How to start a clothing line

I can help you manufacture clothing in asia
Source Manufacturers in South East Asia
I am your go-to guy if you want to know how to start a clothing line in Vietnam. Using my insider knowledge and connections gained over the last 10 years in Saigon, I can help know how to start a clothing line by working with factories in Vietnam.

Chris Walker
Vietnam Production Insider
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
ebook Author

My first job in Vietnam



In 2008, I started working for Thai Son S.P factory. It is a family owned sewing business based in Ho Chi Minh City. They produce men’s, women’s and children’s garments using circular knitted fabrics.  They offer full service garment production for brands around the world.  After one year of doing marketing for them I started to get manufacturing inquiries on a daily basis.  Most were startups that could not meet Thai Son’s minimum order quantity of 1,000 pieces per style per color.  Plus, the people who contacted me did not have tech packs.  So, I found myself teaching many fashion startups the basics of working with overseas clothing manufacturers.  I found myself seriously figuring out how to start a clothing line. This is lead me to starting my consulting company, Vietnam Insider. 




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.




Enter 2019



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.

Testimony

"Chris's book was the perfect way to help me understand how to start my new clothing business. It's informative and includes an abundance of resources that I believe will be very helpful. It was a great read and got me really excited for next steps! I look forward to reading Chris' second book."

Lauren Oh
Amazon Review

Networking in Las Vegas Magic 2018

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.



My mission



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?

A few years ago I was asked to help an existing fashion brand in Vietnam. The brand had been in existence for almost 10 years. Sales had been doubling each year since Vietnam was experiencing an intense growth cycle since joining the WTO. The market was saturated with brands and sales slowed. That is when I was asked to help.

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

Start your own clothing line based on your passion. If you don't have a passion for something yet, then you are not ready.

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

Once you discover what your passion is then start a community on any social media platform like Pinterest, Google, Facebook or Instagram. Start writing about your passion. Invite others to join your community and discussions. If you can build your community to more than 5,000 members then you are ready to launch your clothing line.

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.

I work as an apparel production advisor in Ho Chi Minh City. I have experience producing men, women and children garments based on your tech packs. If have a general question then I will try my best to answer. If you need a referral then I will dig into my database of factories and see what I come up with to help you.
Ask me a question.

Don't risk being cheated by a factory in a foreign country!

I have written an article that explains why you should not start production overseas. Basically, Vietnam has high MOQs, high import duties and is very risky if you have never met the owner of the factory. Allow me to explain. Read my in-depth article.

Conventional answer to how to start a clothing brand is:

Get a fashion design degree
Work for a clothing brand for 10 years
Write a business plan
Get funding
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?

* Build your community first
* Prepare your tech packs in advance
* Produce locally first

Build Community First: Kindred Bravely

The key to start a clothing line is to create your audience before you design your collection. Without an audience then you have no one to sell to. If you are a naturally social person then create a community online before you try to sell your designs. If you are not a social person then partner up with someone who is naturally outgoing and put them in charge of building a community.

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.
Husband and wife powerhouse

Prepare Tech Packs in Advance: Melissa with Sassy Kids

If you are dead-set on producing in Vietnam, then there is one thing I strongly recommend you prepare in advance: tech packs. The reason for needing a tech pack is, any factory that quotes you a price without a tech pack is not professional and you will run into problems quickly. Tech packs are like a contract that clearly define all the details of your designs. Along with the tech packs there should be a list of order quantities for each style. The purpose of the purchase order quantity list is to show the factory the number of styles, the number of colors, the fabric types, size breakdown and quantities of each. They need the big picture to understand the total business you are brining to the table. How to start a clothing line begins with tech packs and purchase orders.

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.
Stay at home mom success story

Produce Locally First: The Light Blonde

This picture is of me with Chad (green) and his wife who have their own fashion brand that they run out of their garage. You can see their online shop at www.thelightblonde.com. I met them at the Sourcing at Magic trade show and answered all their questions about producing t-shirts in Vietnam. My tip was to continue to produce locally until they could get their MOQs up to 1,000 pieces per style. That is what they did. They bought blanks and had them screen printed with MOQs as small as 50. Read more about MOQs in Vietnam.
Started up in their garage

Produce Locally First: Fit Team

Produce locally before you produce in a place like China or Vietnam. Your local price will be high comparatively and your margins low but you won't have the headache of producing in a foreign country. Once you have a hot seller and you can get your quantity up to 2,000 pieces per style per color then consider producing overseas. It is risky to produce in a foreign country without meeting the factory and following production. You will spend as much as $10,000 just traveling to a foreign country to meet the factory and follow production. Starting small and going overseas right away is not the best way to start a clothing line.

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.
Brothers in arms

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