3 Things Emerging Designers Must Understand Before Starting a Fashion Line

before starting a fashion line

It pays to plan ahead when you’re starting a fashion business. There are a lot of moving parts and the more prepared you are, the better off you’ll be. I put together my list of things every designer should understand before starting a fashion line.

You Need a Compelling Concept

It seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at how often entrepreneurs forget how vital it is to create a product that people actually want to buy. And by “people”, I mean consumers outside of your circle of friends and family.

T-shirt entrepreneur, Johnny Cupcakes, says it best,

Come up with original, clever ideas and make sure you’re doing at least 12 things different from anyone else in your business category. If you don’t give people something to talk about, then nobody is going to talk about you.

You Don’t Need to Start with a Full Collection

When you’re first starting out, you don’t need to do a line that includes dresses, pants, tops, jackets, and skirts. It’s OK – and I recommend it actually – to just pick one product category. You could start with a simple line of dresses, or just do blouses, for instance.  This way you’ll get known for one thing that you do really well.

If you want to make handbags, consider starting out with just a line of totes.  It’s easier to find your customer that way – who uses totes?  People near the beach, for instance. And people in urban areas that schlep a bunch of stuff all day rather than using the trunk of their car – you know what I’m talking about.

Take Three Dots, for example.  The company began in 1995 with upscale tee shirts; three styles, three sizes, twelve colors.  That’s it, easy to understand.  They now sell dresses, cashmere, wovens, and some menswear, but they didn’t start that way.

You Need Grit

It’s hard to know what it will be like to run a business until you do it, but you can get a good idea of what your life will be like by watching and learning from others. My advice is to connect with entrepreneurs who are currently doing what you want to do. See what they go through – day to day – and how they manage the hours, stress, cash flow, sales, and risk.

Having a logical understanding of “I probably won’t be able to pay myself for a while” and actually being in that place of understanding are very different things. Ask yourself, do I have the grit to make it through the first year and love what I’m doing? Can I handle the ups and downs?

Starting a fashion business is not for everyone. But it sure is an amazing experience that will help you evolve, learn, and be the best you can be. Oh, and did I mention the pure joy of seeing a stranger wearing one of your creations for the first time? That makes it all worth it!

So what do you think? What’s the ONE question you have for me about starting a line? Leave it in the comments below and I’ll do my best to get you a speedy answer.


Image via Pierre Lognoul

Jane Hamill

Jane Hamill is the founder of Fashion Brain Academy and the creator of several online trainings for apparel and accessories designers, including “20 Up” Marketing Course for Designers and “How to Start a Fashion Business: New Designer Program”.

  1. Nicholas Horrigan

    Hey Jane,
    Great article!
    I’ launched my brand just before Christmas 2015 and I’ve been doing it full-time from home since August 2015. I’m such a determined and driven person that it can leave me frustrated and helpless at the same time!
    The hardest part is trying to build a brand and make sales as a young designer with a small range. What’s your advice for a younger designer in my kind of position?

    Kind regards


  2. Ashley

    Hello Jane,

    Thank you for writing this article. I am working to start my clothing line. My question is how do start to build my funds to start my clothing line?

  3. Mary Anne Potter

    Hi Jane,
    Where’s the best place to resource fabrics and production in the US. I’m starting a line with my daughters and we want to have everything made stateside!
    Thanks, Mary Anne

  4. Cecilia

    Hi Jane!

    This might be a bit off topic.My biggest problem is demand. I try to simplify everything, counting every seam and every process with the fabric and use the same patterns and fabrics for several items. but even then I can get orders for up to 80 pieces in one week and I really don’t want to let anyone down. How do I deal with shops to make them understand that I can’t ship everything right away? Of course I’m very happy when they order my clothes! How do you know whether or not to expand and get help?

  5. Lee

    Thank you! One question regards discovering your target market.i struggle with that yet everyone always goes on about it. How important is it, and how do you go about identifying it?! Any tips? 🙂

  6. Danielle Sakry

    Thanks Jane, This was a perfect reminder to keep moving forward this morning. I appreciate the advice!

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