Look at you. Being the budding trailblazer you are, you’ve decided to create a sustainable fashion brand. Creating a brand is an admirable and rewarding pursuit, but of course, like any business, has its challenges. Yet, with fast fashion as the norm, and a rapidly changing climate, a conscious, ethical approach to clothing is more important than ever.
Here are ten steps to help you start your own sustainable fashion brand and become a force for change and good.
1. Define your Vision and Values
The unique thing about sustainable fashion is people buy into the mission as much as the clothes. Why do you exist? What do you want your impact to be? Will you make conditions better for farmers? Will you support local production and slow fashion? Are you for upcycling and reducing waste?
Start by clarifying your brand's mission, core values, and unique selling proposition. Consider the environmental and social causes that resonate with you, and let those guide your brand's direction. If it’s about eco-friendly fabrics, reflect that in your supply chain. If you want to create better conditions for farmers, think about how you’ll reinvest in their communities. Make your mission part of your brand identity, and figure communicate your unique story to customers at every point of interaction.
2. Identify your Target Market and Center Your Products Around Them
If know thyself is the first law of launching a clothing startup, the nearest second is to know thy customer.
If you want to create products centered around people, you need to understand the needs of those people. Write down your audience’s demographic traits. The materials and styles they like. Their buying preferences. Their values.
Then go out, and actually talk to people who are like those you’ve written down. You might find they’re actually pretty different from what you've imagined. This is how you'll discover insights that’ll help you align your brand with the real needs of your customers.
What do they care about? What’s their main qualm with fashion today? How will you become the solution?
Answering these questions will ensure you're close to the pulse of your audience and that your brand meets the needs of the market.
3. Design with Longevity In Mind
A core value of sustainable fashion is quality. Create timeless, high-quality pieces that won't contribute to the growing problem of disposable fashion. Focus on durability, functionality, and versatility in your designs. Consider the cost of materials. Where do you want to position yourself in the market? Encourage consumers to invest in pieces that last.
4. Choose Sustainable Materials and Processes
Select eco-friendly fabrics and production methods that align with your brand values. Examples include organic cotton, Tencel, and recycled polyester. Prioritize suppliers with transparent supply chains and certifications, such as Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Fair Trade. Use insights from your customer research. Figure out if you can source in a way that aligns with your brand’s values.
5. Develop a Responsible Production Strategy
Team up with ethical manufacturers who are passionate about sustainability. If you're choosing to manufacture overseas, keep your supply chains transparent, and audit working conditions before committing to a supplier.
Alternatively, you can reach out to local artisans or smaller production facilities in your area that focus on pattern making, cutting and sewing, sampling, and knitting. Going local will mean you’ll be cutting down on carbon emissions and supporting the community around you. It can also mean smoother communication and quicker turnaround for product adjustments.
6. Price Your Ethical Clothing in a Way That Reflects Its Worth
It can be tempting, at first, to discount the value of your work. As a new business owner, you feel like your products need to be affordable and you're worried about whether people will buy at all. But there are customers who will buy into ethical fashion if they believe in the brand. If you've done the preliminary work to nurture that belief, then you should set pricing that reflects the true cost of ethical and sustainable production.
Communicate your values and the reasons for your pricing to customers, emphasizing the long-term benefits of investing your clothing.
7. Craft a Compelling Brand Story
When it comes to a crowded space, like fashion, a strong brand story makes sure people remember who you are. Sustainable fashion is inherently value-driven. So, conveying your values will draw like-minded people to your brand. This doesn’t just extend to customers, but also to investors, media, fellow-businesses, and influencers who might be drawn to your story and mission.
They can become advocates for your brand, and help you find unexpected growth opportunities.
Share your brand's unique journey, mission, and values with the world. Your narrative should resonate with your target audience and inspire people to invest in your mission.
8. Market Your Fashion Brand Effectively
The great thing about marketing nowadays, is there's so many creative choices you can make and directions you can choose. It's all about finding the right fit for your brand, and being willing to seek out the resources to learn.
Use Tiktok and Instagram to showcase your products and share behind-the-scenes insights into your sustainable practices. Create compelling content through visual storytelling, and highlight both what makes your brand unique and the positive impact it has on the environment and the world. Find micro-influencers or fashion influencers who share your vision and can advocate for your brand to their followers.
Invest in email marketing campaigns to keep your customers informed about new products, promotions, and your brand's sustainability journey. Use striking visuals and personalized content to grab their attention and encourage them to engage with your brand. Tailor your messaging to emphasize the sustainable aspects of your brand, and educate consumers on the importance of conscious fashion choices.
Take inspiration from Reformation, for example, which often hosts pop-up shops and events to create a buzz around their sustainable clothing line.
9. Nurture A Community Around Your Brand
The natural progression of marketing, is community building. Once people have heard of your brand, you want them to stick around and become believers.
Engage with your customers and create a supportive, passionate community around your brand. Encourage dialogue, exchange ideas, and celebrate milestones together. This connection will help to spread your brand's message and create loyal customers.
Here's how you go about it:
Encourage Conversation: Use social media platforms to initiate discussions about sustainable fashion, environmental issues, and ethical production. Share informative content and ask questions to stimulate conversation among your followers.
Be Transparent: Share your brand's journey, challenges, and successes openly. Transparency in your practices will create trust and loyalty among your customers, making them feel more connected to your brand.
Create Exclusive Experiences: Host events, workshops, or webinars that bring your community together to learn, discuss, and share ideas about sustainable fashion. These experiences will help your customers feel more connected to your brand and its values.
Share Customer Stories: Highlight customers who are making a difference in their own communities by embracing sustainable fashion. Showcasing their stories will inspire others and strengthen the sense of community around your brand.
Offer Exceptional Customer Service: By being responsive, attentive, and genuinely caring about your customers' needs, you'll create a positive experience that encourages them to become advocates for your brand.
10. Always Keep Growing and Evolving
Once you've caught the waves, it's important to keep swimming. Constant learning will guarantee that you can keep moving forward. Stay informed about the latest sustainable fashion trends and innovations. Keep talking to your customers, and listen to what people say about your brand. Refine your products and processes, keeping your values and the planet at the forefront of your mind.
By doing so, you'll ensure your brand's longevity, success, and legacy.