When first stumbling upon the idea of starting my very own clothing label I had no idea what this entailed and how on earth I was going to achieve my dream. All I knew is that I wanted to design and sell my own clothes.

A good place to start is to ask yourself, "what kinds of people are going to buy my clothes?". The answer to this question will give you a good idea of your market. Knowing your market is essential. It will determine what style you design, what fabrics you will use, where you will sell your clothes and how you will promote your label.

The biggest lesson you will learn when starting a label is that you need capital. No money, no label. The initial costs that one has to outlay are very expensive. Once you have successfully designed your first range you need money to buy fabric and trimmings.

The next step is to decide on who will make the patterns and do the grading. Normally this will be done by the designer themselves, at least initially until you have built up enough capital to either employ a patternmaker or to out source. Once the pattern process is complete a sample of each unit has to be made. This sample will be kept and used as reference. If you are going to use a cmt (cut make and trim) company they will use the sample as a guideline for all units being produced. The other option is to do the production by your self. This is not advisable it is most time consuming and energy draining. You must either employ a part time seamstress or use a cmt. Make sure you find a reliable and professional cmt.

Once the stock has been produced you need to do a costing sheet for each unit. You must take in to consideration all your overheads, labor and consumables. Don't forget to put a markup on the goods other wise you will lose out and never make any money. Depending on your market you could also produce cheap and easy items in your range. These items will be your bread and butter so make sure enough is produced. These garments will enable you to keep your stock levels up while working on the more expensive and detailed garments.

The goods should be checked before being delivered. This is a quality control check as it is very embarrassing for a customer to buy a garment with a fault or threads hanging off it.

Make sure to receive a deposit slip for goods delivered so you can keep a check on stock going in and out.

Basic Equipment required

It is essential to have the following in order to start a successfully fashion business.
1. Enough room to put all your equipment.
2. Enough light in order to see well.
3. A large cutting table.
4. At least one domestic sewing machine
5. At least one domestic overlocker.
6. Enough brown paper and card for patterns.
7. Computer.
8. Professional labels for the clothing.
9. Washing instruction labels.
10. Size labels.
11. Pattern rail.
12. Clothing rail.

You should also explore working with one or more designers. By pooling your resources for equipment and buying fabric, you can reduce your overheads. Have a look under the manufacturing section for more information on partnerships.

In part two we will take you through some of the retail options available to you.

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Nina Stewart is a Fashion Design lecturer at LISOF. She successfully started and managed her own label, Nina P, before commencing teaching.

Add your comment (3)
written by tshembhi, April 15, 2011
thanx to your article i now have confident to start my own CMT as a fashion designer. your infornation is more than a market research i have done. it came in very hand at aright time
ifashion you rock.
written by ShaynaLee, August 03, 2009
I found your article most helpful. Do you however have any contact details for a CMT in the durban area? I am struggling o get hold of a few so that i can get quotes.
written by Dollface, September 17, 2008
I am so glad i found this web site, because it has all the answers i am looking for, advise and great info.
I feel that i can finally start my own label, all i need is pattern cutting and sewing training or maybe i can work with someone who has those skills. Or is there a computer program that can assist with the patterns.