How to Create Your Own Branded Apparel

kathryn by Kathryn Hawkins on October 18, 2011
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There are few better forms of marketing than having your customers serve as human billboards for your company. Short of asking them to tattoo your name on their foreheads, the best way to accomplish this is to get your customers to wear branded clothing.

Here are some tips for creating your own clothing line:

  • Work with a graphic designer on a look that suits your brand. A plain-old logo generally doesn’t make for interesting clothing. Hire a freelance graphic designer to come up with an appropriate brand image; check out Foursquare’s designs for inspiration. Choose apparel that will appeal to your customer base: For example, if you own a hunting-supplies store, bright orange caps may be ideal, whereas if you’re catering to college students, a Threadless-style graphic T-shirt may be a hit.
  • Decide whether to buy wholesale or have apparel made to order. When your images are ready to go, you have two options: Buy blank apparel and print your design on it, or use a company that prints in-house and sends you the finished product. There are pluses and minuses to both. When buying wholesale, you can select your own apparel and screen-printing suppliers, and you can save money by shopping around. Buying through an all-in-one supplier gives you less control over the final product, but can save you time and hassle. If you choose to go wholesale, check your favorite brands’ sites to see what they sell (American Apparel and Hanes offer blank wholesale shirts). If you’d rather use an all-in-one solution, popular options include CafePress, CustomInk, and Zazzle.
  • Get customers to wear your clothes. It costs money to create branded merchandise, but think of it as a marketing expense — and consider giving items away for free as an incentive. For instance, Planet Fitness gyms give new members free T-shirts, and many nonprofit groups give branded shirts, hats, or bags to supporters for a minimum level of donation. Think about what goals you have for prospective customers (such as signing up for a long-term membership or making a purchase of $50 or more) and offer a free item of branded apparel to everyone who meets that goal. You can of course also offer your branded merchandise for sale in your shop or online. Customers who love your business may be willing to publicly declare their devotion by buying and wearing your branded products.
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