Exhilo windbreaker Backside logo view

Quick Tips You Need: Starting a Clothing Brand

Image taken by Alex Tat



I have seen many friends from high school start a clothing brand. It seems most people want to have a place to flaunt their creative ideas and one of the first things to do is start making your own shirts! Because who doesn’t like shirts?

Perhaps one of the biggest driving forces is to have a brand that you can call your own. However, most brands started by friends I know have not lasted past the 3-5 month mark. Why is that???

I'd like to share with you some helpful tips I knew when starting a brand.

Tip 1: Commitment

First off, you, of course, will need to be committed. With enough motivation and direction, you will stand firm and not die off 3-5months from now. Are you ready to see this to the end? Are you the sort of person that gives up easily when things get tough? If so, this may not be the endeavor that is right for you at the moment. Money and time, the two most valuable things in your life will be required of you if you start!

If you believe you have the right resolve, get ready to do a good amount of research and paperwork.

Tip 2: Acquire Permit & Business License

In order to purchase and create cost efficient inventory, you must get a sales permit. Surprisingly, filling for a sales permit doesn’t cost you a dime if you live in California!

Register at the Board of Equalization and click on the 'Permits & Licenses' tab at the top. Registering will require you to pay your taxes for the sales you make (how much you charge tax to your customers depends on where you live and where they live). This will be the first of your research and paperwork to do. In addition, you can file for a business license in the same place. You must acquire a business license if you plan to sell anything as a business. I've had friends tell me that you need to sell something around $20,000 in order to require a business license...that is completely false! Go get your license!

Pro tip: You can file for a Business Tax Exemption Request Form (depending on where you live) and be exempt from paying the fee for a business license! This will save you hundreds of dollars and you can renew every year. The only qualification is if you make an annual income out of the business that is less than something around $24,980!!! I believe the number changes every year in the 20,000s range. Of course, you won't make that much starting out (unless you're just that good)! So essentially you can get a business license at no cost too.

I strongly believe operating legally is the best and only way to do things. Here are some reasons why you should operate legally:

1. A Good Conscience

I have found that every time I took the next step to stay under the law, my commitment and motivation grew stronger and stronger! This is the feeling of doing things right.

2. The Perks

  • You won’t be fined by the IRS if you get caught 
  • You will be able to buy wholesale (which is MUCH more cost efficient)

Buying wholesale means you will get the inside prices reserved only for businesses. (For example, a Gildan shirt might cost you $8/shirt, but with wholesale pricing, the same Gildan shirt might only cost you only $2/shirt.) 

Customers will appreciate you taking responsibility and being an established brand.

Tip 3: Logo

Take a look at my first concept draft of the logo for Exhilo Apparel back in 2015! Amazing how far it has been since then!

Exhilo Apparel Logo sketches inside a notebook

Now to even begin selling any sort of item, I believe possessing a logo you can proudly call your own will motivate the rest of the process!

You cannot properly brand your merchandise without a distinctive logo and name! How will others know where to buy that awesome shirt if there isn’t a name and logo attached to it? I do not suggest creating a logo if you are not a graphic designer. The logo is one of the most important things in your brand, if not the most important thing! When you start out, you must differentiate yourself from the millions of other logos in the entire world. Your shirt designs will hopefully speak for themselves, but the logo is the face of the company and will be seen first.

If you aren’t a designer, call up your friend who is and run ideas by them (be ready to pay them kindly)! Don't be shocked to pay $100+ for a logo. That's more than fair, but I know many friends and family try to take advantage of graphic designers in the family by paying them $50 for a logo. Sometimes you get what you pay for and the logo isn't all that great, so make the right investment! Remember, logos need to stand the test of time and stay constant. The Apple logo is an easy example of timeless design. If logo changes occur too often and too drastically, they will push you back to square one.

For example, say you already started with a company named Coco. The logo you have for Coco is a coconut. Suddenly, you decide to change the logo to something completely different! You decide Coco will have a logo with a bean silhouette associated with it. The problem is that viewers and customers have already been exposed to your logo as a coconut, therefore no one will associate the Coco with a coconut with the new Coco logo with a bean. Consequently, you will struggle to create brand awareness and be a consistent brand others will remember. Make sure your logo is as constant as possible!

If you don't know someone who can design a logo for you, feel free to contact me and I might point you to several of my designer friends or volunteer myself (I am a logo designer as well)!

Tip 4: Friends

Make sure to connect with at least one person who owns a clothing company! Hopefully, if they have taken legal steps to create an established brand, they may share with you the steps they took and more detailed logistical information. 

I was blessed to have talked to three friends. All of them were friends of friends, but I was determined to ask if anyone knew of people who owned a clothing company. Many people did and it was definitely worth asking!

Feel free to also shoot me an email at curtis@exhiloapparel.com or comment below in this blog with questions and guidance from myself (:

Tip 5: Hem Tags

Hem Tag Fold Options including flat, manhattan fold, mitre fold, end fold, center fold diagram.

Here’s exciting information about hem tags I wish I knew and found on the internet when creating my first shirts! When I started drafting ideas for Exhilo shirts, I was dead set on attaching hem tags onto all the shirts I planned to make. They seem to add such a professional and official touch to the clothing. 

Most often, the hem tag design is of the company logo, typically stitched to the bottom hem of the shirt. It’s a rising trend for many shirt companies which adds style and assists in brand awareness.

When starting out, I had extreme difficulty figuring out who could create hem tags and how big or small they should be. A simple google search got me to one business that creates hem tags in Florida. Their prices were extremely expensive!!! I did not know much, but I was persistent in getting my hem tags done. This was one of the times where my commitment to my brand was tested tremendously.

The company asked for a lot of information. This information may not be the first thing you think of, so I have written them down for you to brainstorm.


Questions for hem tags:

  1. What's the size? (Width, length, & what end does it fold?)

  2. What type of fold? (End fold, Center fold, or Manhattan fold?)

  3. What color? What Quantity?

I figured out all the information needed and got on the phone with the manager in charge. Long story short, I had a total of 9 phone calls with very little success. That's outrageous!

Apparently, even though I took the liberty of creating my own mockups to portray what style, color, and size I wanted, it was still not understandable to her…that's very odd. Then we finally got a real quote for the order and to my surprise, the price was insurmountable! Imagine paying $370 for 200 hem tags! NOOOOO DEAL!

The good news is that due to more complications to communication, I ended up not giving them my business. Looking back now, I never had to spend anywhere near that much money for as little as 200 hem tags. Thankfully, a friend told me about etsy.com with much better people and much better prices! I recommend Etsy to find your hem tag maker.


Bonus Tip 6: Stitching hem tags

Colorful array of Hem Tags stitched on different articles of clothing

I highly recommend not stitching the hem tags yourself. If you aren’t very good at stitching, like me, I don’t think you would be able to do consistently a good job if you have 100 shirts to stitch. 

What I recommend is finding a local dry cleaning store and get one of the skilled workers to stitch them for you. If you're lucky, there might be a shop that does stitching as one of their service offerings (they are more rare and hard to find).

There are print shops that can also stitch your hem tags as well as print your shirts, but not all do. The average price of stitching hem tags is 50 cents/shirt.


This concludes my informative blog post for those interested in starting a clothing brand! I'd love to hear how this may have helped you in any way! Please let me know what you think in the comments section below and what other information/content you'd love to see next! 

Curtis Ying
Founder of Exhilo Apparel


  • Ting

    This information has been very helpful and I was lucky enough to get connected to Curtis personally. He shared his story and a few things he’s learned throughout his own journey. I am glad he urged me not to ignore the legal part of the business, and otherwise I would’ve totally forgotten to include that in my plan.

  • Frankie

    As someone who’s looking to start their own small clothing line, I found this post really helpful! Thank you for sharing a bit about your process (technical things and all) and how you got started :) I’d love for more brands to do this.

  • Matt

    I think Hem tags are irritating, Gildan shirts don’t have any Hem tags, and it feels good.

  • Ivan C.

    Came across this blog randomly and found these tips to be very helpful. Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge with the community!

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