Obviously, people are still interested in being healthier and fitter and we’re no different, always on the path for positive progression. And some abs would be nice, but one thing at a time. Let’s sit back and take a look through the new and improved steps you need to be taking to launch your activewear brand successfully.
Step 1. One Direction. Brand Direction.
What is your activewear niche? Your brand still starts here, with a great idea. Maybe it’s not available yet, or maybe it is, but you know you can do it better? How you’re going to make it work is still broken down into these five criteria; Who, What, Where, Why & How. So, we’re going to need you to take a long hard look in the change room mirror and…
Ask yourself these 5 questions:
1. Who am I selling to?
Who is buying your products? What do they like and dislike? Know your consumer, conduct research and be thorough. It’s great having a product people want, but do you know who that person is specifically? Build a customer persona and get friendly with them.
2. What am I selling them?
What is your product? What is your point of difference that is going to give you visibility to your audience? What makes your brand unique and different
3. Why do my who’s need what I have?
What does your audience need from your product that they aren’t getting from competitors? Why will it sell? Why is this product THE product they are going to spend their cash on? Know your product. Be confident in its release into the market.
4. Where will I sell my what to the who’s?
Where does your consumer spend their money? Online? Instore? Do they look at your products on mobile or desktop? Look into their spending habits and traits.
5. How will I market my what to the who’s?
Marketing strategy here we come! How are you planning on selling this product? Is your social media marketing strategy in line with your audience? How are you going to be memorable, build brand credibility and encourage loyalty? Now you’ve got your what, know your who, and where to find them – how are you going to get them to see it AND want it?
If you think about it – these questions are just fleshing out your business plan. By now, you should have a brand name in your head… (Get started on your trademark application while you’re here too).
Next step would be your Brand Style Guide. A Brand Style Guide is your branding bible. Built out by a graphic designer, it starts by creating your wordmark and icon. Think Nike and Nike tick.
From there it’s built out, but not limited to include the following:
1. Brand Logos – Wordmark and Icon. Appropriate sizing, placement, proportions, mis-usage. Brand Colour Palette.
2. Fonts – headers, sub headers and body copy
3. Appropriate use across all branding – websites, emails, social media, packaging, stationary, official documents & POS.
4. Brand Aesthetic – represented by relevant imagery
5. Those brands you love, their clean and cohesive branding – they follow a guide to ensure they stay within their aesthetic at all times.
In closing, a Brand Style Guide – Just Do It.
Step 2. Product Design
Now, let’s take that dream product and put it on paper. Visualise and then actualise it, kids.
This is where you can get creative. Start a Pinterest board. Screenshot your fav Instagram looks. Collect swatches. Pick up a pad and pencil and get drawing. The creative process is a fun one. Through these initial stages is where you are going to start further understanding your brands identity, personality and voice. Your aesthetic sets the tone to how your brand and product interact with its audience. It’s important to remember, with activewear and whichever niche you are going to explore – it needs to be functional and fashionable. Even athleisure in its growing popularity is largely based on its comfort and functionality – leisure, it’s in the name.
First step after creating your mood boards is to see your inspiration on a design board. This is where your inspiration becomes a product. The conceptualising starts to take shape. Make sure you find a talented fashion designer that will give you a design board with variations on your product. Trust their knowledge and expertise to guide you to the right and best product. Both functionally, fashionably and economically. The design board stage allows you to piece together products as a cohesive range. After tweaking, editing and suggestions you might find that what you envisioned works slightly differently. Pull a colour that doesn’t go. Take out a piece that doesn’t mesh into the collection. Look at what you are doing as a whole collection, rather than the individual pieces. Before we get into specifications, we need to go through the design process. Be sure and confident in your designs, getting it right here will help you later on.
Once your design board is done, it’s time to move to the next step – Design Packs. What and why do I need this design pack once I’ve done my design board you ask? Well, for a slew of reasons. A design pack is a set of instructional documents made by your designer. This is how we will give you pricing and guidance to the manufacturer. This includes things such as construction details, fabrication, colourways, brand labels, swing tags, print placement, print application, accessories and much more.
Each design pack is based off your unique designs, no two are the same. Without design packs you won’t be able to receive quotes from your manufacturer. Which leads us to step 3.
Step 3. Quoting, Sourcing & Sampling
Once your design board and packs are complete, you can now move into sourcing your fabrics and quoting your range. By sending both your final design board and packs to manufacturers you can now be sure that the factory is clear on what you are looking to make and how they can help. From here the factory can advise pricing, MOQ’s and lead times for samples. Shop around, pricing varies greatly and is affected greatly by time of year, quantities, fabrics and factory. Factories will specialise in different things; some will be better at compression while others could excel in outerwear. Some may offer a lower MOQ for a higher price. A good agency will have access to multiple factories and be able to cross cost for you. But be sure to know exactly what you’re getting for that price. Ask whether your factories are audited and if they follow ethical and environmental practice. Once you’ve received pricing you are happy with, it’s time for some timelines and planning;
Build a Production Plan.
Now we’ve got a clearer understanding of what our garments may cost, we can re-evaluate – what is needed, what is not and how this plays out to end costs. It’s important to note though, all quotes when starting the sampling process, are just that – quotes. Fluctuations in exchange rate, fabrics, accessories & fair wages can change your end unit price. As well as after sampling; final fabric consumption or changes to the garment will affect your pricing too. But it shouldn’t be too much. Just something to be aware of and prepared for.
Building a production plan out for everything you have designed and are planning on releasing will help you lay it all down in front of you. From prices, timelines, sample stages and everything in between. You may even find that this changes your initial concepts into split ranges or seasonal drops.
You guys still here? Yes? Let’s get ready to sample.
Once you have approved your design packs and quoting, the next step gets a little different.
Before we send to the factory to sample, you need your technical specifications. This is your size grading, points of measurement/construction and patterns. The last piece to turn your design packs into fully fledged Tech Packs (or Tech Specs). These specifications are created by highly skilled Garment Tech’s whose job it is to know and tell the factory how to make this garment. This means your samples and bulk will be as close to what you have designed as possible. Garment Tech’s have a microscopic eye for detail, and things you might miss they will see and amend for you. It’s with the addition of these superstars, we can start to see fit samples come back closer to the finished product sooner. Not only do they create your specs for your products, they quality control all stages of the product development process to ensure nothing is amiss. They are invaluable to any good apparel brand.
Garment Techs and a proper fit sampling processes mean fewer fit samples, and quicker lead times for sampling in general. While we’re discussing fit samples, let’s run through the different kinds of samples you should expect.
Fit Sample –
A fit sample should be measured and compared against your tech specs by your GT, both flat and on a mannequin. This is to ensure an accurately constructed garment. It will allow you to see any adjustments that need to be made for further sampling. It’s very rare that a fit sample comes back 100% right first time, our standard is at least 2. We don’t ever want to be moving forward into bulk without a fit sample being at least 99% correct. A fit sample will be made out of generally the right fabric, perhaps not the right colour though or sub-fabric – whatever is available at the time in the factory sample room. The focus here is on fit over aesthetic. During fit sampling is where we would also source fabrics, accessories, provide strike offs of prints and lab dip custom coloured fabrics for approval.
Pre-Production Samples –
Once your fit samples are approved, including your prints & accessories, we can confirm a bulk order and move into PPS (Pre-Production Samples). A PPS is as close to the finished product as you can get. It will be in your bulk fabric, with all the right trims and prints. There shouldn’t be any changes at this stage. It’s just a little preview of what the factory is about to make. You should also be able to use these samples for some marketing purposes.
Shipping sample –
Shipping samples should ideally look like your PPS (otherwise we have problems). They are taken from bulk just before its complete to show that yes, all of the products are uniform and neat. Shipping samples must be approved before bulk is shipped from the factory. Sampling is sometimes a long process, but it’s so important to develop your product to where you want it to be before moving into the next step.
Step 4. Manufacturing
We’re getting close, aren’t we? You’ll soon learn with your first range that product development is a process. And while it certainly wasn’t hiccup free, you’ve learnt a lot along the way – haven’t you? Once you’ve approved your fit samples, we jump into our PPS. After your PPS is approved, we begin production. Full production, dependent on your products and range size, takes anywhere from 45 days to 12 weeks (+ 2 weeks for shipping). Which leaves you with some time to set up everything else. Didn’t think you could relax for 3 months, did you? Because we know it’s not just about the product anymore. We don’t want to give you a great product and then not help you sell it successfully.
During production you need to think of so many things; e-commerce, social media and all the other bells and whistles that makes your brand, a brand. Time to get some visibility, credibility and awareness out there. Which leads us to…
Step 5. Marketing
What does the farmer do with their produce once it’s grown? They take it to market and arrange it nicely on display to entice hungry patrons. They might yell savings and benefits repeatedly to engage and attract new customers, remember your name from your last visit to draw you back in, and even offer samples or incentives to get you across the line. And while marketing these days for your new activewear range isn’t going to be as simple as yelling at people to buy your bananas, the tactics they use can be relayed over. Let’s breakdown some benefits of a good digital marketing plan
1. Increase brand awareness / visibility
What’s the point in having a great product if no-one can see it? Organically you can still be seen through SEO, with careful keyword planning and some time. To see results you will need patience, especially in a saturated market so make sure your content is SMART. However, organic reach might be flogging a dead horse on other platforms, you can definitely pay to play. Think Facebook/Instagram ads, dynamic retargeting and dedicate a decent ad spend to it.
2. Connect with your audience
You know your audience; you know why they want your product and now you’ve found them. Traditional marketing is gone, people don’t want a sales pitch; they want a story. Make the customer journey charming and personable, every point you connect – make it memorable.
3. Expand your audience reach
Once you’ve begun to find your audience, start to build it into a community. Your target market shares common interests and hobbies, post engaging content that resonates not just with your product but your brands identity to expand its reach.
4. Growing your social media presence
Social Media is a MUST. Utilise the relevant ones for your brand and be consistent with your posting and content.
5. Increasing your sales
This is pretty self-explanatory. You didn’t create this brand for no one to buy it. So you need to have a strong sales driven target. Marketing will be a huge part of your brands success or failure to grow. We know now that after you’ve manufactured your apparel, that getting it out there and seen by the right people isn’t always as easy as it looks. Speaking of being visible, have you thought about what e-commerce platform is right for you?
Step 6. E-Commerce
E-Commerce. It has changed the way we shop, and although bricks and mortar is definitely not dead (I don’t care what you’ve heard), e-commerce is easily the best place to start selling your brand. From larger reach, to less overheads; the ability to start small using an online platform means you aren’t limited by your location. Your audience is the internet, as long as you’ve paid attention to step 5 and found them. There is so much that makes up a website. And a badly performing website can greatly affect your sales. Just like the customer experience is so important when you’re in a store, the user experience (UX) on a website is just as vital to converting those sales. Websites need to load quickly, be engaging, easy to navigate and easy to purchase. And I want you to get used to these three letters; CTA.
Call. To. Action
Encourage the user to take action i.e. Shop Now, View The Range & Buy Now. Guide them to where they need to be on your page – the product page.
So which platform is right for you?
E-commerce giants like Shopify are exceptionally user friendly for the consumer and the operator. The back-end platform makes handling stock a breeze. The options are literally endless to customise and make it your own, and there is a plugin for just about anything you could want to add.
Do your research, look at websites you like and what makes the experience so nice and memorable to you. This will help you in decided what is going to make your website great.
And now here we are, at our last step. We’ve had the idea. We’ve tested it. We’ve made the product. Done our Marketing Plan. Set up our e-shop. Now, where is our stock going to go? And how are we going to send it.
Step 7. Order Fulfilment
The beauty of starting an online activewear business is that the majority of it can be done from your laptop, anytime, anywhere. And for many of you it’s a business you are beginning to eventually turn into your full-time job. But that doesn’t mean you still aren’t doing the daily grind. So, unless you are planning on opening your own warehouse or filling your garage floor to ceiling, you might want to look into third party storage and distribution. From picking, packing, storage, returns, stock counts and beyond – it allows for consistency for your customers and you. Not to mention discounted shipping rates directly from the warehouse due to their existing relationships with freight companies. In a highly competitive space like e-commerce, you need to ensure your shipping and returns are quick and painless. Savvy shoppers will look out for the best rates and easy policies when buying. And that brings us to the end of the seven steps. Do they look too high to climb? Not to worry, we don’t expect you to do it alone.
That’s why we’re here.
From developing your idea, finding the right manufacturer, building your website & marketing plan, and even your storage & distribution.
2018 was huge for activewear and we listened to what you guys needed to be successful. So, lets recap quickly:
1. Brand Direction
Find your activewear niche. Build out your business plan & brand style guide.
2. Product Design
Get designing. Find a fashion designer who can bring your vision to life.
3. Quoting and Sampling
Shop for the right price & manufacturer and then start sampling. This takes patience and don’t be afraid to strive for near perfection.
Time to push the button on bulk. 12 weeks will go fast, but you’ve got plenty to do in the interim.
Build out a strong strategy and make sure you have a dedicated ad spend. Don’t let your hard work be invisible to your audience.
Make the user experience as enjoyable as possible. And don’t forget your CTA’s.
7. Order Fulfilment
It’s flying out the door, make sure it gets there quick and without hassle.
And that’s it! Seven steps to launching your own activewear brand. You can start building your brand with us today. Book your preliminary concept call with one of our Brand Managers. Let’s begin building out your business plan together. And don’t forget to comment below and let us know any questions or stories you have.
Till next time!