How to start a clothing line
Thanks for being interested in my history. My about Chris page is definitely not as exciting as Harry Potter novel but my experience working with fashion start-ups and exploring apparel production in Vietnam is real and relevant. Thanks for being interested and I hope I get to meet you and learn about your history. We all have our unique story worth sharing.
Sharing my knowledge via eBooks
In 2016 I decided to share all my garment manufacturing knowledge in a series of eBooks. I had a clear picture of what factories ask and how startups should answer. I cover everything from meeting minimum order quantities to calculating your import duty. I address Vietnamese business culture and language tips for working with sewing factories in Vietnam. Everything you need to know about how to start a clothing line and working with apparel manufacturers in Vietnam is in my eBooks:
Guide to Producing Garments in Vietnam
Where to buy Eco fabrics
Guide to Quality Control
Partnering with Seditex
I get a lot of inquiries for non-apparel related products like shoes, backpacks, toys, handicrafts and furniture. Starting in 2017 I did not have enough time to learn about other product categories and visit more factories so I joined Frank, Prem, and Cedric at Seditex. They have expertise in sourcing all product categories and a team of sourcing assistants. Between Frank, Prem, Cedri and I, we have over 50 years of experience sourcing in Vietnam and we know over 100 factories. Frank, Prem and Cedric also have great insight for anyone asking how to start a clothing line.
I wake up each day excited to see who emailed me, learn about the product they want to produce and imagine how I can help them know how to start a clothing line. I offer consultations to people who are serious and well prepared. My eBooks are also available in audio for those who like to learn at their own pace. When I talk to people, we either focus on production or focus on business strategy. It’s easy to produce things in Vietnam but it’s not easy to get them to market and sell out all your inventory. Branding, marketing and business planning naturally interest me and it’s the direction I am heading in. I can give you a step by step instructions to move forward with production in Vietnam and, through my network, introduce directly to factories. But, if you allow me to ask you business related questions, I’d like to analyze your complete business strategy, not just production in Vietnam. Find out more about my personal background below.
My brief story
I was born in Los Angeles, USA and grew up near Munich, Germany. After graduating from Cal Poly with a Physics degree I waited tables in Switzerland to discover what I really wanted to be when I grew up. Apparel manufacturing in Vietnam was not on my radar. I joined the US Navy and served on a submarine as an electrician based out of Hawaii. Not a bad gig since I love the ocean. Then I made my way to Houston to work on offshore oilrigs. Learning how to start a clothing line was not on my radar.
I wanted to settle down and start a family and luckily for me I met the right women in Vietnam. We married, had two kids, and built a house. Concurrently, I started learning her family’s business: apparel manufacturing in Vietnam. Her parents started Thai Son S.P sewing factory in 2002. First I built marketing websites for her business and learned search engine optimization. My first eBook is titled: Learn SEO in 4 Simple Steps. Then my crash course in apparel manufacturing in Vietnam got some legs. Every day I answered emails from garment professionals interested in apparel manufacturing in Vietnam. Every week I took fashion designers on sewing factory tours. Twice a year I attended apparel-manufacturing trade shows and explained apparel manufacturing in Vietnam to entrepreneurs. This is how I fell into apparel manufacturing in Vietnam and why I wrote my second eBook: Guide to Producing Garments in Vietnam. I like helping people who are starting clothing lines. More and more people started asking about Eco fabrics so I did my research and wrote my third book: Where to buy Eco fabrics. Finally, it made sense to learn about quality control so I studied AQL and the 4 Point Fabric Inspection Method in detail to complete my fourth book: Guide to quality control. This is how I got into apparel manufacturing in Vietnam.
I am not an agent. I am a consultant. I am the go-to guy if you want to find factories fast and realize your dream to start a clothing line cost effectively. I prepare you to work with factories in Vietnam so you get it right the first time.
How will you start up your clothing brand?
I asked the following questions:
1. Who is your target customer?
2. What is your brand identity and brand message?
3. Does your target customer really care and or connect with your identity/message?
They could not answer and did not think the questions were relevant. I turned down the offer to help and have watched them struggle until this day. I was curious and really wanted to help so I did some reading and came up with my own strategy for starting a fashion brand on a low budget harnessing the power of social media and digital marketing. Here is a summary of what I think are the two most important strategies to start a clothing line in Vietnam.
Leverage Your Passion
Look inside yourself and ask the question: what do I love to do? What do I love to talk about? What is my passion? If you base your clothing line on your passion you have a much greater chance of success as opposed to basing your brand on what you think the market likes. In other words be the trend, don't try to predict the trend. This is step 1 to how to start your own clothing line.
Moreover, your fashion brand is more about your "passion" story than your actual designs. If a women walks into a room wearing a beautiful dress but she has a dull and repulsive personality, then the quality of the design is compromised. Your brand idea/identity/passion is more important than your designs.
Build a Community
In other words, build up your target customer base first and then design your clothing to sell to them. Build trust and foster a mutual interest with your target customers before you invest money in fashion design, manufacturing, e-commerce platforms, or marketing campaigns. This is my best advice for how to start a clothing line.
I'd like to hear your story and help you get started.
Ask me a question.
Don't risk being cheated by a factory in a foreign country!
Conventional answer to how to start a clothing brand is:
Work for a clothing brand for 10 years
Write a business plan
Go for it
I’d like to propose a different approach to how to start your own clothing line:
1. Base your brand on YOUR passion; not what you think the market wants.
2. Build a customer base first via Social Networking
Here is what I mean:
Sounds easy right? It's not but if you CAN do it then you are 99% there.
Test your design ideas; test your target customers buying habits in baby steps. Use a web service like Viral Style to put some basic garments together and launch a simple campaign for less than $5,000 dollars. If you sell well then you know you are on to something, if not, don’t quit your day job.
By building your online consumer base first you will be able to start small and have immediate success.
If you have initial success and you want to expand, then don’t re-invent the wheel. Read books about other people who have successfully started their own clothing lines. One of my favorites is UnLabel by Marc Ecko.
In conclusion, you don’t need a college degree, what you need is passion and an established audience. Build your customer base via social networking first, then design your fashion business in baby steps.
First, we've got to have a passion for something. For example, I have a passion for tennis. I started playing when I was 44 and found that it was mentally stimulating and physically challenging. It keeps me feeling young! Designing my own tennis clothing brand makes sense! I will wear the clothes myself and promote my collections to my friends - to start with anyway. How about you? What is your passion? How to start your own clothing line begins with having a passion for something.
Second, learn from someone who has done it already. Learn from their mistakes and successes.
Three tips to start a clothing line?
* Prepare your tech packs in advance
* Produce locally first
Build Community First: Kindred Bravely
This picture is me with Deeanne and her family the first time we met at Magic. I helped her work with a factory in Vietnam and she successfully produced her first order with no major complications. You can see her products at KindredBravely. One thing I admire about their brand is that they are focused on a well defined community - nursing mothers. They had an audience before they decided to start a clothing line. As soon as they brought their product to market, it sold like hot cakes because it was perfectly tailored to their existing community.
Prepare Tech Packs in Advance: Melissa with Sassy Kids
This picture is of Melissa with two merchandisers from Vietnam. I helped Melissa going from not knowing what a tech pack is to getting sample made and production started. The first thing I had her do was create tech packs and summarize her styles, colors per style and sizes per style on a purchase order list.
Produce Locally First: The Light Blonde
Produce Locally First: Fit Team
Here I am with Chad and his brothers who started a brand called FitTeam. Their volumes are small so they produce locally in order to lower their inventories and get replenishments faster.
I wrote this book for you to be able to make your tech packs and understand how hard it is. If you have well done tech packs than half the battle is done.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
MY BEST ADVICE
VALUE OF A TECH PACK
27 DECISION POINTS
BILL OF MATERIALS
EXAMPLE TECH PACKS
TECH PACK SOFTWARE
Contact me today!
1. Which styles do you want to manufacture first?
2. Do you have tech packs?
3. Do you have any special factory requirements?
4. Have you produced before? If yes, then in what country?
5. What quantity per style per color do you order?
6. Does your company have a website?
7. Do you want to work with an agent or directly with the factory?
8. Do you plan to visit Vietnam?
Fashion Start-up Consultant
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Author and Dad