How To Start a Clothing Business (Complete Guide)

how to start a clothing business

Ever wondered how to start a clothing line? There are so many opportunities when it comes to selling apparel online. People always need clothes, and fashion trends constantly change—there’s always something to sell and someone to sell it to.

But with that opportunity also comes lots of competition. So when you’re figuring out how to start your clothing business, it’s important to find ways to stick out in a saturated market. That’s why we outlined a methodical approach to starting your clothing business.

1. Do market research

When you first get started, it’s a good idea to get acclimated to the industry and its current state. What’s the current landscape for selling apparel online? Market research will tell you who’s selling, who’s buying, and why—along with other insights that can inform your approach to your clothing business. Here are some resources for conducting market research:

Open notebook with top five business ideas on page beside cell phone

2. Choose a clothing product to sell

You might launch with one special clothing product, like t-shirts, or choose to create a whole collection for your debut, possibly niching into a category selling vintage clothing or starting an online boutique. Regardless of your approach, it’s a good idea to find the best product idea that will resonate with your target customer. But choosing which clothing product(s) to sell is about more than creating something people like—it also has to be compelling enough to make people want to buy.

Shopper looks at clothing on rack in store

3. Choose a business model

There are a few different business models you can use for your clothing business, each with its own benefits and challenges.

Print on demand

The print-on-demand business model is when you outsource the manufacturing and order fulfillment to a third-party service. You create a printable design, and the print-on-demand company will put that design onto your clothing product and then ship it out to your customer each time an order is placed. Though it typically has smaller profit margins than other clothing business models, print on demand doesn’t require inventory investment, so it’s low risk. Here are some more resources to help you learn about going the print-on-demand route for your clothing business:


Dropshipping is another outsourced option. Essentially, you promote and sell products on your website, but a third-party dropshipper holds the stock and handles order fulfillment on your behalf. It’s similar to the print-on-demand business model, but dropshipping doesn’t require any printing. Learn more about dropshipping with these resources:


For a more hands-on approach to your clothing business, you can also create your apparel by hand. You might have the sewing skills needed to start from scratch, or you can hire a professional designer to help. Browse Shopify Experts to find inspiring and creative professionals who can bring your vision to life.


If you still want control over your product but you don’t have the ability to physically create the apparel yourself, you can work directly with manufacturers to bring your clothing designs to life. Working with a manufacturer is especially helpful if you have growth goals—it can be difficult or even impossible to keep up with growing demand if you make every piece by hand. However, it’s important to communicate growth goals with suppliers so you know they can handle it too.

Fabric rolls with colorful prints

4. Write a business plan

Your business plan serves as a roadmap for your clothing brand. It’s helpful for identifying goals for where you want to go in your business, potential challenges and roadblocks you might encounter along the way, and the resources you need to make it all happen. The business plan is helpful not only for yourself, but also for your team, partners, investors, and lenders, now and down the road.

Person typing on laptop computer

Free: Business Plan Template

Business planning is often used to secure funding, but plenty of business owners find writing a plan valuable, even if they never work with an investor. That’s why we put together a free business plan template to help you get started.

5. Set up your business

There are a few steps to take before your business is “legit.”

Choose your clothing business name

Your business name is the first thing most people will hear when they learn about your clothing business. It’s important to make your name impactful—and that means different things for different brands. You might want to be super straightforward or have fun with something less literal and more creative. The Outrage and Phenomenal are two t-shirt brands that support social issues, for example. Their names make a nod back to their customers—people who are outraged at issues, and phenomenal women who take stands. That’s just one direction to take your clothing business. There are so many ways to get creative in choosing your name.

Create a logo

Your logo is a visual representation of your clothing company. And while you technically can shell out a bunch of money hiring a designer to do it for you, many clothing companies launch with a logo they’ve designed themselves. Our logo creator is one tool you can use to play around with fonts, colors, and graphics. You can also use it to create your own logo ideas that you share with a hired professional as direction when you’re ready to invest.

Build your store

You’ve got the brand and the clothes, now you need a place to share it with the world: your website! Building an online store may be intimidating, but you can set up your own online store using customizable themes and templates on Shopify using their best in class website builder —no coding necessary.

Choose your sales channels

When you sell your clothes online, you can sell them directly from your website. You can also add other sales channels to reach more shoppers on more platforms. Other sales channels may include online marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy, wholesale, retail stores, social media, and more. It’s all about finding out which channels your customers use.

Store owner typing on a laptop computer

6. Set up your logistics

Shipping and fulfillment are arguably both the least exciting and most important part of any online business. These logistics determine how products get to their final destination—the customer’s intended address. And there’s more to order fulfillment than shipping—you need to nail picking, packing, and shipping and ensure a consistent, positive customer experience every step of the way.

Cardboard shipping boxes and envelopes


The Shopify guide to shipping and fulfillment

Boost customer satisfaction while driving sales growth for your ecommerce business with an effective shipping and fulfillment strategy. Use this guide to create a plan that covers all aspects of shipping and fulfillment, from how much to charge your customers to choosing the right fulfillment method.

7. Prepare to launch your business

Now that you have a roadmap to success and the building blocks to get you there, it’s time to wrap up all the loose ends and get ready for launch. There are a few steps you’ll want to take before pushing your online store live and opening it for orders.

Colorful clothing on a rack

8. Create and execute a marketing plan

Once your online store is running smoothly, you can focus your efforts on driving traffic to your website. Marketing your store requires research, strategy, planning, creative execution, and data analysis to see the results of your efforts.

Smiling person with open laptop sits at table across from friend

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Free Webinar:

Marketing 101

Struggling to grow sales? Learn how to go from first day to first sale in this free training course.

9. Test, learn, and iterate

The beauty of starting your own business is you can evolve it as you go—even more quickly when you’re primarily online. Run some tests to learn more about what’s working and what’s not so you can optimize your store and campaigns for more sales.

Person holds and looks at clothing on rack in a bedroom

Launch your clothing business on Shopify

Sell designer apparel, vintage finds, and everything in between on your Shopify store. With helpful resources, intuitive tools, and a dedicated customer support team, you’ll have support every step of the way.

Illustration by Pete Ryan

How to start a clothing business FAQ

How do I start a clothing business for beginners?

  • Research the market: Before starting any business, it’s important to understand the industry you’re entering and the competition you’ll be up against. Research the clothing industry, trends, and customer demographics to get an idea of what type of clothing will be popular and successful.
  • Develop your product line: Once you have a better understanding of the industry, decide what type of clothes you’ll specialize in. Will you focus on a specific type of clothing, or will you offer a variety of styles?
  • Find a manufacturer: Find a reliable manufacturer that can help you create the clothing you envision. Research to find manufacturers that specialize in the type of clothing you want to produce.
  • Choose a name and brand: Choose a name and develop a brand identity that resonates with your target customers.
  • Set up your business: Register your business and obtain any necessary licenses and permits.
  • Create your website and online presence: Create an e-commerce website and other online channels to reach customers.
  • Develop a marketing strategy: Develop a marketing strategy to promote your brand and products. Consider using digital marketing, influencer marketing, and other tactics to reach potential customers.
  • Plan your finances: Determine how much money you need to start your business and how you’ll finance it. Consider applying for loans, seeking investments, or using other funding sources.

How much does it cost to start clothing business?

The cost to start a clothing business can vary depending on the type of business and the products you plan to offer. Generally, you can expect to spend anywhere from a few hundred dollars up to tens of thousands of dollars to get your clothing business off the ground. This cost can be broken down into four main categories: start-up costs, product costs, marketing costs, and operating costs.

How profitable is a clothing business?

The profitability of a clothing business can vary greatly depending on the type of business, the size of the business, the market, and the competition. Generally, clothing businesses have the potential to be very profitable, especially if they are well-run and have strong marketing strategies.

How to start a clothing business with no money?

Starting a clothing business with no money is possible but very challenging. First, you will need to come up with a creative business idea. You can research trends in the clothing industry, decide on a target market, and develop a unique brand. Then, you will need to create a business plan and find ways to market your business without spending money. This may include leveraging social media, networking, and connecting with influencers. You may also need to get creative with sourcing materials and manufacturing options, as well as finding ways to fund your business such as using crowdfunding platforms or seeking out investors.