long run, what will have more impact than advertising, promotions, and sponsorships will be your product itself. If it doesn’t stand out, it’s time to rethink things. So find out what’s being done out there and go the other way.

Linty Fresh is an Atlanta-based clothing company owned by Eric Terry, who handles everything from design to order fulfillment, and has been running it full-time since June of 2008.

From Bill, Retro Plus Tees:

It is vital to get people to “buy-in” to your vision but also give you realistic and critical feedback.  You never want to surround yourself with yes men or women.

In order to create a quality product you need to have people that are willing to tell you what is good and what sucks.  These same people are the best street team personnel.  They will buy into your vision, market your product via word of mouth or social media and they will provide you with candid feedback that will improve your product.

I also have another t-shirt company owner that I use as a sounding board and motivational peer.

Retro Plus Tees is an Original Design Brand that specialize in off-color humor printed on Alternative Apparel with a vintage twist.

From Chris, Rizzo Tees

Everything about starting a business will cost more than you budgeted.  Be careful to order the right amount of inventory (not too much).  Leave yourself cash to operate.

Chris says: “I am a t-shirt superhero that clothes the naked.  That’s not pretentious, is it?”

From Robert, Envee Apparel

One piece of advice I would give to clothing line owners would be to make sure you have a well thought out marketing plan. More often than not people think that all they need to market their apparel is a few stickers, fliers and a web site. It takes more than some a good design and some decent SEO.

The reality of the situation is, you really need to have a handful of brand ambassadors (friends) to help promote your brand. The more people that spread the word and let people know how quality your product is, they more people will trust your brand and in-turn feel fine about purchasing your product.

Really do your homework on brand trust and recognition because a little trust can go a long way with product sales.

Envee Apparel creates artwork that has it’s own special story to tell, making the experience of owning Envee Apparel that much more unique.

From Darren, Regal Clothing Co.

Don’t ever give up, there have been some weeks I’ve thought “WHAT!? No orders?!” and then considered packing it all in. The flurries of orders make it all worth while!

Darren says: “I started out designing t-shirts for myself, the only reason I’m doing this is to feed my habit… If i can sell them along the way that’ll make me very happy! It’s coming up to my first year trading and I’ve loved every minute of it!”

From Tim, Assault

Don’t be Threadless, don’t be Affliction, don’t be anybody else. Pick what you know and what you love and stick with it. Don’t try to be another brand because there’s plenty of imitations out there on the market already. Find your fans treat them like they were your best friends cause they are and you’ll build a cult following who loves your product.

If I had to give a piece of advice that was 6 words or less. It would be: Blog!

Assault is a clothing company started by Tim Toomey and Craig Kaplowitz specializing in t-shirts and accessories for rockers, musicians, political activists, social activists, and counter culture enthusiasts.

Do you agree? Have advice of your own? Please share what YOU think in our comments.


18 thoughts on “Expert Advice: Running A Clothing Line

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  4. mayamada

    Thanks for the advice. I especially like the comment about not immitating other brands. I just started a brand with a couple others and am trying not to get distracted by what others are doing, especially in the early stages when it's so important to solidify what you're about. We're aiming to build a following around what we do and take it from there.

  5. Pingback: › T-Shirt Blogs Round Up: Co-Tee TV, Intense Foil’age, and Clothing Line Advice

  6. Peggysimpson34

    hello. tim my name is peggy and I also have a clothing line after reading and knowing about your
    clothing line makes me want to push mind even more to grow really big.please e-mail me back
    with a respone with more on how to run a clothing business my e-mail address is thank you

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