Content in this guide
- Create a blueprint for your business
- Name your clothing line and company
- Register the business
- Basic design skills
- Production Plan
- Get the pricing right
- How to find a clothing manufacturer
- Networking is a valuable tool
- Market your line
- Online marketing
- Workshops and training
The South African fashion industry has the talent to develop original products with inspirational style and creative detail to compete very well with popular international brands. However, designers too often fail to deliver through lack of basic planning and business acumen,” says Amanda du Plessis.
Du Plessis launched the retail consultancy Evolution 4 years ago to help top South African brands to realise their potential. A doyenne in the industry, she started her career as a buyer at Truworths, developing in-house ladies wear and accessories ranges.
She joined Stuttafords as a brand manager where she developed three private label ranges – Define, Excursion and Oaktree – and managed six local and international brands. She left Stuttafords to head up retail development at Polo before starting her own consultancy.
1. Create a blueprint for your business
There are a number of business matters that must be in place before you can start a clothing line.
- No matter what kind of business you start, you must have a business plan.
- In the plan, you must consider all the costs and include your goals. Once you have done this, everything else will fall into place.
- Start small. Many business ventures begin small; then grow with time, lots of hard work and patience.
2. Name your clothing line and company
Think of a creative and catchy name that represents you and the product. Once you have worked out a name, you must protect your label by registering the name. Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) in Pretoria is responsible for the registration of companies, trademarks and patents. Contact them to register your brand name and logo. Protect the brand name under trademark law as well, but don’t forget to do a trademark search before you register it.
3. Register the business
Set up a business entity by registering the business as a Close Corporation or a Private Company and get all of the necessary licenses and tax registrations that are required by the South African Revenue Services (SARS).
4. Basic design skills
If you want to start a clothing line, you should have some design skills such as sketching, sewing, pattern making and textile knowledge.
The Design Process
Before you start a clothing line, you need to understand the design process as a whole. Research current trends to predict what styles, colours, and fabrics will be popular
- Conceptualise an idea
- Sketch preliminary designs
- Select fabrics
“To have a successful business, you need to have items that are more accessible to a greater audience both price and style-wise. This does not mean that you need to create pieces for the mass market. Instead you need to consider a range of pieces and prices within your collections,” explains du Plessis.
5. Production Plan
Formulate your production plan — that’s going to do what, how much it is going to cost, what needs to be produced. You’ll need to create a sample, or have a sample created for you. You can then use this sample to get orders. Take the sample to fashion shows, trade shows, retailers, craft shows, etc.
Related: Free Operational Plan Template
Providing that you have your designs and range set out on paper, that patterns have been cut and fabrics sourced, the next step is to manufacture a range of professional samples.
“In South Africa it is difficult to find a reliable CTM (Clothing and Textile Manufacturer) willing to make a small range. You could employ seamstresses to make the clothing on your premises until you can no longer cope with demand, or better still create a group of seamstresses that work for a few designers and pay them for finished product instead of paying a daily rate.”
“This way you will know your actual cost and your labour component will be more productive. Once your units gets closer to 100/200 units you could approach a CTM to manufacture the line,” advises du Plessis. When dealing with a clothing manufacturer, prepare a list to find one that is the right fit. Find out the following:
- How much will it cost to get what I need?
- What are the turnaround times?
- Do you provide samples before finalising production?
- How soon will I receive the sample?
The textiles, clothing and footwear industry in South Africa is well established, but has been under siege for some years due to the negative impact of cheap imports. The effect of cheap exports is exacerbated by the reduction of import protection; this stems the flow of illegal imports and the effect of the discontinuation of export incentives.
“There are very few mills left in South Africa that produce apparel fabrics, and most of the fabrics are imported thru wholesalers therefore designers will not always have exclusivity on designs, this however creates an opportunity for designers to create their own look by adding value to basic cloths by printing, embroidery or draping” says du Plessis.
7. Get the pricing right
Consider everything that goes into making your clothes when deciding on pricing.
- Fashion material costs (material, cotton, buttons, zips, etc).
- Salaries for you and any employees.
- Advertising and marketing costs.
- Manufacturing costs.
- Other expenses, like utilities, supplies and equipment.
Make sure that your target market can afford your clothing range.
8. How to find a clothing manufacturer
This requires lots of legwork. Start by browsing through the internet. There is a global clothing manufacturer register on clothingregister.com that lists manufactures in South African and around the world.
“Word of mouth is a good way to find a good small manufacturer,” recommends du Plessis. Talk to other designers at fashion shows and industry events and find out who they recommend. It is a good idea when your units become bigger to include a “penalty clause” so that you are protected in the event of a late delivery by the manufacturer. , says du Plessis.
Now you are ready to launch the range
Once the samples are made, you need to contact buyers at stores where you believe your target market would shop. Not only do you show them samples, but you should also show them the different styles, colours and fabric swatches. If they decide to buy, request a written order including the delivery date and payment terms.
9. Networking is a valuable tool
Never hesitate to network. You never know who you could be discussing your business venture with. It could be a prospective client or even a possible partner.
10. Market your line
Spread the word by wearing your own designs and telling anyone who asks you that you made it.
- Make use of free social networks such as YouTube, MySpace, Facebook and Twitter to raise your clothing line’s visibility.
- Write press releases and distribute them to newspapers and fashion magazines.
- You could open your own boutique, but you would have to prove through your business plan that the shop will be profitable. It’s a risky route
- Sell your line to a retailer; try to set up a plan whereby you sell your clothes through other clothing retailers.
- You can also take your samples to craft fairs, flea markets, fashion shows and trade shows.
11. Online marketing
Online sales can be a great addition to your sales plan. Either you can use your own professional website, or you can use online marketplaces such as FashionCircus.net, or LA Showroom on http://www.lashowroom.com/ and for news, events and forums dealing with the South African fashion industry go to ifashion.
12. Workshops and training
“One of the opportunities for the South African design schools is to address the business side of design and to equip the designers with the correct tools.” says du Plessis. Many academic intuitions offer Fashion Design courses including Lisof (London International School of Fashion), The University of Pretoria and the Design School of South Africa. Evolution runs regular workshops to help and guide the industry in South Africa. Watch evolution projects for workshop announcements.