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How To Start an Apparel Brand in Five Steps

How do you start an apparel brand? By starting! Of course it’s not as easy as simply saying it, but if you are feeling all the feels of having your own brand, you’re willing to do the practical work, and you know you are not going to give up if and when it gets hard, then by all means, do it.

When I decided it was time for Detroit Sewn to have its own brand in the fall of 2021, I put a lot of thought into the type of products we were going to make and who we were making them for. We manufacture all of our products in Michigan, and because we pay our team U.S.-relative wages, our price points would have to be at a certain level. (What’s funny is that we are on par with TONS of other brands that make overseas that have ridiculously high margins, but that’s another story.) I came up with the idea of high-quality basics. That includes hoodies, sweatshirts, t-shirts, long-sleeve tees, and beanies, with more styles on the way. This category has a good chance of success because these are pieces that are must haves for every wardrobe. And no one has just one t-shirt or one sweatshirt. We practically collect these types of garments. To make them more desirable, I chose fabrics that are soft and cozy. Our best-selling hoodie has a big, thick, two-ply hood that's like a hug for your head. I decided to make our products even more intriguing by creating a variety of art options that can be added to everything. We continue to grow those options as well. I always want our customers to keep coming back for more.

Who are Detroit Sewn’s products for? Obviously for people who love timeless basics, and are willing to pay more for a quality product. They are also for people who place value on American manufacturing. I made quite a few Michigan- and Detroit-centric art options for the Mitten State to express their love for our little piece of the country, and also to send as gifts to friends and family who have moved away.

So now for the five steps. Grab a notebook or journal and write this out. You can get more internal and reach down deep when you write versus type.

  1. What is your brand? Is it easy and flattering dresses for busy women? Is it fun hair accessories for people who like to sparkle? Is it positive messages on tie-dye t-shirts? Identify exactly what it is you want to sell and who you want to sell it to. The more details the better.

  2. What will you call your brand? Your brand name isn’t the most important thing but it is important because it needs to mean something to you in order for you to make it mean something to others. You may not come up with the perfect brand name in one sitting, but use this time to start working it out. Write down words that have special meaning to you or evoke a certain feeling that you want to feel in your life. And then start to play with it. Experiment. This is your private time so it doesn’t matter how silly or over the top you go while working through it. If you hit upon your brand name right away, awesome. Your work at this moment may also spawn an inspired idea that pops into your head while you’re in the shower or right before you fall asleep. If that happens, get yourself out of bed and write it down before divine inspiration floats away. Once you’ve got it, put down your notebook, open your browser, and do a thorough search to make sure no one else is using that name. Then go buy the URL stat.

  3. What does your brand look like? Is it modern? Elegant? Playful? Grungy? What color or colors most resonate with the brand name and products you will sell? Your answers will lay the groundwork for you logo, website, labels, hangtags, business card, etc. Look online at brands you are drawn to and notice their fonts, color palettes, website themes. Bookmark the sites or take screenshots to share later with a graphic designer.

  4. How will you portray your brand? Will you be your own spokesperson creating intimate videos with your friends wearing the clothes effortlessly? Will you create edgy reels of your accessories in unexpected places? Will you partner with your muse and only create images of her in you clothing with hazy backgrounds? Whatever you choose to do here, it should match up with number three. The entire vibe should go together, from brand name and logo to the products themselves and the creative direction of your images. As you are writing your notes, capture as much detail as possible. Put your imagination to work and truly picture what an ad campaign for your brand might look like. You may not have the funds to run a campaign, but you can use that imagery for social media posts, newsletters, and your website.

  5. At this point, you should know the types of products you want to sell, the name of your brand, what your brand looks and feels like, and how you will portray your brand to potential customers. Now it’s time to write your tagline. Think of your tagline as your elevator pitch. It’s a short and sweet explanation of your brand. If you aren’t sure where to start, Google “best company tag lines” for inspiration. That will get your creative juices flowing. Our tagline is “High-quality basics you’ll treasure.” Short. And. Sweet. And you get it. That’s what you want people to get from your tagline. Again, this may not come in one sitting. Just keep jotting them down until one starts to stand out from the rest and then figure out how to shorten it. Eliminate the fluffy words and get to the point. Your tagline will be easier for people to remember and recognize.

Voila! You have created a brand. Congratulations! I know, I know, you don’t have any products to sell yet. That comes next. Be proud of your progress! We’ll conquer your products next time. See you then!


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