Having designed and produced for numerous new active wear brands over the past 7 years, we have learned an enormous amount of what it actually takes to have those brands gain success.
We are fortunate to receive countless inquiries from entrepreneurs each week who are looking to create new active apparel lines. According to Fortune.com, the women’s active wear market totaled $15.1 billion in the 12 months that ended in August 2014, up 10% from the same period in the prior year, according to research firm The NPD Group. This segment does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
Here are some key factors to consider if you want to launch an active wear line:
1. What is your angle?
The educated active wear consumer today wants style as well as function. The trend is to offer pieces that are geared toward multiple activities rather than just one – quick drying paddle boarding yoga gear, a street wear styled moisture wicking wool running jacket to be worn running errands after your workout. With the ever increasing demand for new and innovative products, the better you can define what sets you apart, the more successful your business will be.
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2. Who is your competition?
As huge names like Beyonce, Tory Burch, and Kate Spade enter this category, along with huge market players as Urban Outfitters, H and M and Forever 21 offering active wear items, where will you sell? How do you plan to compete? Diligent market research as well as focus groups work well when testing these waters. It is ok to start small but you still need a strong brand story and position from inception.
3. Who’s your mentor?
Finding a mentor might be the most important factor for any business. We see smart, educated aspiring entrepreneurs with great ideas but with very little actual apparel business experience.
Starting a business takes time, hard work, determination, money and a very strong support system. Find a supportive, successful well-connected business person that can help you look at all parts of your business.
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One of our mentors, Walter Wilhelm has been our strongest supporter and a keen adviser for our business. Walter has been a leader in the action sports apparel industry for over 30 years and is currently the VP of Business Process for Black Diamond. When we were deciding if we should take on a SUP board line few years ago we consulted Walter. Not only is he currently a board member of the Surf Rider foundation, but he had also been actively involved with the organization The Surf Expo trade show for many years. Walter knew everyone and everything about this market and advised us how quickly it was growing, so we took the client on. Our business would not be where it is today without Walter’s advice and perspective. Whatever your industry, make sure you seek out mentors for your business, their experience and expertise will prove vital in helping guide your business and equipping it for an even stronger presence.
When planning the big step of launching an active wear line in this hugely competitive market – clearly defining these three key steps will help set you on the path for success.