3 Steps To Starting Your Own T-Shirt Line


If you’ve thought of starting your own t-shirt line, there’s a couple of important steps you must have in place to gain some traction and start selling. I’ll share with you the best information I’ve gathered through my clients’ experience and attempts in launching their own t-shirt lines.

Here’s the problem.

  • No one knows who you are.
  • No one knows the name of your brand.
  • And you’re limited on funds plus you don’t know the first thing about printing a shirt.

So… where do you start?

1. Find Your Group

Find Your Group - 3 Steps to Starting Your Own T-Shirt LineThe most important step in starting your own t-shirt line and getting it out into the public is to find a group of people your brand speaks to, meaning who will want to wear your shirt? Is your t-shirt line for surfers, skaters or fitness junkies?

Answer these questions. What class does your t-shirt fall under? Where does your clothing line fit among other brands of t-shirts like Diamond, Roots of Fight and Quicksilver?

What makes it unique? What stores would you see your T-shirt line in? Would it be in Active, Tilly’s or Macy’s? Figure this out in the beginning to focus your efforts and marketing towards the group of people who are most likely to buy your shirts.

I would also recommend visiting local shops and speaking directly with the shop owner. This is an excellent opportunity to find mentors and gather intel on what’s hot and what’s not from the person making the buying decisions for a product like yours.


2. Piggyback

Piggyback - 3 Steps to Starting Your Own T-Shirt Line

Now that you’ve found your group of people, find one person of influence whom your target group follows and are active on social media, preferably with 1000 or more followers. Focus your efforts on that one person and get to know the influencer’s taste, find creative ideas that you can contribute to the influencer and the community. Look at yourself as the creative apparel designer in the influencer’s community.

The point of this is to get under the jet stream of someone who has an established social media following that’s larger than yours with similar interests. Your next step is to get the attention of the community and the influencers by sending him or her a care package of your shirt, but do this in a tasteful way, look to build a relationship with the person and the community first so they can get to know you and your brand before you start selling them your creative ideas.

The best way to promote your shirts before having any of them printed is to have digital mock ups you can present and get feedback from the community and the celebrity or influencers. You’ll need a graphic designer who knows about Photoshop, you can use Fiverr or you can do this yourself.

Be sure to tell the influencers first via email, a written letter or phone call before you send any of your shirt samples. You want to be recognized and acknowledged by the influencers and the community as a contributor otherwise your shirts will be left in the dark.

You’re banking on getting known and creating and building value for the audience and piggybacking on the influencers social media following with similar likes and interests.

Do you have a website or an online store ready to take orders and sort out sizes and colors? You’ll need a place where buyers can buy online. Without this you’ll miss out on capturing sales, emails and other important information.


3. Find a Reliable & Experienced Printer

Printing - 3 Steps to Starting Your Own T-Shirt Line

You found your group and you’ve gotten in touch with a person of influence that can help you get the exposure you need.

Now what?

Before you go crazy and drop cash on your unproven shirt designs you’ll want to test the shirts to see if your group of people or influencers will like the shirts you printed. When starting your own t-shirt line, we recommend printing 5 -10 samples using 1 color and keeping it to 1 or 2 designs.

In picking shirts to print on, Bella Canvas, Next Level and American Apparel are the top high quality brands and come in multiple fittings, colors and styles. You can check out our earlier post for more details on these brands.

Keep in mind, the more colors and different designs you have the more your costs will be. When creating a small run of 5-10 shirts we recommend vinyl print for single colors or direct to garment for multiple colors. You can check out this article on different printing method to learn about the differences in screen printing, vinyl prints and DTG printing.

Now that you know a bit about the different printing methods it’s time to look for a printer. The best place to look for a printer is on Yelp you can check out our reviews here to see what people are saying about us. Because print screening is a service based business you want to find out quickly who to consider doing business with and who to avoid. Customer feedback is really important and Yelp is a great place to find out what previous customers experience was like.

The number one question you need to ask when looking for a printer is to see samples of their best work, this will give you a look at their quality of their printing. Another thing to consider that has nothing to do with printing but a huge indicator on selecting the right printer for you is to see how clean and organized their shop is. If it’s messy and unorganized beware.

Overall do your research before starting your own t-shirt line, because there is more to it than we can cover in 3 steps. Get ready to hustle and grind!

If you have any questions about shirt printing or any other type of printing email us at info@laprintanddesign.com or give us a call at 562-505-2911.

We are here to help!