Costs of starting a clothing company

My Name is Ray, I run, design, and own Lowdtown Friends & Freaks.

So you want to start a clothing company, but you have no idea where to begin? You’ve come to the right place! I’m going to be having a series of articles on how to start a clothing company. Most of it will be based off my own personal experience but it should be helpful for anyone trying to get his or her feet wet. But of course, don’t just take it from me; starting a clothing company requires a great amount of preparation and research so after you read this article, be sure to also read up on many other resources. So this is part one of the series and I am going to be covering start up cost.

How much do I need to start my clothing brand?

This is a HUGE question that I get asked a lot. And the simple answer is that there is no answer. Of course, I could give you an estimate based on your products and what you’ll need and what not, but ultimately there’s no way that I can just say that you need X amount of dollars to start Y company.

So let’s break it down a little bit to help you assess your business and how much money you will possibly need.

The way I personally think of it is that there are pretty much three types of companies. There’s the amateur brand, the indie brand, and the professional brand. Each of these types of brands has a range of startup costs. Take a look at the list below and try to assess what type of brand your company is.

costs of start a clothing lineAmateur:

  • You started the brand on a whim just as a hobby.
  • You might have a few products that are printed on cheap material.
  • You don’t plan to expand your brand.
  • You mostly sell your products to friends and family.
  • You may have an online store/myspace to do some simple promotion.
  • You’re not recognized by the state, and you don’t pay sales tax.



  • You want to get your brand out there but you don’t have the proper funds.
  • You have a few good designs and you have the money to buy designs from other designers.
  • You care about the quality of your products but don’t have enough money to get them custom made.
  • You have an online store that is professionally designed.
  • You have a website to promote your products and events.
  • You pay sales tax and plan to expand in the future.
  • You think about one day having a brick and mortar store but right now you don’t have the money to do it.

costs of starting a clothing line 2Professional:

  • You have the money to promote and advertise your brand.
  • You have many products and plan to release a whole array of apparel from shirts to denim to jackets.
  • You care about the quality of your products and get most of your products custom made.
  • You want to start a brick and mortar store and plan to.

So as you can see, it should be pretty easy to see where you stand as a brand. Personally, I started out knowing that I am an indie brand and would have to work my way up. Being a student, I obviously don’t have the funds to do everything that I want to do, but I have many plans for the future if I do get the money I need.

Some Estimates

I’ll give very rough estimates of how much money each type of brand would need in terms of start up cost. Keep in mind that these are just my personal thoughts, so these numbers should definitely be taken with a grain of salt.



Maybe you’re just trying to make a quick buck or you’re just doing this as a hobby, but you’re not serious about making your brand big. With $100-$300, you’re not planning on printing on the best quality t-shirts, and you probably do it in a very DIY fashion by printing the shirts yourself, or you may be working with an online service like spreadshirt or customink. You mostly just design shirts for yourself and for your friends and family. You don’t really have the money for any kind of advertisement or website, unless it’s a free or very cheap service.



The range of start up cost is a little larger on this one. You have plans to make your company larger, but you don’t have all the money to make it possible. With $500, you can probably print a good amount of shirts for a launch, and you plan to print more shirts as you make profit and make a return. With $10,000 you probably can start your own in house printing with a silkscreen carousel that you could afford. You don’t have quite enough money to pay the rent to a brick and mortar store, but as long as business goes well, it isn’t impossible to do in the future. Between $500-$2500, is probably where most indie brand owners land. You’ll have enough to get a solid group of shirts for your launch. And you’ll have enough money to possibly buy designs from artists and enough money to get a nice website done.


$25,000 – $$$

Obviously these brands range from I’d say around 25k to the stars. If you plan to just get in the game and you have the money to do it, you can probably pay the rent to a really nice location and just get started. Of course, it’s much more difficult than I make it sound, but you really don’t have much of a limit when you have a lot of money. I recently read an interview about Kanye’s brand “Pastelle” and he said that he dropped a quarter million just to get samples for his new line. So that just gives you an idea of how much money you can potentially spend. Owning a professional brand means that you can comfortably maintain a company and you can release many products at one time per season.

About Lowdtown Friends & Freaks Start up

So let me tell you a little about my brand and a few things to think about when you’re starting a brand. I don’t usually like talking about numbers, but I’ll let you guys in on how much I started out with for Lowdtown. I was fortunate to be able to use all the money I had left over from RAWR! Clothing to start Lowdtown, but my start up cost was $2100. Mind you, this may cost a lot more for some people and a lot less for others.

A Few Things To Consider:

1. Do you know how to code and design a website?

If you responded NO to the question, you have to consider how much a professional website design costs. You don’t want people to see a shitty website, so if you don’t know how to design a website, you have to get it professionally made. Services like BigCartel are great, but they at least cost $9.99 to $19.99 per month (if you want to have more than five products), so you have to keep that in mind. Also, I prefer getting a custom made website, because I personally feel like if you get a BigCartel, you’re automatically put into a group of “BigCartel Brands” and though it works for some, I wanted to be unique. Luckily, I know how to code and design websites, so I could do it myself, but if you don’t, getting a professional e-commerce website done could cost an upwards of $1000-$2000. Also consider web hosting; it’s extremely cheap nowadays, but you should still expect to pay around $5/month.

2. How many products do you want to have for your initial launch?

Ideally I wanted around five products but I couldn’t really afford it. If you think about how much a single shirt costs, and you think about your budget you should be able to figure out how many shirts you can buy. Also when you’re searching for a printer, many printers offers different services at different prices so definitely look around for the best service to price ratio.

3. How professional do you want your products to be?

The reason why my start up cost was so high considering the amount of shirts I bought was because I was really considering the quality and professionalism of my products. I used softhand ink for my shirts. I printed my shirts on American Apparel, which are much more expensive than brands like Hanes or Gildan. I got custom printed sizetags. I got custom embroidered labels. I got custom made hangtags. So factoring all those things in, it may really add up pretty quickly.

4. Are you going to advertise your product?

Depending on how serious you are about your business, this may be factored in. Even online advertising like Google Adwords is very pricey, so consider where you want to advertise. Many blogs have affiliate programs that you can work with to get good deals on advertising so think about that. Also print advertisement in newspapers and magazines are very expensive, but perhaps that may be a valuable way to get your brand out there, so keep that in mind.


So those are a few things to think about when you’re starting your brand. Ultimately, it really depends on your brand and your products, so the startup cost is different for everyone. But also keep in mind, if you think you can break even quickly, it’ll definitely be worth it. Once you break even and you put that money back into your company, you basically have enough to reprint your products or print new ones. It’s all about balance!

Hopefully that gives you an idea of how much a brand costs to start. It certainly isn’t cheap, unless you want it to be. If you want to get serious about your products, you have to drop some money. The more money you spend, the better your products will be.

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  • Jackdupille

    Hey Ray, quick question that im not sure on, the law and everything is it legal to buy like you say from American Apparel a batch of plain tee's, and then take them to a printers with your design, get them printed and sell them independently? Or are there certain companies that sell blank merchandise/apparel that are tailored for people starting there own company?

    Really good article aswell thanks


  • greg

    hey there, great article! thank you for it..I had a question for you about sales tax, I'm about a week or two from launch, I am questioned on whether or not I need to charge sales tax on my online store and when I do personal transactions through square on my iphone, shoot me an email when you get a chance please!

  • Kennedy937

    I need assistance in finding companies across seas to prodcue good quality at a low cost….Anybody willing to help?

  • jonkruse

    Yes you do need to charge sales tax. Check out your local Board of Equalization for more info.

  • Kyle K

    Great article Ray Quick question for anyone out there, I have been working on my business plan and getting quotes for everything. Anyone have any thoughts on buys your own blanks and bringing them to a screen printer or just purchasing the blanks from the screen printers. Anyone have any suggestions? Also I'm looking for an companies to buy blanks or screen printers that any of you have used in the past? Thanks for the help in advance.

  • Alex W

    Hello there. I'm Alex.

    Just like everyone, I'm very pleased with this information. A bit of background: I have just finished high school in Australia and have been working a year or so. I had a sudden urge to design something on a Saturday night and then googled to find this article. I believe that after studying business in high school, I could be we prepared to start as an amateur, or even with the money I have, an indie.

    All I have to do is start a design (even though I have no artistic techniques whatsoever). I even failed art in Year 8, which doesn't seem possible for anyone. Does anyone know of a website that could help with designs and getting t-shirts?

    I look forward to updating you all on my progress.


  • Bryant

    Great stuff. Thanks for taking your time and doing this.

  • Shar

    I'm in the process of creating a business plan and this article was very helpful.  Thank-you!

  • Lickerishinc

    Hey, Thank you for this article was very helpful! One question our brand is mixed my vision is toward clothing shoes jewelry candles and perfumes. My partner is looking at the adult toy line is it possible to have both under the same brand name?

  • Anonymous

    Yeah you can have everything under the same brand but it all has to go together. It doesn’t make much sense to have everything different and a wide variety of different customers. You have to go after your niche.

  • ne

    I find This very helpful, I am from egypt . I live in the US now. I finished my POA in cairo. I have lots of designs. my husband is willing to give me 10k to start with. but i don’t know where to get my clothing  custom made. I went to CHINA before but it was overweelming for me. and I couldn’t trust the quallity. but the cost there was much much cheaper . I am designing a ladys clothing line. It is close to the one u can see in this link. if u can help me with some advice plz do.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Josh. This isn’t Ray but I’ve done a lot of research into e-commerce cars. Ones I can back are bigcartel and opencart. Both are awesome systems.

  • Anonymous

     It’s one cost for screen setup then use the same screens on all the t-shirt sizes. So not that $6,880 price you mentioned.

  • Anonymous

    Usually isn’t a huge price difference

  • Anonymous

    Yes thats fine jack. People do this all the time

  • Anonymous

    It is a clothing line…

  • jaMarcus Creeks

    I’m JaMarcus Creeks from Houston, Texas. I’m one of five creative guys that’s inspired to lunch a klothing line for the young adults with good texture and a motivational fit. Us as a family Guerrilla Family 810 is enthused to network with people like you and others who are willing to shed more light on us to get this 810 Clothing brand off the ground. E-mail:

  • Amanda

    I’m only 14 , that seems so young. But i’ve dreamed of being known in the fashion business. I come from a poor family , i’m also the dissapointment to everyone.. I just wish one day i could make everyone happy and myself with a clothing line , makeup line and much more. I wish i could do so much , but i have so little to work with. I have no connections and i have no idea where to start. I love designing and i can make up alot of interesting and uniqe things. I know i seem like another wimpy kid or desperate person , but im much more. I would appreciate any help , advice and ideas ! Thank you so much <3

  • Madadyjames

    Amanda, I’m sure your not a disappointment to your family. Just keep the dream alive. Stay on the web and contact people that may be able to help make your dreams come true. Make sketch books, save money from babysitting etc. If you have the drive at 14 years old i cant wait to see what you will do when your older! Yous sound so smart and strong, I know you can do it! Best of luck!

  • Johnathan Shields

    hello i was wondering do you buy the shirts first and them send them off to get custom size tags? how does that work?

  • Harold Caudio

    I am looking to go professional and make a career out of my tshirt line. i have my own equipment but need custom patches done and I am working on getting start up cost. What do you think about writing up a business plan to find investors?

  • Riann816

    Hi Ray,
    My names Loriann and i’m actually thinking about starting a childrens clothing line, just because i love dressing up my son in “SWAGGED” nice clothing, and unfortunately its really hard to find those kind of clothes for kids nowadays. This really helped me to find where i can start and what i should do to get started. Thanks for this helpful message!..Goodluck in everything that you do!

  • Chris Sk888

    i have been a year, how the brand going so far? replied at

  • Rajbir Dhalla

    Hi Ray, Thank you very much for this post. I now know I fit in Indie category. Perfect exactly what i was looking for. So i have few questions. So i assume you get blank American Apparel Tshirt and get them printed.. How much does one piece costs you ? and from where do you order?

    How about designing? Do you make your self? what would you recommend somone who cannot design?

  • Corey

    LOL i see u gave up already “gurl from the Hood”  #facepalm

  • Tasha

    Hi I’m Tasha and I have been reading your post I am definately an AMATEUR! but i’d like the total break down how do I trademark my clothing line or right now as it stands my ideas. I would like step by step. I am asking for you help

  • jonkruse

    I agree you will get the best training and knowledge working in the industry but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it without that. Starting a clothing company requires money but I don’t think you need to spend “ALLOT more money”, and spending a ton of money in the beginning isn’t going to get you anywhere faster. You need to learn as you go. Giving someone 100,000 dollars won’t give them any more knowledge as to how to design, get traffic, sell a product, or any business knowledge at all.

  • Bryan Williams

    Hey everybody i love the post here its really helpful. I’m trying to start my own line also i have a brilliant logo for the company and i am looking for other with the same dream so please hit me up @ bryanwilliams28@gmail and leave a contact # so that we can talk, if your in vegas thats a plus

  • jonkruse

    You do what makes sense. If you are starting out small ship it yourself in the beginning. Buy shelves and store everything in your room. I don’t think renting storage yourself is the best option. I think at that point you would just want to outsource to a print company that can print and ship everything.

  • jonkruse

    Lot’s of great screen printers in the states. When I hear of cut and sew items they are usually done overseas.

  • jonkruse

    this whole website is here to help you out but you still have to put in the work

  • jonkruse

    All you need is designs and someway to print the shirts. Just get the ball rolling and you’ll figure everything out.

  • jonkruse

    you should always check your local Board of Equalization for tax information.

  • jonkruse

    True but you wouldn’t look at BAPE and think they are an amateur operation. You can start from nothing and get to the top. This article is just about a starting off point.

  • jonkruse

    You can check American Apparel pricing at

    If you aren’t an artist I would suggest hiring someone who is. I have a site now called where you can post your job

  • jonkruse

    I think finding investors is hard and most banks wouldn’t give you a loan. Also I would be wary with private investors wanting too much equity from your company.

  • jonkruse

    Or you can buy the custom tags and send them off to get shirts. You can get screen printed tags or order custom tags and have them sewn in.

  • 132 media

    Working on getting this started. I”m learning to code as we speak. My friend is a great graphic designer. What I’m worried about is the material. I want a certain kid of Tee, but can’t seem to get information on manufacturers. I almost want to believe that there is a secret society of manufacturers that I can’t seem to find. Can you help with this? Thanks for the above information as well.

  • amazingdreamer

    Great article. Im a amature now but I will work my way to indie quick.

  • pr

    Can i ask, how can you actually manufacture your clothes?

  • charlene

    thanx very helpful

  • Mcneri

    This is a great post, timeless! Thanks. We have heard that American Apparel is a much better quality than many others. I will call it the Cadillac of tees. Which brand would you call the Bentley or Rolls Royce?

  • Sophia

    Thank you for the tips. No.3 was very simple and helpful.

  • Kacey

    Asking questions are genuinely pleasant thing iif youu are not understanding something entirely, except this article offers nice understanding yet.

  • zombie protection zone

    I mut thanjk you for the effoorts you’ve put in writing this blog.
    I really hope to check out tthe same high-grade content from you
    later on as well. In fact, your creatiive writing abilities has inspired me too gget my own blog noww

  • Tim

    Im an amateur that wants to start up. What programs do i use and what websites do i go to to design and have my clothes shipped to me?

  • Penelope R.

    What’s the name of your store? Would love to read your story!