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Starting a T-Shirt Business

So you are thinking about starting your own t-shirt or clothing business selling a range of t-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts and headwear. How hard can it be, I hear you ask? The answer to that is - ‘only as hard as you make it’. To start with do as much research as possible, take considered decisions before you commit to anything, and be careful choosing the right Supplier for you.

To help here are some points that you should consider.

What Do I Want To Sell?

One of the first things you need to consider is what you want to sell and who you want to sell it to. It’s of no use designing and manufacturing a range of sportswear if you’re a musician and spend all of your time in a recording studio; and likewise if you own a tattoo shop you probably wouldn’t want to try to sell a range of smart casualwear. That’s just two possible scenarios but from that you’ll get the idea.

Choosing Your Target Market

Begin by choosing your target market probably from something that you have a personal interest in or have contacts to. Its of no use designing and manufacturing a range and then find you don’t know anyone who would want to buy it. Your first selection will probably sell to friends and family until you start to get established and widen your audience. So if you spend most of your time listening to or playing music then you will understand what musicians and fans like to wear. Or if you like chilling out in your local bar with friends where you all meet and mix with a variety of people consider what they wear and what interests them when buying clothes. Don’t forget that not everyone wants to be dressed by one of the High Street chain stores - many people are individual in their tastes and are often looking for something new, innovative and trendy. And that can include the clothes they wear for work and socially. 

What Does My Target Market Want?

Now that you have chosen who you want to sell to, ask yourself what does my target market want to buy. Take into consideration:

  • Style of clothes they wear.
  • The price range that fits into the lifestyle of the people targeted.
  • Types of fabrics that are popular and where they can be sourced from.
  • Will the selection be all plain garments with own brand labels or should they be printed or embroidered to give them an exclusive style.

So pick your genre, decide on the style and type of decoration and then start sampling plain garments to find out how they fit, how they wash and how good you look in them. If you wouldn’t wear the chosen garments yourself, then you can bet that no-one else will do. You are or will be your own best PR Company by wearing the garments you design. And whilst you are getting started on this first stage of becoming a ‘brand’, take a look at how you can have the garments branded with woven or printed brand labels of your own design manufactured for you in the UK. 

What Are The Best Fabrics?

Choice of fabric will usually reflect your target market’s trends and requirements. 

Here are some examples:

For a range of cycling tops, or gym wear you will probably want to consider 100% polyester. In recent years the fabrics that have been developed by the major brands are light years ahead of what we originally thought of when considering polyester. Specialist technical fabrics with wicking qualities have been introduced to all sports ranges and it is to these that you should be turning your attention. For customising 100% polyester look at transfer printing, poly screen printing or embroidery.

If your collection includes band t-shirts or fashion styles there’s nothing better than 100% combed ringspun cotton. This fabric is soft to touch, hangs well and provides a flat smooth surface which is ideal for screen or digital printing. Hoodies and sweatshirts usually have a blend of cotton and polyester to give them greater durability and warmth. Both 100% cotton and cotton / poly blends lend themselves to embroidery or screen printing from simple breast logos to massive designs in up to 12 colours; but don’t forget the more colours you use in your printed design the higher the costs.

For work, health and beauty, and hospitality wear a good choice would be 100% polyester, poly/cotton blends and twills. For corporate wear polyester / cotton poplin is ideal for the smart casual or business look. Men’s and women’s shirts made from polyester / cotton poplin always looks smart, are easy care and don’t fade after washing. There are lots of different styles, shapes, fits and colours from a variety of manufacturers so that you can match most Corporate styles and staff requirements without the need for bespoke manufacturing. 

Where Can I Buy From?

There are literally hundreds of clothing ranges out there for you to choose from, many of which have t-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts, shirts, knitwear and trousers all across varying price ranges and qualities. In most cases the plain items you choose will be available for next working day delivery. Or you could go offshore and have all of your garments made bespoke in China or India to name just 2 possibilities. But as you are just starting out on an exciting venture, you really do have to consider how much it will cost to bulk buy and how long it will take until your order is delivered.  Whilst the individual garment prices from overseas may be less you will have to buy in enormous quantities to get the lower prices and you won’t have the advantage of being able to buy a variety of styles, shapes, colours and sizes that buying stock items will give you. Deliveries can take up to 3 or 4 months but with stock items you could have your range ready to go in under 4 weeks and that includes manufacturing your very own neck labels, tags and swing tickets.

Now that you have taken the decision to buy garments from the UK, Fire Label Merchandising is one of the best sources of supply available, giving you a vast selection of styles, fits and sizes, lengths, colours, and prices all of which can be supplied plain or customised. Our Award Winning Website is easy to use and guides you through all of the possibilities available and at the same time shows you how much you are spending, what discounts you have earned and what delivery options you have. We can be your one stop shop for all of your requirements from plain garments through to being ready to sell to your customers including labelling, ticketing and poly bagging.

Designs and How to Produce Them

For a range of customised clothing rather than simply re-labelling your plain garment selection the next step is to organise the designs. If you have an artistic flare or talent then start designing bearing in mind the limitations as to what the design will look like when printed or embroidered onto fabric. Always remember that printing onto clothing is not the same as printing onto paper so some definition can be lost. If you have decided that a high quality embroidered design or logo is right for your target market then also consider that the design has to be stitched onto the garment so don’t make your design too complicated.

With all artwork it's best to provide your chosen printer with a vector file which can be scaled up or down in size without any loss of definition. If you go to our artwork guidelines page there’s loads of information to help you. And if you choose Fire Label Merchandising to complete your customisation we’ll prepare a detailed visual proof for your approval before going ahead with your order. So get designing and see where it takes you - we hope it will be to Fire Label.

Garment Finishing (Custom Labels and Tags)

Now that you are nearly ready to start one of the final considerations are your own labels, tags and swing tickets. To help to set off your designs and to give them real credibility for reselling you need to have all of the stock items you have chosen rebranded with your own labels. Whist a number of garment manufacturers are starting to offer styles without labels most still sew in their own brand labels. But this isn’t a problem. Seams can be unpicked and resewn with your own brand labels manufactured here in the UK by one of the UK’s top label manufacturers who work closely with Fire Label to offer a high quality product. But if this isn’t for you we can remove the manufacturers labels and print your logo and product into on the inner neck of most garments. To finish things off why not add a matt or gloss card swing ticket printed on both sides with your brand logo and garment information or barcode. Attaching to the garments is just part of the service offered during the rebranding / relabelling and bagging service. When all this is completed your stock will have been through a full garment finishing process giving you your own brand ready for retail or internet sale.

What Now?

  • Consider all of the points above
  • Decide on your market and product range
  • Give Fire Label Merchandising a call on 01905 360425 or drop us an email to

Good luck - we look forward to working with you.