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How I started a Clothing Line

How I started a Clothing Line

Myself (left) and Stephen at our launch party this past spring.

Hey, I’m Calvin. I co-run a small menswear line called We Are Golden with one of my long time friends. It took us almost two years to get from conception to fruition, and although at this point in time we are still in the fledgling stages of our business it has been an incredibly fulfilling experience for us. This post will serve as an introduction to a multi-part series exploring how we got started. This isn’t a guaranteed plan for success, simply my experiences in the short while that we’ve been operating, a log of what has and has not worked for us.

To start I’ll give you a little bit of background on myself, my partner Stephen, and our business. Steve and I attended high school together and are now in our early twenties. Neither of us have conventional education in art/design/fashion or anything of that nature. We’ve been through a lot of trial and error, we’re constantly researching better ways to accomplish different tasks and try to take something away from every situation we find ourselves in.

The idea for the line was conceived in the fall, 2012 and we spent most of the next year doing the leg work and reading required to get us started. To us, We Are Golden represents youthful energy, the consciousness of everyone’s self-worth and a desire to create quality, domestically manufactured products.

Part 1: Producing a Creative Vision

I think that, for us, seeing the ideas we’ve conceived spur to life is the most enriching part of what we do. I get pretty worked up sometimes – I want everything to be exactly as I picture it in my mind. It’s so important to me to have a very clear, easy to understand outline of what we want so that we get a product that is exactly what we want. I’ll be going through an overview of our creative process and the details we try to think of before having a product made.

If something doesn’t feel genuine, or is something that doesn’t suit our tastes, we don’t run it.

All of our designs are inspired by things we already like, be it horror comics, longboarding or the bands we listen to, we never have to look very far. The graphic for our first shirt was inspired by the manga series “Full Metal Alchemist”, each symbol in the graphic is a different alchemical symbol for gold.

We brainstorm a ton of ideas and end up scrapping most of them. If something doesn’t feel genuine, or is something that doesn’t suit our tastes, we don’t run it. Once we do have the right piece, then we need to find an artist/designer to help us bring it to life. I’ve always found it important to work with people I like and who understand my brand. If they don’t get it, we don’t spend money on their services. We struggled with this a lot at first, we hired a lot of artists who either weren’t in tune with our ideas or didn’t have the work ethic to get it done. Mintees has proven to be a fantastic resource for us, there is a massive community of hardworking, talented artists and designers frequenting the site.

We went to every print shop in the area before settling on Printworks. They understood what we wanted to do, and were eager to tackle the somewhat atypical idea we brought to them.

The artwork is only half of the equation though, the garment that we’re putting it on is just as important. We look at fit and feel, how warm or breathable the garment is, and what colour(s) do we want? Are we using pre-made garments, or will they be custom manufactured? All tags and branding are carefully considered as well – our t-shirts have a screen printed “tag” on the inner neck to avoid the discomfort of woven tags and all come with a sticker pinned to them.

Once everything is picked out we do some mockups to help the producer visualize our ideas. Choosing a decorator (or manufacturer when we’re having things custom made) is a lot like getting the right artist, they need to throughly understand what we’re trying to achieve. We went to every print shop in the area before settling on Printworks. They understood what we wanted to do, and were eager to tackle the somewhat atypical idea we brought to them.

That’s pretty much the ins and outs of the We Are Golden creative process and how we prepare for production. There isn’t a specific workflow we follow, it’s all structured by what we feel is best for the piece in question. The most important thing to us is to put out clothing that we want to wear, and that’s how we plan to proceed.

Part 2: Becoming a Business

Registering our business was one of the first things we did, before we had a logo, or any finalized ideas. Acting as a legitimate business helped us focus our efforts and really get to work on things – it wasn’t an idea anymore, it was real. We’re a Maritimes based brand, so the steps we took to register our business followed the route you need to take here in Canada (although a lot of these steps will be transferable across borders). Chances are, if you’re looking to become a business of any kind really, you’ll be going through this same process and hopefully this will help you through it.

The first thing we needed to do was get our NUANS report done. A NUANS report is a corporate name search that checks to see if your name is too close to that of another business within your market (since we are a clothing brand we were referenced against other clothing design and retail businesses in the area). We had it done through a local document searching firm and it cost us around $80. The next thing we needed was to choose a business structure to operate under. After talking it over, we decided on registering as a partnership. I won’t go over what registering that (or the other structures) entails here, but I would recommend reading this article to get a good overview of the different structures – and there are plenty of resources online for further reading.

We Are Golden became a registered business in 2013.

We Are Golden was cleared by our NUANS report, our business structure was decided and all we had to do was register for our business number – to, well, be in business! A business number (or BN) is how Revenue Canada identifies our business for taxation purposes and made us obligated to charge sales tax. We were not legally required to register since we would not  be making more than $30,000 that year but we figured it’d be a good idea since it would: 1) allow our customers to be used to paying taxes on our products and not become upset later on when we legally had to, 2) get us in the habit of dealing with taxes in general.

Part 3: Getting Online

The first place that picked up our shirts was Shred, a local skate shop that’s run by our friend Sean. His spot was the primary longboard store in the area, and we were excited to be associated with that – but sales were slow. If you’re familiar with Saint John, New Brunswick – you’ll know that fashion isn’t a huge thing here, and that makes it a tough market for brands that don’t already have a following. With this in mind we were eager to try to tap into the online shopping world, and hopefully get in with some of the people that do appreciate what we’re doing.

eCommerce

We knew that we needed a domain, and either someone to develop the site or one of those “build your own” setups, which is a pretty small portion of the equation. We would also need an eCommerce provider, a payment gateway and tax accounts for every province we planned to sell to.

W.A.G. online store

The payment gateway was fairly simple, we signed up for a PayPal business account and that allowed us to take both credit cards and PayPal transactions. The big thing we were looking for in an eCommerce provider was something that calculated shipping costs, which would save us a lot of time. We wound up using Ecwid for the combined reason of this feature and a reasonable price point.

Tax Considerations

The “Galactic Sunrise” version of the “Aurum Ore” Tee.

Now, in order for us to do business in the rest of the country we would need to get the appropriate tax accounts and become registered businesses in those provinces. We already had an HST account, which encompasses both the GST (federal sales tax) account and our PST (provincial sales tax) account. A GST account is required to sell in Canada and most provinces have their own PST accounts. Luckily for us there are five provinces that operate under the HST system (NB, NS, PEI, NL and, Ontario) and four provinces that only require you to have your GST account to sell there (Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and, the Yukon). That left us to obtain our QST (Quebec Sales Tax), Saskatchewan PST, Manitoba RST (Retail Sales Tax) and BC PST.

We Are Golden is now registered to sell in every province in the country. I still love the idea of a brick and mortar store, where our customers have the ability to touch and feel our products. With any luck though we’ll continue to build traction online, and some shops from other parts of the country will show some interest. Until then, wearegolden.ca is the headquarters.

Questions / Estimates

Minimum order quantity: 25 pieces for screen printing / 25 pieces for embroidery.