The UK fashion trade is a multi-billion-pound industry that boasts of an extremely promising future. It is a great choice for entrepreneurs planning to start a new business.
If you’re inspired to start your very own apparel brand and are wondering how to find a manufacturer for your clothing line, you’ve come to the right place. At UK clothing, we’ll give you the important step-by-step insights you need to start and run your clothing label, and most importantly, we’ll teach you how to become an ethical fashion brand.
But before you get started, it’s important to acknowledge that the UK textile manufacturing sector isn’t without its challenges. Accepting the difficulties that you may face along your entrepreneurial journey can help you better prepare for it.
Unique challenges faced by clothing manufacturers in the UK
- Changing trends
Fashion is fickle. This is because tastes keep changing. The need to continually produce new designs and clothing lines are vitally important to ensure your brand’s longevity.
- Labour availability issues
During strikes and walkouts that clothing, and fabric manufacturer trade unions tend to spearhead, this can, at times, create labour shortages. Apparel brand owners must always be aware that this is something they will need to contend with.
- Legal challenges
Since Brexit has influenced the way international business is now being conducted, UK business owners must consider the legal impact on factors such as shipping rules, import/export duties, material costs, marketing regulations, and so on.
- Racial/cultural preferences
The world is heterogeneous and diverse in its preferences. As a fashion designer, you will have to be sensitive to these racial/cultural preferences and accommodate these differences in your clothing line.
All these challenges can easily be tackled when you work with the right manufacturer. At UK Clothing, we have immense experience working with budding fashion designers, helping them successfully design and launch their clothing lines.
Our brand partners cater to various target markets, and we have the expertise to manufacture clothes that match a variety of age, along with cultural preferences. We have been preparing for Brexit since its election verdict, and we are extremely knowledgeable about the changes that the Government has instituted for the UK textile industry.
Contact us to schedule a meeting.
Why partnering with an established clothing manufacture business is worth the effort
Starting an apparel business can be beneficial:
- It allows you to bring your designs to life.
- It opens avenues to network with major fashion icons & fashion publishers.
- You can get access to free merchandise that upcoming designers want to promote.
- You get to travel across the world and attend high fashion events.
- You can earn very well as the market for clothes/textiles is evergreen.
- You get to work with the Who’s Who of the global fashion world.
If any of the above are in-line with your goals and aspirations, then starting a clothing line would allow you to reach these.
A step-by-step guide to starting your own apparel business in the UK
Now, we’ll look at all the things you need to do to start a clothing line in the UK.
- Research the UK clothing market
Research is essential before you start any business. But more so with a clothing company, purely because of how dynamic and constantly evolving the industry is.
Today, the clothing industry is one of the largest and highest-earning industries in the UK. Currently, the industry is worth an estimated £26 billion. It has created over 800,000 jobs, making it one of the largest employment sectors in the UK’s creative domain. According to a study by McKinsey & Company, the UK will be a key player in the global apparel industry in the coming decade – ranking #5 out of the Top 10 mature markets to drive growth. The study also confirmed that emerging markets would increase demand for clothing by 60% in the women’s apparel market by 2025. A great time to even consider entering the market.
The menswear industry will also experience one of the fastest growths, increasing 12.1% by 2024. Additionally, the online clothing market in the UK is expected to grow by 37% in the next five years. Overall, a forecasted £3.7 billion sales potential is expected to be generated by the UK clothing market. This means all apparel companies in the UK will have access to immense business opportunities. As mentioned, there has never been a better opportunity to start your new clothing line than now.
- Choose a company ownership model
Once you’ve decided to start your apparel company, it’s time to focus on the fundamentals. The first thing you need to do is select an ownership model.
A business ownership model refers to the type of ownership the company will have. It explains who controls the company, who takes all the decisions and how authority is distributed amongst personnel.
In the UK, there are three primary types of business ownership models:
- Sole trader
A sole trader is a model where there is only ever one owner. This person takes all the decisions related to the business and is best suited if you prefer complete control over all executive decisions. In a sole proprietorship, all the profits earned are yours. On the flip side however, you will need to take on all losses and expenses yourself.
Considering this, we can say that although the sole trader option entails a lot of responsibility, it does offer the highest degree of risk-reward ratio to entrepreneurs.
‘Partnership’ refers to a business association between two or more people. In this business model, multiple people become owners of the business. Every partner agrees to share in the profits, losses and responsibilities of the company. The advantage of this model is that you will not be forced to bear the entire losses of the company should there be a problem. This safeguards your finances. However, at the same time, you will have to share your earnings with your partners.
People who are suited for this type of business model are those who require the skills, expertise, creativity, social capital and finances of their partners to successfully run the business.
- Limited company
A limited company is a type of business ownership where the company and the entrepreneur are separate from each other. Here, the company is registered as an individual, with its own rights and responsibilities.
Entrepreneurs choose a limited company structure because it ensures company longevity. The entrepreneur who started the company is an employee of that company. Even if they quit their job, the company keeps on operating.
For a company to become a limited company, people must invest their money into the company. Limited companies can be limited privately or publicly. If it is a private limited company, only a select group of people are invited to invest in the company. However, in a public limited company, absolutely anyone from the general public can invest in the company. The investments made into UK public limited companies are managed and controlled by the London Stock Exchange.
The biggest advantage of starting a limited company is that you get access to investments by numerous people. This helps you create a very large pool of funds, which you can use to start your clothing line and run your business. It becomes very easy to grow your clothing line globally as well.
Most of the biggest fashion brands in the world, like Next, LVMH, Nike, Hermès and Arcadia Group, are limited companies.
- Select a clothing line business model
A business model refers to the process that a company follows when doing business. Each industry has its own set of business models that are unique to it. The same goes for the clothing industry as well.
The apparel industry has four different types of business models. These are:
If you have a very small budget to start your clothing line, you should consider Print-on-Demand (PoD). Here you will purchase blank garments and then print your designs when there is a demand for them. A digital inkjet printer is typically used on each garment. The designs are usually selected from a pre-approved range that the customer can choose from when they are placing their order. Usually, wash and wear clothes are manufactured using PoD.
The biggest advantage of this business model is that you don’t have to spend money purchasing the garments and getting them designed in advance. You only pay for the selected number of garments printed when the customer places an order. This model also means you do not need to spend on packaging or storage space to keep your garments in.
The PoD is a very low-risk clothing line business model that can be set up very quickly. It is also a great choice when you solely provide your brand name to the garment and the actual printing, shipping and delivery is being taken care of by a third-party. You only need to manage the after-sale service.
But this does bring with it its unique challenges. For one, since the garments are printed only when there is a need for them, there is usually no bulk orders. Multiple orders allow you to get economies of scale, that is, bulk manufacturing discounts. However, if you order a product individually, it’s always more expensive. Secondly, shipping is controlled by someone else. You will be at the mercy of any mistakes they make en route. Finally, you won’t have control over the quality, sizing, fitting, shape and printing of the garment either, since they are the prerogative of the third-party. Therefore, any quality issues cannot be addressed by you.
This business model is good only when you want to create a mass-market clothing line that can be sold quickly and with the least hassle.
- Private Label
A private label clothing model is one where the garments that are manufactured by another company are branded in your name and then sold to buyers. This takes the print on demand model to the next step by offering a greater level of control over the final product.
As a result, if you don’t have the resources to have your apparel made from scratch, you can purchase the blank garments from a clothing manufacturer and then brand these garments with your name, logo and tags.
In the private label model, you must purchase a set number of garments up front. You are essentially paying for the entire manufacturing cost of the product – this includes adding your brand logo, name tags, care/wash tags, price tags and of course, printing. Most big fashion brands use private label wholesale clothing manufacturers as they offer both cost savings and the opportunities to build a brand. Since you purchase the garments in advance, you benefit from the discounts that these bulk clothing manufacturers offer. In the long run, this can amount to very high savings.
Additionally, the opportunity to put your brand on a clothing line can help you get better margins. This is because of the perceived value of a brand. Customers are willing to spend more on clothes that are branded than those that are not branded. Clothes from Hobbs, Marks & Spencer and Dorothy Perkins have more buyers than a nameless clothing line.
Another benefit of private label manufacturing is that it allows you to design clothes of all types. With private labelling, the blank garments are pre-made and available in various designs. All you need to do is provide instructions for customisation.
In terms of the risks of this model, just like with PoD, you don’t have much control over the quality of the garment, the labelling or the printing. This may give customers the wrong impression that you are a substandard brand. Another concern is that if your manufacturer were to delay the delivery, your brand would have to bear the consequences of such a delay. Finally, since you’re now branding your product, you will also need to pay close attention to trademarks and copyrights. Any infringement of these laws can lead to serious repercussions.
It is recommended that you ask for a sample from the manufacturer before you place your order. This sample will be the benchmark for the quality of future production runs. Additionally, it’s important to clarify delivery schedules and copyright policies in your contract.
Overall, this model is great if you want to start developing your brand but are unwilling to take on the risks of building your line from scratch.
- Full Package Production
Let’s assume that you don’t have any expertise in clothes manufacturing, but you want to start a clothing line. In such a situation, the Full Package Production (FPP) business model is the right one for you.
This model is great if you’d like to outsource the end-to-end creation of the clothing line to a third-party. Usually, this third-party is an expert clothing manufacturer for start-ups. They take care of every aspect of the clothing line development – right from designing the styles to sourcing the materials and fabrics, to cutting and stitching your clothing line as well as packaging and distribution.
A UK-based FPP factory will provide dedicated teams that will liaise with you to incorporate all your ideas and instructions in the final clothing line. Multiple consultation sessions are organised at various stages of the project, noting down any pointers you provide, and these will be implemented to the clothes being produced.
The biggest advantage of FPP is that the brand can ensure 100% quality consciousness in all aspects of the product. Plus, since the FPP company is usually a veteran in the industry, they will have knowledge of industry best practices, and you will benefit from working with a world-class manufacturing partner. If you’re a new designer, you can create a good first impression about yourself and your brand to prospective customers.
A consequence of offering so many advantages, the obvious disadvantage of FPP is pricing. It is the most expensive business model for clothing brands, and you’ll need a very large budget to support it in the long run. Additionally, since the FPP involves end-to-end clothing line creation, it involves a very long and time-consuming process (it takes about 4-6 weeks to finish a single order using FPP). Another disadvantage is the limited material pool. While you influence the overall design of the product, it is the FPP manufacturer who takes decisions regarding trims, swing tags, labels and fabrics. You can choose only from the resources the FPP provides you.
Additionally, the FPP company will have a minimum order quantity which brands must meet, whether they need the ordered amount or not. Sometimes, these minimum order quantities extend not just to clothing styles but each size as well. This can further increase the cost of the project.
Overall, the FPP model is recommended to brands that do not have the expertise to start a clothing line and who have the budget to commission an expert to take care of all activities.
- Cut, Make & Trim
If you already have clothing designs in mind, but need a made to order clothing manufacturing service, then the Cut, Make & Trim (CMT) business model is ideal for you. This model is perfect for designers who already have alternative sources for fabrics and materials but need the manufacturing support.
The CMT company would utilise cutting-edge technology to visualise the final product and determine how much fabric is needed to make the piece of clothing. This software also determines where and how the fabric will be cut. A laser is then used to cut the fabric into the desired pattern.
Next, the cut pieces of the garment are stitched to form a single piece of clothing according to the design. In the final step, other embellishments are added to the clothing, and any last-minute trimming is done.
The biggest advantage of enlisting the help of custom clothing manufacturers is that it allows established brands that already have a clothing line to create new products quickly and with the least hassle. Just share your designs with the CMT company, and in a few weeks, you’ll have your stock ready.
The second advantage of CMT is that you get to retain control over the technical aspects of your designs, unlike with the other models. Finally, you have the freedom to choose the fabrics and materials you want without having to make do with what the CMT company provides. You can use this opportunity to make savings by choosing a fabric supplier who offer the most competitive prices.
The disadvantage of the CMT process is that it is more expensive than PoD and private label manufacturing. Additionally, it’s been observed that many CMT companies focus more on the cutting and making over the trimming. As a result, the quality of button/sequin stitching, quality of tagging and labelling, and so on may suffer if you choose the wrong partner.
The CMT business model is ideal only for a short-term period and can be great for a designer who only needs to supplement their existing production volumes during certain seasons.
At UK Clothing, we are a complete-service clothing manufacturer, with over 30 years’ industry experience. We support all clothing manufacturing models explained and can help you with everything from designing to shipping.
- Register your new company
Once you’ve finalised both ownership and business models, it’s time to register your company with the UK Government and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Until you do this, you will not be allowed to run your business in the country (excludes Sole Traders).
It takes around 24 hours to register your new business. This is the process you need to follow when registering your new clothing brand in the UK:
- Select an ownership/organisational structure
As mentioned previously, there are three types of organisational structures you can choose from:
- Sole trader
- Limited company
- Register the name of your company
The UK has strict rules about the type of name you can choose for business. Here are some rules you need to follow:
- Your company name cannot be the same as another.
- Your company name cannot contain the following if they are already in use by another company, especially if in the same order as yours – punctuations, special characters, word spellings, the sound of the word/s when reading and the style it is written in.
- The name cannot contain sensitive words or be offensive or derogatory.
- The name must not appear as though it is connected to the UK Government or the British Royalty in any way.
- You must seek the permission of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to use the word “Accredited” in your company name.
There are a few other rules that are company-structure-specific:
- Can use your name as the company name.
- No need to include LLP, PLC, LTD or their full forms as part of your name.
- Can use the name of the partners as the company name, provided all the partners’ names are used.
- Must include LLP, PLC, LTD or their full forms in the name only if the partnership is a limited partnership.
- The chosen name should not include the name of an owner/founder and must be a different name.
- The name must include ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd’ (or their Welsh forms – ‘Cyfyngedig’ and ‘Cyf’) in the name. The only exception to this rule is if your company is limited by guarantee or a charity.
- Your name can be the same as another limited liability company only if your company is owned by that parent company and the parent company gives its approval for the same.
Companies House will provide the final approval/rejection for your company name.
- Provide the required documents to the HMRC
To start a business, you will need to provide certain documents to show that you are ready to run the operation. Documents you need to supply to Companies House are:
- Address proof of the company premises.
- Name, personal details and home/office address details of the sole proprietor/partners/shareholders/directors/company secretary.
- Statement of capital – loans, investments, personal capital, and so on.
- Record of business expenses and sales.
- Income tax returns (Self-Assessment tax return if a sole proprietor).
- Business insurance certificates.
- Memorandum of Association, Articles of Association & Form IN01 (if a Limited Company).
In the case of a Limited Company, these documents will also assist in the incorporation of the company. Incorporation refers to the process of creating a separate legal entity of the company in the eyes of UK law. You can contact Companies House to mail your Certificate of Incorporation after the registration and incorporation process is complete.
A partnership firm can also be incorporated, although it is not mandatory as it is with Limited Companies.
- Get the licenses required to run your business in the UK
Alongside registering your clothing company in the UK, you will also need to apply for a business license.
Usually, unless you’re planning to manufacture the clothes yourself, you won’t need a license to design your clothing line. But, if you do plan to set up a boutique or a retail store, then you may need to take a few retail licenses depending on how you plan to run the shop.
The UK Government’s License Finder is a great tool that helps you find out about the licenses you may need to get before you start your business.
- Register your company trademark
You can choose any trademark for your clothing line, provided it only includes:
- A combination of these
The only requirements are:
- The trademark must be unique and must not contain any signs/symbols that look/read/sound the same as another brand’s trademark.
- The trademark must not contain offensive or sensitive content.
- The trademark must not showcase any connection to the Royalty or the Government.
- The trademark must not be misleading and use words/symbols to indicate something it isn’t.
- The trademark cannot be a 3D shape.
- The trademark must not be a generic sentence and must be distinguishable.
Take the brand Coco Chanel for example. The two intersecting “C”s are the brand’s trademark, and it’s extremely distinctive. The moment you see it, you know the product is by Coco Chanel. Or take the jewellery brand Tiffany. The robin egg blue colour associated with the brand is its trademark.
You can verify if the trademark of your choice is already in use by logging onto the UK Government Trademark Database. At UK Clothing, we always keep track of the trademarks that are in use in the UK textile trade. You can count on our guidance to help you make the right trademark decisions.
Does Brexit affect company registration in the UK?
Right now, Brexit will not change the way companies are registered in the UK. So, you can easily set-up your clothing business in the UK.
- Develop your unique brand
Now that all the legal formalities are complete, it’s time to get down to the creative aspects of brand building. After all, your new clothing line’s success depends on how well-targeted and well-positioned the brand is.
Here are the things you need to do to build your clothing brand:
- Define the business niche & target market
The apparel industry covers an expansive market, and there are millions of customers with diverse tastes and preferences in each market. It can be near impossible to cater to every single shopper in the UK through your clothing line. When you choose a specific niche, you’re more likely to find the task of developing the clothing line easier.
Niches in the clothing industry can be divided in the following manner:
- Based on the type of clothing:
- Based on gender:
- Based on age
- Young children
- Young adult
- Middle age
- Based on occasion:
- Casual wear
- Festive wear
- Body size
When you’re choosing a niche, you must narrow down on three important things:
- The market you want to serve
- The specific customers in that market
- The specific type of product you wish to create
For example, let’s assume that you’re interested in serving the women’s market; specifically, you want to serve the women’s plus-size market.
Now, you have multiple categories of products in the women’s plus-size market – Plus size bridal wear, plus size formal wear, plus size swimwear, and so on. You should choose one of these, and this category will be your niche.
Here’s a diagram that will help you understand:
Plus Size Bridal Wear (your niche)
When choosing the niche and target market, the following questions will help you narrow down on the category that’s best suited for you and in-line with your expertise:
- What type of clothing am I passionate about?
- What type of clothing can I design well?
- Who is my ideal customer, and what would they wear?
- Would my customers be like me, or would they have a different clothing choice?
- What challenges/problems do I wish to address through my clothing line?
- Do I want my clothing to have a mass-market appeal or be designed for a very focused category?
- Do I prefer less-frills-more-value or over-the-top fashion?
- Do I want my clothing to be worn by both genders or single gender?
- Which niche doesn’t have too many competitors? Can I fill in the gap here?
- How profitable is each niche in this category? Will the business potential remain the same over the next few decades?
You should also evaluate how easy it will be to expand your business across niches/target markets in the future when your business grows. This way, you can take more mindful business decisions without making wasteful investments.
At UK Clothing, our team has extensive expertise in manufacturing premium-quality clothing for all markets and niches. We can help you develop a concrete design and manufacture the pieces you need. Contact us to request a sample.
- Determine the design & style tastes of your target market
Once your niche and target market are chosen, it becomes easier to select the designs and styles for your clothing line.
Each target market will have a specific style choice. One of the easiest ways to get information about your target market’s fashion preferences is to just look around and see what people are wearing. If any new designs are trending, that could be a great place to start your clothing line.
You should also speak to fashion boutiques, retailers and clothing manufacturers for small businesses in UK to understand what type of clothing your target market typically asks. Is there a design or style that they want but is unavailable? Maybe there is a rise in demand for a style/design, and stock is limited. This type of information can help you make more mindful decisions.
If you already have a few designs in mind, you can reach out to retailers and clothing manufacturers in the UK about their opinions on them. They can tell you whether such designs will sell or not. This way, you can decide which designs to start your brand-new clothing line with.
- Choose whether you wish to differentiate using quality or price
When launching your new clothing company in the UK, you can either brand your clothing line as budget-friendly or as a quality-conscious brand.
The pricing strategy positions your clothing line as price conscious. It will typically be priced in the lower price levels of brands. Here, your target market will be people on a budget who want a stylish piece of clothing, but one that doesn’t break the bank. Of course, since you’ll be giving them a much lower price, you may not be able to afford the best quality materials. That’s fine since these customers are motivated by price and not quality.
At the other end of the spectrum are customers who are motivated by quality. These customers don’t mind paying a high price for your clothing line, but they want the best quality products. So, with these customers, you can afford to put premium prices on your garments.
When we speak of quality, it could be quality in terms of fabric, finishing, the variety of designs and more. Usually, brands that choose to be price differentiators find PoD and Private Label models more conducive, while quality differentiators find FPP a great model to work with.
- Determine what your unique selling propositions will be
A Unique Selling Proposition (USP) refers to a special offering or value that a brand provides a customer. The USP is unique to the brand. The USP tells the customer how they will benefit by purchasing from the brand – a benefit that other brands will not provide. For example, the Primark clothing manufacturer’s USP is “One of the largest clothing retailers in Europe.” Through this, they have placed themselves as the go-to, trusted store for all types of clothing across Europe.
To create a strong and memorable brand identity for your new clothing line, it’s important that you display your USPs. The best way to develop a USP is to understand what your target market needs and to connect it with the solution you plan to offer. Your USP should be your greatest benefit. For example, if you have a policy of free re-stitching or repairs up to five years, your USP should be this re-stitching service.
- Create your brand visuals
Did you know that 85% of shoppers purchase a brand because they like the colours associated with it? In clothing retail outlets, colours like pink, sky blue and rose encourage more people to buy. Not just offline, but online too, 42% of customers develop brand perceptions based on the design of the website, and 55% don’t return to sites that have a careless design. These numbers make a compelling case for the creation of good brand visuals.
When it comes to creating brand visuals, you need to focus on developing the following visual elements:
- Brand logo
- Shape of packaging
- Symbols used on product/packaging
- Layout – of lettering & images, both on the packaging and the website
To develop a memorable visual identity that fits your brand, consciously think about the following:
- What is my brand’s personality? – Fun & youthful, Serious & sedate, Timeless & ethereal, and so on.
- How should people feel when they see my brand for the first time? – Happy, excited, calm, hopeful, and so on.
- Should my branding be simple to understand, or should it make people think?
- Should my brand look and sound like how my customers are or should it represent something that they aspire to be?
- What message am I trying to send through the brand?
The best way to get started with brand visuals is to create a template. The great thing is, there are a lot of budget-friendly tools online; for example, Canva, which you can use to create these visuals. They have hundreds of templates that you can choose from and that you can customise to develop your brand’s visual elements.
Just remember that there must be consistency in your brand visuals across mediums. So, the colour palette, typography and shapes you use in your brand logo should also be used on your clothing boutique’s signboard, the store’s interiors (example, lighting, painting, layout, merchandising, and so on), your business cards, brochures, the tags on your clothing and any branded merchandise you plan to gift customers.
- Get the needed funding for your clothing brand
Setting-up a business costs money. The same is true for fashion designers in UK. The cost of starting a clothing brand in Britain can cost anywhere between £5,000 to £50,000. This is just the cost of set-up, without considering the amount necessary to run the business after the first year.
Most entrepreneurs may not have so much discretionary personal finances. You may need to get the funds needed for the business from elsewhere. So, where can you seek these finances?
- Bank loans & lines of credit
Banks in the UK offer small business loans and lines of credit. The major difference between the two financing options is that loans are given in a lump sum at the start. However, a line of credit essentially is an open fund from which the company can borrow, repay and re-borrow as many times as necessary, provided it doesn’t exceed the limit.
You will need to provide collateral to secure these finances.
- Angel Investors & Venture Capitalists
Both Angel Investors and VC’s are external financiers who invest in companies. But the way they do so is different.
Angel Investors invest their own money into the business, and they usually invest only in start-ups. Since it is their finance that is invested, they also provide mentoring and business support where necessary. They generally won’t pull out unless your company begins to make immense losses. They are in it for the long haul.
Venture Capitalists are companies that invest money they have collected from other investors. Because of the responsibility they owe other investors, they prefer to invest in companies that have been running for a few years. They usually want a portion of control over your company, in addition to returns.
Depending on which stage your clothing business is in, you can approach either for financing.
- Government small business grants
The UK Government has many grants in place for small businesses. Your clothing company can benefit from these because they offer large funds at very low-interest rates. The grants you may apply for are:
- Textiles Growth Programme
- Regional Growth Fund
- Princes Trust Grants
- Apprenticeship Grant
- Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme
- Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme
- EUREKA Eurostars
- Grant for Business Investment
- The New Enterprise Allowance
- The Prince’s Countryside Fund
- Enterprise Investment Scheme
- Patent Box Relief
Crowdsourcing is the process of generating funding from the public. Just log onto a crowdsourcing platform and put up the details of your new clothing line with details of the funds you need and how you plan to use these funds. Any person who finds your business idea interesting can invest in your company. In return, they get an interest on the earnings you make, in-line with their investment.
If you’re running a partnership, then your partners can also be a source of investment. They can invest their finances into the business.
- Members of your supply chain
Some start-ups work with large wholesalers or retailers to set-up their business. In exchange for funding, they promise complete sales/distribution rights to the supply chain members. They may even secure funding from material suppliers by having a contract to exclusively source materials for their products from them.
- Friends & family
Finally, your friends and family can be approached for funding as well. They are an informal source of investment, and they don’t pose so many restrictions in terms of repayment as other investors do.
Now that you know where you can access the money, the next question would be how you can convince these potential lenders to invest? After all, hundreds of new companies approach such financiers for funding. How can you stand out from the crowd and get access to funding?
This is where a clothing manufacturing business plan plays an important role.
A business plan is a document that explains the purpose of your business. It contains all the information a potential investor would need to understand your plans for your business and how you intend to make money. You can make a compelling argument for your new clothing brand using the business plan when pitching for funds.
Components of a business plan
- Executive summary – This is a short one-para summary of the entire plan. It contains the key points covered in the business plan. It provides an overview of your business.
- Company description – This includes the mission, vision & long-term objectives of the company. It also contains details about the company hierarchy and the important people in the brand.
- Market & competitor analysis – This section will contain information about your brand’s niche, demographic & psychographic features of your target market, the market’s buying potential, existing competitors in that market and their competitive strategy and sales.
- Product information – Here, you will describe in-depth the various garments you plan to include in your clothing line in addition to information about the styles, designs and sizes they will be available in. You can also explain how better your garments are compared to the existing products in the market.
- Marketing & sales strategy – In this segment, you will talk about the 4P strategy you plan to implement to increase the sales of your product. You will define what your distribution and sales strategy will be and how much you intend to spend on each marketing/sales activity and the results you expect.
- Financial projections – Here, you will provide an estimated projection of the expenses, incomes, profits and/or losses you expect within the first one, three and five years of starting your clothing business. Here you’ll show how the investors will get value for the money they invest through positive returns in the future.
Steps to writing an effective business plan
- Carry out extensive research about your market, its challenges and its opportunities.
- Understand where you fit in this market and how best you can serve it.
- Document every aspect of your business – don’t leave even the most minor details out.
- Have business strategies in place, not just for the present, but also account for the possibility of expansion in the future.
- Write the plan for each reader – what a bank will be interested to know is different from what a VC will be interested in. So, include information that will interest everyone.
- Explain why your clothing line will improve the lives of its wearers and how your products are essential to your target market.
By presenting an effective business plan, finding interested funders and investors to receive the initial capital you need to start your clothing brand will be made easier.
- Put your clothing line together
Once you secure the funds you need, you can put on your creativity cap and get started. The first thing you need to do is start putting your clothing line together. While you may have prepared a handful of samples during the business plan pitching stage, you may not have worked on your entire collection. This is the time to do it.
Here is the clothing manufacturing process that designers follow:
- Design your line
Your target market and your unique fashion sense will determine what type of clothes you design. Start by making detailed sketches of your garment designs. Make several variants of the same design, swap features across styles and see what works best. To make this easier, use the many fashion production and design tools and software that are available online. Gerba, Optitex, CorelDRAW Graphics Suite, PatternSmith, ConceptDraw DIAGRAM, TUKAcad and Vetigraph, amongst others, are great options.
Be sure to consider your fabrics before you start designing the garment. Each fabric is different, and you don’t want your clothing to look bad because of fabric-design mismatch. You should also brush up on your sewing. While you may not sew your clothes, knowledge of sewing can help you better visualise how a fabric will fall on the body once sewn and how the final product will look.
Finally, consult your chosen British clothing manufacturers about their technical abilities and challenges. This will help you know what designs they can produce in their factory and what they cannot.
- Source the right materials to make high-quality clothing
If you’ve chosen a PoD or private label business model, then the control you have over materials fabrics and colours will be limited, compared to in the FPP model. However, you can still choose from the fabrics, embellishments and colours from those that the garment manufacturer has available. At UK Clothing, we are cutting-edge clothing manufacturers in UK, and we have an expansive selection of fabrics and embellishments that will bring your clothing designs to life. We are also considered to be fair trade clothing manufacturers.
However, if you are providing the materials for your garments yourself, then it’s important that you contact the right suppliers for quality resources. If you want locally sourced materials, then our vast accessible network of suppliers would most definitely be beneficial for your clothing business.
Build a Tech Pack
A tech pack, or specification sheet, is the blueprint of your clothing. It defines each feature of your garment and provides detailed instructions about the build of your garment. It is used as a document to share the product specifications with the garment manufacturer. Since it provides such detailed metrics about the garment, it reduces misunderstandings and errors significantly.
Previously, the tech pack used to be a physical document. In more recent times, most tech packs are shared electronically. Collaborative systems, such as Adobe Illustrator allow fashion designers to start sending clothing designs to manufacturers as and when they are ready. Both parties can make changes and recommendations on the software that can be viewed in real-time. This can prevent any confusion during production. If you don’t wish to design the tech pack yourself, we at UK Clothing can help you, or alternatively you can hire freelancers through Freelancer.com or Upwork, or you can work with a technical design company.
When writing a tech pack, you must include the following information:
- Clothing design.
- Fabric type, composition, size and colour.
- Measurement points for the garment.
- The shape of collar, sleeves and top & bottom regions.
- Stitching & trim work instructions.
- Patterns & artwork.
- Pattern grading instructions.
- Labelling & tagging instructions.
- Packaging instructions.
To make sure that the garment manufacturer is following your tech pack, we recommend that you get samples of each clothing style, across sizes, stitched for quality checks. You can then physically inspect the garment and request any changes before full-swing production begins.
- Commission the production
Once you’re happy with the sample, you can commission the first order. Usually, clothing manufacturers for small orders in UK have minimum order quantities (MOQ). This MOQ can either be price-based, for example, £2000 worth of products, or piece-based, that is, 2000 pieces. You’ll need to speak to your garment manufacturer to understand what their policy is. Try to choose a low MOQ clothing manufacturer since this will avoid you having to spend too much if the manufacturer doesn’t meet the mark.
If you like the samples, commission the production. In most cases, the garment manufacturer will also take care of the packaging and delivery of the garments to the chosen venues.
- Brand your apparel to make it more recognisable
As part of the production process, you will also need to get your clothes branded. This includes adding labels and tags. While the actual tagging and labelling will be done by the manufacturer, you will need to design the two elements first.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when designing:
- Let the writing be legible. Choose font and size that are legible.
- Use different typography for different information – one font for garment size, one for fabric details, one for manufacturing location details, and so on.
- Choose woven labels as they are more durable.
- Use both words and icons on care labels to make them more accessible.
- Let there be enough whitespace and don’t cram all the details onto the label.
- Have separate tags – one for your name and logo and another one for the price.
- Your tag should be in a colour complementary to the colour of your garment.
- Printed tags can work for outside tags, as they’ll be removed by the customer. They’re also cheaper than woven tags.
- Your price tag should include the cost of the garment, plus any discount offer details they can use during their next purchase.
- Let barcodes be on a separate tag. It makes scanning easier.
At UK Clothing, we will take care of the end-to-end design, production and labelling/tagging of the clothes you commission. We will send a sample before we start the work. If you need us to change anything, just let us know. We can customise your order for you.
- Develop the right packaging that resonates with your brand
Although the garment manufacturer packages your clothing, you choose/design the packaging materials.
When designing the packaging, think about the product. For a single product that is small, poly mailers and padded shipping envelopes will work wonders. They’re compact and inexpensive. But, if the garments are very visually engaging, the packaging should be transparent. This way, the colours, designs and patterns are visible. A buttoned plastic envelope is a great option for this.
But if the number of garments you’re sending exceeds one or if the clothing is very bulky, a corrugated box will work. You should also waterproof and dirt-proof the clothing by using plastic wrapping or bubble wrap.
As you know, the fashion industry is very visual, and it doesn’t hurt to add aesthetic elements to your packaging. You can line the insides of the corrugated box with lace or coloured wrapping paper. If you have the budget, you can print the box with your brand logo or get boxes in your brand’s colours. You can also tie the box with ribbons, twine and tassels.
To further customise the packaging, you can include ‘thank you’ notes inside. Brochures of your current or upcoming clothing line, discount coupons and extra buttons/sequins can also be added. You can get fun stickers printed, which not only help seal the package but are also engaging to read.
Of course, you should also consider how scalable this type of packaging will be in the long run. If you don’t get many orders, spending time decorating the packaging is okay. But if you have a lot of orders, you may wish to simplify the packaging. Additionally, you should consider shipping costs. The more aesthetic components you add to the packaging materials, the more the weight of the package and consequently, the higher the shipping cost.
Whenever possible, look for sustainable packaging alternatives. These might be more expensive, but they’re better for the earth, and they showcase your brand in a positive light.
- Plan your shipping strategy
Shipping is one of the most important decisions you will take as a clothing brand. But shipping is also a complicated decision. Here, we list out some of the important decisions you will need to make when framing a shipping strategy:
- Staying local or going global
The very first decision you need to make is whether you’re going to serve only the UK clothing market, or you’ll supply on an international scale. This choice can affect the lifespan of your clothing business.
Before going international, consider the following things:
- Is there a demand for my product overseas?
- Can I afford the custom duties, EXIM fees and insurance without breaking the bank?
- Does my clothing line meet international quality, safety and legal standards?
- Do I have a solid plan to handle any delivery issues that might happen?
- Will the overseas market give me higher profitability than the UK market?
You’ll need to crunch some numbers and make some plans to answer these questions. But, if the answers to all of these are “Yes,” then you can ship internationally.
If you’re shipping internationally, you need to remember a few key points:
- Start with just 1-2 countries, preferably those whose fashion preferences are similar to the UK.
- Implement shipping automation software to get greater visibility into the transit of goods overseas and to control their delivery.
- Assume the responsibilities of all costs until the goods reach the buyer as this reduces the likelihood of your garments getting stuck at overseas ports.
- Use high-quality but lightweight packaging, like poly mailers, to provide good protection to the clothes, as well as to reduce the costs of shipping.
There’s one more thing you need to consider if you’re going global – Brexit. Since the UK is still in the process of making the exit from the EU, as of now, you won’t see any major upheavals to shipping regulations. However, once the exit is complete, all UK goods will be subject to the same rules as other non-EU goods. This will certainly increase the shipping costs and shipping formalities that you will need to handle. You may also be expected to submit the Certificate of Origin, Commercial Invoice and CN22 or CN23 while shipping – formalities that are reserved only for non-EU countries.
But let’s say you don’t want to ship overseas and are considering only the domestic market. Which geography would you ship to? England? England & Scotland? Or the entire UK? Even within these regions, which areas will you target? This is a decision that you need to make.
- Couriers, warehouses & last mile channels
When choosing a courier, compare multiple freight carriers on the following grounds:
- The reputation of the courier.
- The type of products they have experience in.
- Availability of local and global shipping.
- Shipping rates charged.
- Their turnaround time for shipping.
- The type of shipment tracking they offer their clients.
- Insurance they provide as part of the shipping service and cost of insurance.
- Convenience services – package pick-up from manufacturing hub, transport to the retail store at the delivery port, and so on.
Next, it’s time to consider warehouses at the ports during transit. Usually, warehouses located closer to the ports are more expensive because they provide convenience to the seller and the carrier. Warehouses farther into the city are less expensive. You need to consider whether the price is more important to you or convenience. Plus, if the port is your destination and not just a transit port, then you should consider choosing a warehouse at the heart of the city, as it becomes easier to deliver your products then. Always choose warehouses that have an ISO Certification, as this proves that their facility follows benchmarked storage practices and quality control procedures.
Finally, you need to consider the last mile modes for delivery. The local postal service (if in the UK, the Royal Mail) usually makes a great last-mile partner. They’re efficient and budget friendly.
You can also consider hiring the services of a 3PL.
3PL’s are third-party logistics providers who specialise in end-to-end logistics management. They assist companies with everything- from materials procurement to order fulfilment. Local 3PL companies are also a good option since they have the vehicles needed to make last-mile deliveries successful. Sometimes, the courier or the warehouse you select has the last-mile delivery service. You can enlist this service from them too.
At UK Clothing, we work with reputed 3PL partners, such as Royal Mail, DHL, UPS, DPD and Parcel Force to name a few.You can trust us to manage delivery of your products efficiently and on time.
- Controlling shipping costs
The shipping costs from the UK vary depending on numerous factors:
- The country being shipped from.
- The country being shipped to.
- Trade agreements between regions.
- Weight and size of the item.
- Weight of packaging materials.
- Types of shipping services chosen.
- Customs duties, taxes, fees and fines.
- Carrier freight charges.
- Shipping insurance & the coverage provided.
- The season being shipped in.
- Port & terminal charges.
- Warehouse & storage fees.
- Value of currency.
With careful consideration, you can reduce the amount you have to spend on shipping. Some of the things you can do are:
- Speak to multiple carriers and use a good offer to negotiate a better one. Prioritise UK-based carriers over international carriers.
- Ask the clothing manufacturer to ship for you – they normally consolidate shipping, and the economies of scale can reduce your costs.
- Use packaging provided by the freight carrier and not your own, as they are made to fit into the carrier and don’t have dimensional fees.
- Buy insurance from a separate provider and not the carrier. You’ll be able to negotiate better terms and rates.
- Check with the UK clothing manufacturers association (UKFT) if they are eligible for discounts on shipping.
- How to handle returns
As a clothing brand, you may experience the occasional return. This could be because of:
- Fitting issue
- Damage to the product
- Wrong product delivery
- Customer changed his/her mind.
But the fact is, your shipping policy should cover returns as well.
If you’re having the clothing manufacturer ship the garments, speak to them about their return and refund policy. When you’re working with freight carriers, warehouses and 3PL companies, make sure that return policy is part of the contract. This would help you file for claims if the garment was damaged by them. It’s important to note here that the EU gives its customers the right to return products bought from any EU seller within 14 days and claim refunds. But this isn’t applicable outside the EU, and as a UK company, you can decide what to do about returns. Our team at UK Clothing can help you make these important decisions. Feel free to reach out to us for assistance.
Now for the customer-side of returns. If you’re advertising your clothing line on a website, mention the eligibility criteria for returns. State the step-by-step process that customers need to follow to return the garments to you. Provide a return label that they can print and stick onto their product. This makes shipping more convenient for everyone.
- Set the right prices for your apparel line
Pricing is a very important aspect of starting a clothing line in the UK. Your clothing manufacturing cost sheet should include a variety of costs, such as:
- Garment manufacturing costs
- Import tax
- Sales tax
- Packaging costs
- Cost of promotional materials
- Shipping costs
- Marketing costs
- Retail rental costs
- Costs of returns & reverse logistics
Your tech pack is great with helping you to identify and lower clothing manufacturing costs. By looking at your designs and specs, our team at UK Clothing will be able to tell you if a particular design will cost more and how you can reduce this price. Contact us to schedule a call.
The six ways to price apparel products
- Budget pricing
Here, the price of the garment is very affordable, and it fits into small budgets. Typically, budget pricing is possible if you sell bundled clothing; for example, a 3-pack of leggings. This strategy is also possible if you have received economies of scale during manufacturing.
- Luxury pricing
At the other end of the spectrum is the luxury priced clothing line. These are the type of clothes that use the very best quality fabrics and rare materials. They are equally expensive. Such clothing lines will appeal to those without a budget. In this segment, the higher the price, the better the product is perceived.
Example: Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Coco Chanel, Burberry
- Value-based pricing
This is a middle-of-the-line pricing strategy. Here, you provide good quality at slightly higher pricing than budgeted garments. This type of pricing focuses on understanding what the target customer is willing to pay for what they consider as the best-developed product.
So, if your customers consider sizing and colours as value, a garment style that is available in extensive number of sizes and numerous colours can be priced high. Or, if your customer wants the clothing to be long-lasting and don’t care for colours and designs, then this is value for them.
Example: Next, Zara, H&M, River Island
- Cost-plus pricing
This is a very straightforward pricing strategy. Here, you charge for the cost of the entire garment after manufacturing costs, taxes and the mark-up are considered.
Example: Primark, Bloom Wholesale
- Competitor pricing
Here, you price your garments similar to the price charged by your closest competitor. The objective is to substitute your competitor’s brand with your brand.
Example: ASOS, Bloomingdales
- Promotional pricing
In this pricing strategy, you price the product high, but you complement it with promotional offers like Buy One Get One Free, 50%-off, back-to-school discount, seasonal offers, and so on. This is a great model since you can earn both the full price during non-discount periods and benefit from higher sales during discount periods.
This pricing model is also great when you’re trying to generate leads and convert a competitor’s customers. These discounts act as an added value.
Example: Marks & Spencer, T.K. Maxx
- Build a website/e-commerce store for your new clothing brand & promote it
You’ve finished laying the groundwork – you’ve set-up your company, developed your clothing line and put your operational strategies in place. Now, it’s time to start marketing.
The fact is, if your target market doesn’t know of your existence, they will never purchase from you. This is where an e-commerce store or a website comes into play. There are numerous benefits of having a website/e-store to your name. You can:
- Create brand awareness on the global level.
- Make your products more accessible to your target market.
- Simplify the buying & shipping process by providing all the facilities on one site.
- Display your entire clothing line in a single place.
- Collect your target customers’ perceptions about future clothing lines through feedback and surveys.
- Forego renting-out physical stores, since e-stores and websites are more convenient for buyers.
- Automate inventory fulfilment through your site and reduce the need to rent space for storage space.
Now that you know why you need a website or e-store, it’s time to look at how you can quickly and easily develop one:
- Choose your domain name for your clothing store
The domain name is the name or website link that your customers will use to find your clothing brand online. There are a few rules to choosing domain names:
- Keep it short and simple to remember.
- Use the primary keyword associated with your business in the name. In your case, it will be something related to clothing or fashion.
- Customise it to the target audience; for example, if you’re a baby clothes manufacturer in Manchester, mention that in the domain name.
- Don’t use numbers and special characters as they can be confusing to remember.
- Use the right extension. If you’re a local business, you can choose “.co.uk.” However, if you plan to ship internationally, it’s good to stick to “.com.” If you want an inexpensive domain extension, consider using “.biz.”
- Purchase different spelling variations and misspellings of your brand name for the domain name so that customers are directed to your brand even if they use a different spelling during the search. For example, if your domain name is bestcoats.com, alternative spellings can be – betscoats.com, bestcosts.com, bestcoasts.com, and so on.
- Check whether any other brand has a domain name the same or similar to yours, as there could be legal trouble if you use an already-in-use domain name.
- Choose a website developer or an e-commerce store platform
Web design and development companies have the expertise to build stunning websites and e-commerce stores for brands. When vetting the companies, check their online reviews. Compare website development package costs and consider the turnaround time for the project. Browse through some of the other websites the company has developed and then make a final decision. The advantage of hiring a web developer is that you can seek unlimited revisions/changes to your site’s design and functionality. You can get a truly customised website.
If you don’t quite have the budget yet to spend on a web developer, you also have e-commerce companies like Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, 3dcart, LemonStand and many more to choose from. These are e-commerce platforms where you can host your own site. Such platforms come built with state-of-the-art e-commerce store management features, and they can be customised to meet your clothing store’s unique needs. They’re usually less expensive and have numerous plans to choose from.
These plans usually start from a Basic plan that cost less or may even be free but have very few features. They go on to Business/Premium plans, which are the most expensive, but have the most exhaustive list of features.
Most of these platforms offer a free trial for a few weeks; you can try the platform out and then decide which plan you’d like to choose. In addition to the renewal costs of the plan each year, you may also need to give them a commission for every sale made through their e-commerce platform.
- Select & customise your website/e-store template
The next step is to work on your website. Here, you can customise the templates that the website has. While some templates are single-page templates, others are multi-page and can support numerous product categories.
Once you select the template, customise it to suit your clothing brand’s needs. The elements you need to customise are:
- Background colour
- Images & videos
- Page layout – text boxes, header boxes, CTA boxes, buttons, headers & footers, and so on
- Settings & menu bar
- Uploading your clothing line
Take high resolution photographs of your clothing line and make sure you have pictures of the garments from every angle. Images should display and represent the versatility of your apparel. Remember that the zoom option is exceptionally important for clothing brands. They allow customers to see close-ups of your garments before buying them. So, optimise your photos for the zoom function.
Once you’ve uploaded the image, attach the relevant information. Include the clothing’s:
- Description – what is it, how best to pair it with other accessories/clothing, what season is it suited to, and so on.
- Size chart
- Care details
- Return details
- Setting up payment options
The widely accepted payment options include credit/debit cards of various lenders and banking institutes, PayPal, Amazon Pay, Stripe, Apple Pay and more. You can also include payment on delivery (including cash) wherever it is possible.
Make sure that the gateway is PCI-compliant. Security features like SSL encryption, multi-factor authentication, tokenisation and firewalls are mandatory.
To prevent any fraudulent transactions and to inform customers of their completed purchases along with payment submission, you should send text and e-mail notifications as soon as possible. Automated systems can be set up for these tasks to ensure efficiency.
- Setting up shipping options
It’s best to have a feature where customers can set and save their delivery addresses by inputting them once.
Other shipping details like choice of courier service, package dimension-based shipping quotes, zone-based pricing, free delivery, and so on also need to be provided. You should also include a separate returns page, where customers can select the clothing they wish to return, the reason for return and their choice of refund or replacement.
- Launching and promoting your site
In no time your new website will provide an effective launch pad for the brand’s latest clothing line. Consider using blogs and social media to activate your brand and promote ‘traffic’ to the website. You can also organise a fashion event to create awareness of your brand to future customers. This type of marketing would be great for attracting customers, not only to the website but also to the brand’s physical store (if it has one).
Why UK Clothing is the best choice for fashion designers and start-ups
Your newly proposed clothing line deserves the utmost care and consideration. Our dedicated team at UK Clothing is committed to supporting designers, industry newcomers & veterans in the global fashion world. We are fully equipped to help you move your designs from paper to the mannequin.
We have worked with numerous international brands in the past. Our expertise has enriched us and helped us to become globally sensitive. Whether you’re developing a clothing line for the domestic market or you’ve set your sights on the world, we can help you achieve your creative aspirations.
At UK Clothing, we operate an end-to-end service. Our production plant is fitted with the latest technology that gives you premium-quality results. The wide range of services we offer include:
- Pattern design
- Material selection
- Lay planning
- Fabric tailoring
- Pattern grading
- Embroidery, weaving & stitching
- Design printing
- Clothing alterations
- Labelling & tagging
- Shipping & return logistics
Our team of specialists understand that a one-size-fits-all approach to clothing design and manufacturing doesn’t work. We offer the highest degree of flexibility, ranging from fabric & trim selections to product designing, manufacturing and distributing.
Our design and production team at UK Clothing use Gerba and Optitex. State-of-the-art 2D & 3D CAD/CAM technology, that allows us to virtually prototype your products. Both Gerba and Optitex are collaborative software, which means you can preview how your clothes will look while we work on them, and you’ll be able to make instantaneous changes to your patterns and materials. The software also calculates the amount of fabric, trims and even printing ink required for a single piece. At UK Clothing, our team will assist you in achieving high-quality garments, whilst keeping costs low.
Our experts understand that the success of a brand heavily depends not just on its quality, but also on its time to market. Our mission is to ensure your new clothing line makes it to your store (virtual or physical) as soon as possible whilst maintaining a superior quality. We work on highly effective turnaround times, and your business will benefit from our extremely efficient operations.
When you partner with us at UK Clothing, you’ll be able to retain important levels of control over the final product. A reputable clothing manufacturer in the UK, the company has been established within the international textile and manufacturing sector for years and as a result, our extensive resources can assist you in getting your new clothing line off-the-ground.
We’re available around the clock via telephone, e-mail and social media, and our dedicated team will be happy to assist you and your clothing business. Contact us today for more information.
We hope this detailed guide has addressed the question “How to start a clothing manufacturing business?” and wish you all the best in becoming one of the premier clothing brands in the market. If you’re interested in finding the right manufacturer to partner with on your journey, look no further than UK Clothing.
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