It all starts with an idea.
You’re tired of the cheap, the derivative. You want to create something unique. Something that stands on its own.
But what does that actually take? It’s a road strewn with pitfalls. From material to design to marketing, you need to know what it takes to actually bring a line of clothing to market.
So what does it really take to create a simple clothing line? Let’s focus on how to start a T-shirt brand, one of the least complicated clothing lines.
Come Up With a Creative Brand
The first step is creating something that people want to buy. Find something that you can design that works with your brand.
Branding isn’t just a matter of creating a logo.
It’s the entire experience of everything that your customers come in contact with, from the very first time they come in contact with you to the time the order winds up in their hands. It’s a gut feeling. Everything the customer feels about you in every interaction they have with your company is branding.
How did your favorite brands build themselves, and what can you learn from them?
The first thing you need to get right with your brand is consistency. From logo to packaging to website to everything that you sell, there has to be a consistent look and feel and voice. The way you talk to customers, the way your website is built, even your email signature has to be consistent from one spot to the next.
A brand is a means of setting consumer expectation. Keep the style and logo consistent through every piece of clothing you make. Create a mission statement very early on and stick to it—articulating the principles that you want to build your brand around makes it easy to build a cohesive brand identity later, when you’re focusing on production.
Everything has to conform to the initial vision, or your customers will sense that lack of authenticity.
Branding is all about connecting with a certain group of people. The voice of your company needs to resonate with them, and it’s easiest if it’s something that you understand personally. Maybe you’re passionate about 80’s films. Maybe you want to specialize in graphical T-shirts that evoke graffiti and street art.
Whatever it is, make sure it’s something that you can communicate authentically and get across to the group you’re trying to reach. Find your niche.
Find the Right Material
Whenever you create a new line of clothing, you have to let your manufacturer know what they need to work with. There are a variety of different T-shirt fabrics that you can work with.
The most common T-shirt material, and one of the best, is cotton. But there are a lot of different varieties.
Regular cotton is soft, sturdy, and breathable. It’s affordable and easy to work with.
Combed cotton is a little more expensive than basic cotton. It’s specially treated before it’s spun, removing shorter fibers and straightening the weave. It’s stronger and smoother than regular cotton.
Organic cotton is more expensive than regular cotton, but very soft to the touch.
Pima and supima cottons are the highest-quality cottons available. They’re made from extra-long fibers, extremely soft and durable. And with each washing, they become softer.
Slub cotton is a different material that has slight lumps in it, creating a material with a unique texture. Shirts made with slub cotton are light and airy and do not cling to the body.
Linen is another fabric available for T-shirts. It’s textured, lightweight, breathable and moisture-wicking. For summer wear, it can’t be beaten.
Lycra is stretchy and often added to T-shirts to give them a little extra stretch. It’s often found in athletic apparel.
If you’re looking for a quick-drying fabric that won’t mold or mildew, polyester is what you want to go for. It’s strong, easy to machine-wash and doesn’t shrink.
Rayon was originally created as an alternative to silk, and it’s great for athletic clothes. Simple and easy to dye, it’s extremely absorbent, but doesn’t hold up well to prolonged wear.
Many T-shirts are also blends of different materials. There are a huge variety of different fabrics that you can choose from.
Once you’ve decided on a material, you need to provide the specifications, which means you’ve got to send a tech pack to the manufacturer. We’ve provided a guide on how you can assemble your tech pack in the blog.
Sort Out the Costs
There are several different options you can go through for T-shirt production costs.
Print-on-demand is the easiest way to start your own clothing line. It’s easy for people with less than a $1000 budget. It’s much lower in margins than other options, but it’s also much easier to set up. Because you’re using standard wholesale clothing, it’s hard to differentiate your product.
This direct-to-garment printing process produces full color images with extreme accuracy. There are no setup costs, and it’s easy to produce one at a time, but larger runs are less efficient.
Another option is going wholesale, which allows you to do a greater volume of product at a higher profit margin. To do this, you’re purchasing blank clothing in bulk which is customized after the fact, which incurs more logistics but allows you greater control.
Sourcify is perfect for this, allowing you to get in contact with factories that can produce product to your exact specifications. By purchasing up front, you can add tags, custom labels, and other options that print-on-demand doesn’t allow.
In addition, purchasing in bulk allows you to use more cost-effective methods that are just as high quality, like screen printing, a tried-and-true method for T-shirt production. If you’re dealing with $2500 or more in budget, this is a great way to get off the ground.
Finally, if money to get off the ground is no object, you can do a cut-and-sew clothing line, controlling literally every aspect of the production process. You’re designing sketches, creating patterns, finding the perfect materials and paying for long production runs.
This is a long process, but Sourcify allows you to sort through bids and find the perfect manufacturer for your needs if you want this level of control over the final product.
Getting T-shirts printed can be easy or hard, depending on how much control you want over the process. But Sourcify can make it simple. We offer a range of services that make it possible to make your vision a reality.
Printing Methods and their Pros and Cons
Getting T-shirts printed can be hard. There are a variety of methods that can be used to print a design on a T-shirt, and they all have things they do well and things they’re not as good for.
Screen printing is the most common printing technique. It stays vibrant, soft and smooth for a long time. The design is transferred to a stencil or template, then ink is squeegeed over it and the stencil is taken away. This method works well for big runs, but isn’t practical for smaller batches.
Direct-to-garment is another form of printing. In this method, the T-shirt is fed into a printer much like a printer that might be used in a home or office, just larger and more specialized. It’s great for one-offs and works best on white shirts. Lower in quality than screen printing, it’s useful for small runs but doesn’t hold up against the methods used for larger production runs.
Sublimation printing is another method, usually used for T-shirts that have designs on 100% of the surface. This process needs polyester shirts, though, which limits what’s possible.
For T-shirts with only a small graphic or logo, vinyl printing is a great option. The material is printed and then pressed on using a heat press. But it’s not very flexible, making it a good choice for small areas but not for larger designs.
Transfer paper is another heat press method, and it’s widely used in the T-shirt business. It’s easy, but works best on light-colored shirts and is slower than some other methods.
The Long and Short of Sourcing
Sourcing material and manufacturer is one of the hardest parts of the T-shirt creation process. Fortunately for you, Sourcify is made to make that process easy.
Searching through forums or other platforms trying to find a manufacturer that isn’t a scam and won’t rip you off takes time, and it comes with a higher risk of failure.
When you deal with Sourcify, we pre-vet factories to make sure that you’re getting someone who’ll do the job right the first time. You can save yourself time, create better products, and have complete control over your garment from start to finish.
We’ve helped a huge variety of companies get off the ground in a lot of different fields. T-shirts are just one of the avenues we have available. But if you want to make that design from your head into a fully-fledged business, we’re a partner that you can count on.
Creating and Designing T-shirts: The Takeaway
There are many factors that go into starting your own T-shirt brand. But Sourcify is here to help you through the process. With our help and your expertise, it’s easier than ever to create a clothing line that you can both be proud of and make money from.