I have noticed an interesting trend in Zimbabwe in the past 3 years in particular. There has been a steady increase in the number of Zimbabwean clothing lines or brands. This is something that used to be almost non-existent in the past years. It is soothing to see and indications are that the trend will continue to grow. Recently I came across a brand called Knan – a Zimbabwean men’s underwear brand. I was impressed by the branding and packaging. Some of the noteworthy Zimbabwean clothing lines are Chasers Wear, Pfeka, and Hatiperi, amongst others. There are now countless Zimbabwean clothing lines or brands. The exciting this is you can start your own and in this article, I show you how.
There is an infinite number of ways you can start a clothing line or brand. Let me define clothing so that you get the fundamental picture. Clothing refers to any of a wide variety of articles, usually made of fabrics, animal hair, animal skin, or some combination thereof, used to cover the human body for warmth, to preserve modesty, or for fashion. So you must not be blinkered into thinking clothing refers only to commonly branded items you see. Anything that can be worn in some way is clothing and can be branded.
A clothing line can entail a sole focus on specific clothing items. For example, you can solely focus on t-shirts, hats, caps, socks, and so on – basically casual wear. In some cases, it can be formal wear i.e. suits, shirts, and the like. It could be a sole focus on African-themed wear, depending on the culture in question. The possibilities are endless such that I cannot exhaust them all here.
Then there is the issue of how you will roll out the clothing line or brand. Some scenarios mean that you will be the one designing and even manufacturing the clothing items yourself. Some scenarios entail you entering into partnerships with manufacturing companies. This means you will be responsible for the designing element and then you outsource the manufacturing. Other scenarios involve you sourcing already-made clothing items and then branding them with your label.
What you need will depend on the approach that you will be using. Supposing you want to design and stitch together yourself, that would mean you will need the source material. Not only material will be needed but also the relevant tools and machinery, where applicable. If you will just design and your designs require stitching, then you will need to outsource manufacturing. This can be from at least a clothing and design expert to even a whole industrial clothing and design company. When your clothing line idea involves simply embedding your label on already-made clothing items, you will need to outsource. Alternatively, you can acquire the necessary machinery to embed the label yourself e.g. through embroidery and the like. So all in all, what you will require will be informed by your chosen approach.
Keys To Success
The major key to success in this line of business is coming up with an alluring brand. This means that your brand name and the logo must be catchy. That must be informed by what you want your brand to embody. Your brand must embody something that speaks to the needs or appeals of your target market. Is it exclusivity? Is its trendiness? Is it patriotism or culture-consciousness? This implies that you must closely pay attention to niching.
Let me give you an example: Some time back, Chasers Wear started making limited edition jackets – you might have seen the likes of Jah Prayzah, Ginimbi, and Pokello wearing them. Only 20 of them were ever made which spoke to the essence of being limited editions and they were costing US$220 each. Overall, you will notice that Chasers Wear is typically an exclusive clothing line mostly featuring limited editions. Then you have other Zimbabwean clothing lines that are generally affordable for almost anyone. So you must do your homework so that you identify your best niche.
Your brand must denote a deep and relatable meaning that will resonate with your customers. In principle, your brand identity must be something that your target market would be proud to be associated with. This means before you even start anything you must do thorough research into understanding your target market. You also have to grasp the competition dynamics so that you come in as a preferable alternative.
Intellectual Property Rights
You have to be particular when it comes to copyright issues. It is wise to protect your clothing brand by filing or applying for a registered trademark. Trademarks can be words, names, symbols, pictures, or designs that differentiate your clothing brand. This will effectively protect your brand name, logo, and tagline. This can also span to design patents and other copyrights.
In the same vein, you must respect others’ intellectual property rights as well. This can apply to when you start a clothing line where you label already-made clothing items. It is wise to do due diligence to avoid scenarios where you infringe on others’ copyrights. Even in coming up with your brand identity elements make sure they are original as well.
For all these issues you can get the necessary guidance from The Zimbabwe Intellectual Property Office which falls under the Ministry of Justice, Legal & Parliamentary Affairs.
At the end of the day, to have a successful clothing line, you must strike some delicate balance. You must come up with clothing items that have superior quality but are affordable. You need to meticulously manage your economies of scale so that you can streamline design, manufacturing or sourcing, marketing, and retail, amongst other things. Establishing an active online presence is a core key to thriving in this line of business. All the examples of clothing lines I mentioned owe part of their success to being active online i.e. having websites and social media accounts.