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8 Challenges of Running a Clothing Business

Launching a clothing brand is an exciting endeavor. Whether you’re driven by a passion for fashion or simply see an unmet need in the market, creating a brand from scratch can be fulfilling. However, just as in any business venture, challenges and roadblocks await. To navigate the world of fashion successfully, here are seven things you should know before you embark on your journey.

Many passionate fashion entrepreneurs jump into their ventures hoping to rock the fashion world. Unfortunately, many of their ventures fail not too long after. That is why it is important to really prepare yourself before starting a clothing business. Just like any other business, a clothing brand will have an uphill climb if it wants to succeed. This is not only because the global fashion industry produces more than 100 to 150 billion items of clothing per year. But also because this industry presents a few unique challenges like no other industry.

Launching a successful clothing company can be as easy as selling t-shirts online. It can also be as difficult as launching handmade garments and selling them in retail boutiques. Whichever direction you decide to take, there are some things you should know before launching a clothing business. Here are some challenges you’ll face when running a clothing business. It is good to know these things before starting your clothing business. However, if you’ve already started, there are a few things on this list that you may need to be aware of as you continue on your journey.

Finding Your Target Audience

Every successful clothing brand needs to understand its target audience. Before even putting pen to paper for designs or touching the fabric, it’s essential to commit to extensive market research. This process not only uncovers the basic demographics of your intended market but also looks deeper into the psychographics. But fining a target market for your clothing brand can be challenging.

By assessing lifestyle preferences, values, and buying motivations, a brand can gauge the interests of its audience. For instance, a brand wanting to capture the imagination of the youth in urban centers might create designs around sustainability and unique self-expression. 

Also, a comprehensive understanding of the audience helps in fine-tuning design alignments. The style preferences for professionals in their 30s and 40s would differ vastly from those of teenagers. Beyond design, even the pricing strategy gets influenced by recognizing the purchasing power of the intended audience. Without this deep-rooted understanding, even the most spectacular designs can risk being overlooked.

 

Differentiating Yourself

The fashion industry is crowded. There are over 26,541 fashion designer businesses in the U.S. alone. The secret lies in differentiation. Every brand carries with it a story, a legacy. It might be the idea of craftsmanship passed down through generations. Or maybe a journey of commitment to ethically sourced materials. Whatever makes your brand different, share it often.

Keep in mind that different could mean multiple things. It could not only be in the story of your brand but maybe even in its pricing and audience. If you are a brand that has a clear and specific market, that is a differentiating factor. If your brand creates some exclusivity, that also makes it different.

When trying to differentiate yourself, don’t only focus on the product being produced and the story of your brand. Look at your audience and find what makes them different. Once you can do that, and cater to that audience, they will be more attracted to your brand.

 

Trend Cycles are Moving More Quickly

You may already be familiar with the concept of fashion trend cycles. The fashion trend cycle is the process by which a particular design, activity, color, etc., comes into some popularity and then phases out. For example, in the 1970s, bell-bottom jeans were in style. That style became fashionable again during the late 1990s and early 2000s. 1980s style of clothing began becoming popular again during the 2010s.

There are 5 stages of the fashion trend cycle that you should know:

  1. Introduction
  2. Rise
  3. Peak
  4. Decline
  5. Obsolescence

You’ll see this trend happen over and over again. It was widely believed that the trend cycle was about 20 years. This meant that you could expect an obsolete trend to make a return in about 2 decades. Not anymore.

What we’re currently experiencing is a shortening of the trend cycle. Some of this is because of the microtrends that have been made popular on Instagram and TikTok. Many clothing companies can hardly keep up with the changing tastes. In previous eras, themed clothing was common. However, these days, singular-piece trends are what’s popular. For example, a person may have had a closet full of bell-bottom jeans in the 70s. Now, a person may have a pair along with a few pairs of 80s acid wash jeans and some skinny jeans.

If you you took a picture of a fashionable crowd it would be hard to tell what decade you are in. These microtrends, along with the singular piece trend, have shortened the average fashion trend cycle from 20 years to between 3 and 6 months!

Before you start your clothing brand this is something you should be aware of. Will your clothing line be fashionable in a year? Are you ready to adjust quickly to the changing trends? These are some of the questions you should ask yourself in order to prepare for the ever-changing fashion industry.

 

Putting Quality Over Quantity

One of the pitfalls in the fashion world, especially for newcomers, is the allure of casting a wide net hoping to cater to everyone and touching upon every conceivable trend. However, the charm often lies in the details. Craftsmanship is not just a byword; it’s the lifeblood of a brand’s reputation. When a consumer chooses an item from a collection, that singular piece represents the brand’s values and standards. That’s why, each item, regardless of how limited the collection, must be high quality. 

An ethical and transparent supply chain isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. By concentrating on quality, even if it means producing fewer pieces, a brand can create an aura of exclusivity. If the feedback you’re getting from your customers is that your clothes are quality, you’ve already differentiated yourself from thousands of brands out there.

 

 Financial Planning is Crucial

One of the downsides of starting a clothing line is the possibility of spending a lot upfront. Initial capital is just the starting point. You also have to account for costs at every turn. Whether it’s the procurement of fabrics, payment to skilled artisans, marketing campaigns, or distribution logistics.

Here are some other hidden costs that many new fashion entrepreneurs need to prepare for:

  • Market research
  • Sourcing
  • Materials
  • Sampling
  • Photoshoot
  • Design
  • Advertising

All of this can cost thousands of dollars. External investment can seem like a tempting route to pay for all of this. However, seeking investors without a clear, financial strategy will present a whole other set of challenges.

The best approach is to fund the venture yourself while being creative and innovative with how you’re going to get things done economically. Try to use as many free options as possible for your marketing. This means being very active on Instagram and TikTok. Also, network as much as possible to meet people who can help you execute the other parts of the business for a reasonable price. Doing this will help ease your financial burden and could help you turn a profit much quicker. 

And speaking of turning a profit.

 

It Could Take You 12 months to 5 Years to Become Profitable

One of the downsides to starting a clothing line is the lack of seeing profits even though you’ve been putting in thousands of dollars and, possibly, thousands of hours. Unlike some other types of businesses, it could take some time for a clothing line to become profitable. One survey found that it takes an average of 12 to 18 months for an online clothing company to become profitable. Other sources say it could take up to 5 years for some lines to see a profit.

Like we mentioned before, if you are starting a simple t-shirt business you may be able to turn a profit sooner than later. However, many clothing brands that offer varied and unique styles will have to hustle and be diligent so that they can reach profitability. 

 

Establishing a Digital Presence

 The fashion industry, with its reliance on visual allure and ever-evolving trends, has become intertwined with digital platforms. No longer is it enough to simply have a brick-and-mortar store. Now, you’ve got to appeal to the eyes of everyone who uses their smartphones to get fashion ideas. In fact, in many cases, social media has become the first touchpoint for many consumers. 

A user-friendly website and dynamic social media profiles embellished with high-resolution images and intuitive design are crucial for your clothing line. This not only showcases products but also narrates the brand’s story. Once you have captured the attention of your clothing line’s target market, step things up by using digital advertising to reach even more people. 

Setting Your Goals Before You Launch

One of the major mistakes new fashion entrepreneurs make is having vague and lofty goals for their clothing business. This often happens when the idea of starting a clothing brand is thought of as being glamorous. In reality, this multi-billion dollar industry is one of the most competitive in the world.

That’s why it is important to set the goals you want to reach before you launch your clothing business. This includes short-term, long-term, and even medium-term goals. When you’ve started your clothing brand, you will be bombarded with responsibilities, tasks, requests, and endless fires to put out. During all of the excitement and, yes, chaos, it will be hard to stop to set goals.

Instead, you want to already have your goals set and spend that energy focusing on them. Your goals will help you make better decisions and keep you on track. Without them, you could be chasing every opportunity and addressing every demand even if they will not help your business in the long run. We have an article on some goals for a clothing brand that will help you set meaningful goals.

Conclusion

Starting a clothing brand is not just about fashion; it’s about business acumen. You need to understand the market and deliver value to customers. By keeping these points in mind, you’ll be better prepared to turn your dream into reality. 

Also read:

How to Find the Target Market for a Clothing Business

How to Start an Online Clothing Business on Instagram

Thomas Martin
Tom is a member of the Editorial Team at StartUp Mindset. He has over 6 years of experience with writing on business, entrepreneurship, and other topics. He mainly focuses on online businesses, digital publishing, marketing and eCommerce startups.

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Tom is a member of the Editorial Team at StartUp Mindset. He has over 6 years of experience with writing on business, entrepreneurship, and other topics. He mainly focuses on online businesses, digital publishing, marketing and eCommerce startups.

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