10 Steps to Starting Your T-Shirt Business

Written by: Synzenbe

T-shirt businesses have a major share in the fashion industry. In recent years, independent labels have grown ten-fold as consumers search for more exclusive and unique t-shirts. This is mainly owing to social media that has showcased this niche and popularised the idea of t-shirt brands. Personalised and custom t-shirts are currently trending, and the outlook for independent t-shirt businesses is bright. If you have been flirting with the idea of starting a t-shirt business, now could be the perfect time to start and this article will give you an overview of the processes involved.

1. Find your niche

What kind of t-shirts are you interested in creating? What brands draw you in? What are your reasons for starting a t-shirt business? It is good to ask yourself these questions before you begin.

2. Create a brand plan and research your target market

Target marketing allows you to focus your marketing dollars and brand message on a specific market that is more likely to buy from you than other markets. This is a much more affordable, efficient, and effective way to reach potential customers.

3. Craft your brand designs

You will either craft your own designs or hire a designer to do it for you.

4. Source a t-shirt manufacturer

To produce any garment of quality, you need to use a reputable clothing manufacturer to work with. The benefit of t-shirt manufacturing as opposed to other garments is that it is a fast and automated process without the need for complicated patterns. This allows you to attain larger order quantities in shorter lead times.

5. Sourcing your fabric

With an increasing need for eco-conscious and sustainable options, selecting t-shirt fabric is not quite as straight forward as it was in the past. Organic cotton, bamboo, jute and tencel are popular sustainable options and each has a variety of qualities alongside its green credentials including breathability, wrinkle resistance and biodegradability.

It is also important to note that certain materials work better with certain printing or embroidery techniques than others. The t-shirt should hang/drape well and sampling is crucial here before committing to any fabric.

Be careful to consider where you source your material, as this will help determine its availability longterm. There is nothing worse than a brand that chops and changes the material used in their t-shirts, so you want to avoid this at all costs.

6. Explore Printing techniques

Screen printing

This is a very popular method of printing and produces a high-quality finish.

Pros:

     Relatively cost-efficient for bulk orders

     Creates impressive designs

     Screens can be reused

     Compatible with most fabrics

     The designs are durable

Cons:

     A messy method

     Requires a large space

     Unsuitable for complex, multi-colour designs

Direct To Garment (DTG) printing

It works like paper printing in the office, using a quality textile printer and ink. As with paper printing, you load your designs to the computer then feed them to the printer, which sets the designs on the t-shirt.

Pros:

     Can print the most complicated multi-colour designs                                                                 

     Super-fast

     Saves space as the DTG printers are typically compact

     No mess

     Soft and smooth prints

Cons:

     Only suitable for cotton t-shirts                                                                                                 

     DTG machines are quite costly

 

                                                                   

Dye sublimation

This method is best suited to light fabrics especially where you want to print a large design. Although it costs a lot to produce a dye sublimation, the resulting design looks very clear with a high resolution.

Pros:

     Super soft and smooth designs

     Breathable prints

Quality prints that won't fade, peel or crack

Cons:

     Creases and folds, like armpit areas, are hard to dye

     Works on polyester fabrics only

     Quite expensive

Heat Press Printing

With heat printing, a special kind of paper is used to make your designs, which transfer the designs to the t-shirt using heat and pressure. In most cases, vinyl is used as the transfer paper, and it has an adhesive on one side and a strippable tape on the opposite side.

Pros:

     Fairly simple

     Produces excellent quality

     Suitable for complex designs

Cons:

     Slower than virtually all the other methods

     Unfit for heat-sensitive fabrics

     Unfit for dark garments

Heat Transfer Vinyl

This technique uses a special cloth that is cut into various shapes before transferring them to the fabric using a heat press, which can either be a machine or an iron box. To cut out the shapes, you need something called a Cricut machine. If you intend to us small design graphics or slogans, then heat transfer vinyl is suitable.

Pros:

     Long-lasting results

     Easy to do

Cons:

     Not suitable for huge orders

     Inappropriate for fabrics that are sensitive to high heat levels

7. Create a tech pack for t-shirt production

A tech pack is a collection of specification sheets that provide the blueprint for your design. It is a crucial tool used in garment product development, providing information for the factory or sampling unit to make your style exactly as you designed it to be. Done properly, a tech pack should save a lot of time and money in both sampling and production.

8. Decide on minimum order quantities

Due to technological innovation, digital printing is making it possible for small businesses to produce small batches at a time. Also, print-on-demand or dropshipping methods enables you to print garments only when you sell them. This method proves more expensive in general but enables small companies to find their feet before committing to large orders.

9. Decide on your sales funnel

Do you intend to sell your t-shirts online, in a physical store, or perhaps both? Both funnels have their different advantages and challenges, so this is something to research.

10. Market your brand

Organic growth requires a strong product that people will speak about positively.

You will want to cultivate a group of consumers willing to push your t-shirt brand to their respective communities.

This article has not been edited by Fibre2Fashion staff and is re-published with permission from synzenbe.com