I Want to Start a Clothing Brand

Yes, you heard me right. Another clothing brand. As if there weren’t around a million different brands already. Well, it doesn’t really matter all that much. I’ve been drawn to the idea for quite some time now and I’ve finally made the first steps to making it happen, together with my girlfriend. My plans are big and naive — just the right ingredients for either something amazing or a massive flop. This is Part 1 of hopefully many.

Inspiration

The seed of this idea was probably planted around 2013, when I saw a video of Outlier founder Abe Burmeister. He was telling the story of how he used to work as a graphic designer, cycling to work every morning, which gradually destroyed every pair of pants he had. This made Abe determined to create his custom, durable pair of pants by carefully choosing a suitable, high-tech fabric. One thing lead to another and he “accidentally” started his own brand, targeting people who need to dress smart, but also had an appreciation for practical, comfortable clothing.

Around the same time I was very much into road cycling and fixed gear bikes, so it coincided perfectly with my current interests. But like most of the ideas I have, it soon faded into the background, making way for the more pressing matter of I can’t even remember what it was by now.

Not sure about the chronology of the events, but maybe around the same time I also stumbled upon Best Made Co. The brand started by offering hand-made axes and then gradually expanded into accessories and apparel, gravitating towards outdoor activities, ruggedness and overall badassery.

Another influence was Roark Revival — a clothing company with probably one of the best branding strategies I’ve seen to date. They make an excellent use of the art of storytelling, creating a new adventure around every new collection of clothing they put out. Main focus is on surfing, nature, travelling and free spirit.

More recently, I had a new inspiration for picking up this idea — this time not a brand, but a person. I don’t like to admit it, but it’s the controversial founder and former CEO of American Apparel, Dov Charney. He has a lot to be criticised about and it’s incredibly easy and totally justified not to like him. His managerial methods are questionable and his relationships with the people he works with are wrong at best. But Charney built a company of 10 000 people by immersing himself fully into the most intimate parts of his business. He knows how everything works down to the most minor detail. From the sourcing of cotton to the finished t-shirt, he’s familiar with every step of the process. You have to admire this kind of passion.

Update: While I’m sitting around writing articles about what I plan to do, the guys at DULO are hard at work prototyping their performance fabric shirts and generating tons of content about each step of their process. You can follow their progress, regardless of whether you’re into fashion or not. I know I’m excited about seeing the final product.

What we have so far

Not much, that’s for sure. I decided to start off basically with zero investment. The ultimate goal is to produce custom clothing. However, to reach that vision I decided to start small, with just one type of clothing — t-shirts. My girlfriend is into drawing so she makes the designs, which are then printed onto white t-shirts. We get the T’s from a vendor, so basically at the moment, we’re only offering design.

I set up a web shop, using Tictail — a free platform, similar to Etsy, but more hipster (is that even possible?). It’s connected to a custom domain in hopes of looking more like a proper online store. For any of you planning to start a similar gig with a limited budget, I recommend this option. Anything else would cost more and would require more time and effort, whether it’s Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, Squarespace, etc.

So I set up the shop and uploaded the designs we have. We found a local screen printing studio in Sofia that you can rent out and print the designs you want. If you plan on screen printing yourself, there’s tons of YouTube tutorials on how to do it. However, you do need special equipment and enough room — two things our small team doesn’t have.

For international orders, I decided to go for a fulfilment service called Printful in order to avoid expensive shipping from Bulgaria. How it works is, you connect their platform to your shop and once you receive orders they automatically get sent to Printful, who then manufacture the t-shirts and ship them to the address provided in the order. Our margins will be smaller that way, but it’s a good option to begin with.

What’s next?

There’s a few challenges at this point. I want to avoid using “problems” and opt for “challenges” instead, because it sounds more entrepreneury.

The greatest challenge, I realized, is to take time out from my daily (nightly?) life to do the work and to keep my motivation high.

Two things that I’ve continually failed to do.

Other side projects come and go and my dream apparel brand lingers quietly in the background.

The plan is to add more designs, similar to the current ones in order to create an overall feel and brand identity. The products need to stay focused on specific emotions around aesthetics, minimalism, purity. Of course, we also need to ramp up the marketing efforts considerably, so we can reach more people. This will be the point where things turn from zero investment to very expensive hobby.

After building some momentum, next steps would be creating our own clothes using subcontractors. Pants, to be precise.

That’s the plan, at least.

I’ll post the next related update when I have the first pair.

Thanks for reading! If you liked my post, please let me know by clicking the 💚 below.

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Helping companies create beautiful products people love using @ melewi.net

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Rumen Manev

Rumen Manev

Helping companies create beautiful products people love using @ melewi.net

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