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How to Start a Fashion Design Business: 7 Designers on How They Got Started



Seven designer-entrepreneurs who create everything from lingerie to infant onesies to beach kaftans tell us how they got their businesses up and running!



Erica Voges of Caustic Threads, screen-printed knitwear: “I started on Etsy and I also now have a decent wholesale business and sell to boutiques across the country. I have a degree in fashion design and originally intended to sell primarily original hand-sewn designs in Caustic Threads. I had a new baby girl and found that most of those kinds of products were too time-consuming to knock out during nap time and, ultimately, were not very profitable.”


“So, I purchased a screen printing kit several years ago and taught myself how to use it. When I started screen printing I didn't really have any expectations, but I'm thrilled that my business became successful enough to do it full-time.”


Read Erica’s full story: Meet Erica Voges, the T-Shirt Designer Bringing Roller Derby Spirit to the Small Business World



Carly Burson of Tribe Alive!, a sustainably-produced apparel & accessories line: I worked for Ann Taylor, Banana Republic and J. Crew. I loved my career but I started to feel like the mainstream fashion manufacturing industry perpetuated poverty and was unethical and immoral.”


“I saw an opportunity to work with Mi Esperanza -- which helps women find meaningful employment and provides microfinance business loans and free skills training -- and other nonprofits like it. We partnered with nonprofit organizations in Honduras, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Haiti and India and I used my fashion experience to help local women create designs that were more on-trend and sell their products. I registered as an LLC, created the brand and designed the first collection four years ago. That was the start of Tribe Alive!”


Read Carly’s full story: The Price is Right: How Carly Burson's Small Business Combats Poverty with Clever Calculations



Lena Schlabach of Farmhouse Frocks: I started Farmhouse Frocks because I’m a plus-size woman and could never find items that fit my personal style. I love clothes that are cute, comfortable and feminine. Before that, I was running Lena’s Amish Granola and already had a social media following. Initially, my clothing was meant to serve the plus-size woman. As soon as I launched, women of all sizes wanted my styles, so I immediately made that change. Farmhouse Frocks found the right niche from the start — people loved the clothes, the range of fits and the company’s ties to the Amish. All my designs are produced by Amish women and are 100% made in the USA.”


Read Lena’s full story: How Lena Schlabach Borrowed from Her Amish Roots to Start a Farmhouse-Style Clothing Company



Hanna Broer of Hanna Broer Lingerie:I worked for a fashion designer in Montreal as a shop assistant and a seamstress. I really enjoyed it, but I was very much planning on having my own line someday. I got into lingerie, specifically, when I made some underwear for myself. I found it was fun to make and could be a good niche.”


Read Hanna’s full story: The Business of Love: Hanna Broer’s Handmade Lingerie Is Eco-Sexy

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Carly Patterson of {carlymegan}, children’s clothing: “I grew up surrounded by sewing machines because my mom has a background in fashion design. I bought my first sewing machine because without one, I felt like I something was missing from my life. When I first started sewing, I intended to make clothing for myself. Instead, I ended up making gifts for friends and family who were expecting children. That’s how was {carlymegan} born.”


Read Carly’s full story: Carly Patterson Built an Eco-Conscious Clothing Line for Kids, One Stitch at a Time



Georgie Pickering and Sophie Mill of Sister Design, beachwear: “One day we were sitting in the garden in the summer sunshine and had a conversation about setting up a business. Georgie said, ‘I have a kaftan idea.’ Sophie said, ‘I want to do beachwear!’”


“We spent all that summer deciding on the name and registered Sister Design as a company. We got our website and our Instagram page set up. We chose five designs we were happy to launch with and we didn’t tell anyone. Only our (very supportive) husbands knew. Our initial product creation took a long time. We’re not designers or pattern cutters and we went back and forth with factories and manufacturers. We did eventually find a pattern cutter who taught us a lot about fabrics. We then spent a lot of time sourcing trimmings online.”


Read Georgie and Sophie's full story: Sunshine, Sourcing and Social Media: Meet Two Moms Taking on Summer Fashion in Their Small Biz

Starting a new business? Check out our guide to
Everything You Need to Know to Open a Business
for a wealth of resources and inspiration!

For more on starting or running a fashion business, check out:


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