How to Start a Fashion Business Successfully

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You spent your whole life doodling designs in the corners of your notebooks.

You have more followers on Instagram that ask you, "where'd you get that" anything else. 

You've spent more hours of your life watching Project Runway than you'd care to admit. You're a fashion-lover, or a fashionista, to put it lightly. 

And now, maybe partnering with brands on Instagram or writing a fashion blog isn't enough anymore. You want to join the right fashion entrepreneurs and learn how to start a fashion business successfully. 

Right? Right - otherwise, you wouldn't be reading this. We've got tips and tricks to help you get started in the fashion business below. 


How to Start a Fashion Business 

This is a general guide and is not official or personalized investing/business advice. This is a guide made to help you figure out if creating a fashion brand really is right for you. 

Here are things to ask yourself before going all in on starting a fashion business successfully.


1. Are You Willing to Put in the Work? 

Do you know about or remember the brand Lularoe? They're a top MLM company, where retailers buy in bulk from the distributor, then are independent consultants, selling to their own customers. 

While Lularoe has a lot of controversy surrounding it, we're only bringing them up for one reason: a lot of women signed up thinking selling clothes would be easy. 

They didn't consider how much work it is to photograph and show an inventory, as well as market and balance profits. In recent years, Lularoe saw a max exodus of sellers - who thought this whole slinging clothes thing would be easier. 

And some of those who stuck it out made it - but that's another story. It's clear that that starting a fashion business, even as an independent distributor, is challenging to do successfully.

We bring up the leggings retailer to drive home the point that starting a fashion business is work. It's just as much work as starting any other product-based business, and it's not always fun. 

You can make a great living doing it - but make sure you know what you're getting yourself into first. 


2. Do You Know Your Niche? 

Niches are everything in business, and if you don't have a niche, your business won't take off. 

Think of stores like Victoria Secret, Nike, and even Lululemon. Each of them is known for one major thing, even though they have a range of products. 

When the brand started, they made one thing their focus. Underwear, shoes, or athleisure. They didn't branch out to other product lines until they had a customer base, and the funds to do so. 

There are brands, like Fashion Nova, who carry a large range of product types. But they're all brand-relevant. You're not going to go to Fashion Nova's website if you want a prom dress - you're going to order something to feature as your latest 'fit on the gram. 

Their niche is fast-fashion photo-ready (not necessarily life-friendly) clothes. 

Don't know your niche, or at least don't know how to describe it? Think about your ideal customer. 

Who are they? How old are they? What do they like? How do they act? 

The adjectives you use to describe your ideal customer are a good way to start naming what your niche, or your brand, is. 


3. In-Person or Online?

We've seen a rise in online-only boutiques in the last five years—Instagram boutiques, especially. 

Some of those boutiques have an in-person brick and mortar store too, but not all. Brick-and-mortar stores are dying out quickly, and keeping one up and running is a lot of work. 

That's not to say it's not do-able, but they come with a large number of costs. 

Many people, at least when starting out, find it's more realistic to run their store online. 

To run your store online, you'll need some sort of inventory tracking software and an online sales platform that can take payments. Shopify is one of the biggest eCommerce platforms, but there are others. 

Some people don't have a website at all, and only do live sales on Facebook. Some companies do a combination of all the options above. 

Know your strengths and do your research - then start with one. You can always expand out to other ways of selling once you get in the swing of things. 


4. How Much Will You Charge?

Pricing products is a whole article in and of itself. It's not nearly as easy as deciding on a price that "sounds" right, or asking yourself what you would pay. 

It involves calculating manufacturing costs, profit margins, business-related expenses, and shipping if your business is online. 

If you're going to charge a lot of money for each item, you have to make sure your brand matches that. There's a reason Fashion Nova's site looks nothing like Chanel's. They're selling different things - even though they're both clothing and accessory retailers. 


5. Can You Be Your Own Marketing Expert?

When you're starting a business, most people try to do everything themselves to save money. But that's not always the right choice - we all have strengths and weaknesses we can't help. 

If marketing is one of your strengths - then great! But if not, are you willing to pay someone to help you out? 

If you're going to do it yourself, what kind of marketing materials will you use? Do you want custom bags? Custom tags? Facebook ads? Billboards? 

It's all up to you and your fashion business marketing needs! 

Too many small fashion businesses don't leave enough of their startup budget to marketing and therefore set themselves up for failure. 


Starting a Fashion Business Successfully

If you've read the five tips above on how to start a fashion business and still feel excited about the idea, then good for you, that means you're a good candidate to start a fashion business, and can continue on your way in the industry. 

If starting a fashion business or clothing startup company sounds like too much work, maybe sleep on the idea a little bit more. You can always come back to it and start a fashion business or clothing company if it seems like the right path.

Decided the fashion niche isn't for you? We have advice for hundreds of other businesses on our site beyond the fashion industry!

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