How to Start a Fashion Designing Business From Scratch With Zero Clientele and Very Little Money

Updated on July 9, 2020
Chidimma Eunice Eneye profile image

Eunice was born into a family of fashion designers. She is an excellent designer in her own right and is currently working on her own brand.

The limited jobs in the corporate sector have opened the minds and eyes of a lot of people to alternatives, to the world of artisanship and creative careers: for example, photography, hairstyling, painting and fashion designing.

In this article, I am going to focus on fashion designing.

I know a lot of people who shy away from learning a skill because they wonder how they are going to start up, gain clientele and grow into an industry. Well, I am here to tell you that it is possible. But first, a warning: to be successful in fashion designing requires hard work. Nobody has ever succeeded at anything overnight; no, not even those born in wealth. It takes hard work, patience, and resilience to succeed at anything; the fashion and designing business is not an exception. Having known this, if you’re willing to work hard and be patient, what is the next thing to do?

My design on a client

Learn Well

There is no success with mediocre work. To be successful, you have to be exceptional. To be exceptional, you have to learn well. There is a rumor going around that you can learn fashion designing in six months. Well, I am here to tell you that that is a big fat lie. It is a lie that is spun by many tailors to lure people into registering as apprentices under them. These tailors have no real interest in teaching you; they only want your money and help in running errands. There is no way you can learn how to sew very well in under six months, not to talk about designing a dress from scratch. I’m going to use myself as an example.

I was born into a fashion and designing home. My mother is an excellent seamstress. I began using the sewing machine as soon as I could pedal one. However, it wasn’t until I graduated from secondary school that I received genuine accolades for my work. I had been sewing before then, but that was when I truly created a name for myself as an exceptional fashion designer. Moral of the story? It takes time and patience to learn well. Give yourself at least a year and a half to grasp the basics of the art, and then develop yourself over time.

You only need the basic things to start up.
You only need the basic things to start up.

The Basics You Need

Depending on how little money you have, here are the basics you need:

  1. A sewing machine
  2. A pair of scissors
  3. A tape
  4. Basic sewing accessories like needles, thread, etc.
  5. Fabrics
  6. A measurement book

How Do You Start, When You Start Your Business?

Now you’ve graduated from your teacher's course or designing school, the next question arises: how do you gain clientele? I am sharing my secrets on how I started with zero clientele and very little money.

  • When starting up, you don’t necessarily need a shop. You can use your house in the meantime.
  • First, start with sewing for yourself. Don’t sew ordinary, easy styles for yourself; put everything you’ve learned into these clothes. When people ask you about what you’re wearing, tell them you made it and you can make it for them too.
  • Don’t hesitate to sell a dress you made for yourself. Remember that with each sale, you gain recognition.
  • Sew simple garments for sale. This idea really worked for me when I was starting up. I made kimonos, shorts, and beachwear for sale. And I priced them quite reasonably. Remember that at this point you’re trying to gain clients.

Two Ways to Gain Clients

There are two ways to make the most out of selling your designs. You'll see a boost in your clientele after you follow these steps.

  • Use a tag with your brand name on it.
  • Open a social media account for your business. Social media networking can expose a business to the right people, but you need to post good content. Invest in quality photos. The primary social media sites for a fashion designer are Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, because they have a large number of users and maximize the use of visuals like pictures and videos.

Rules to Follow

  • Save. You can never create a brand sewing from your basement or bedroom. You need a front, which is what a shop serves as. So you need to save to get your place of business. For each item you sell, save the capital and use the interest for your necessities.
  • Use your family and friends to advertise your work. Make their clothes at heavily discounted rates, but not for free. You’re trying to build a business, not run a charity.
  • Never disappoint your clients. Nothing closes a fashion shop faster than a tailor or seamstress who fails to deliver promptly. Build a reputation of trustworthiness and reliability with your clients and they’ll refer you to other people.
  • Don’t be greedy. While I don’t advise people to undercharge their clients, it is also important not to overcharge them either. A client that finds out he’s been ripped off is unlikely to ever patronize you again.

Try these tips and see your business grow successfully.


Next, you need apprentices. Apprentices are invaluable in any workshop for the following reasons,

  • They run errands
  • They run errands
  • They run errands

Simple tasks like setting up shop every morning, cleaning and dusting can be done by apprentices, giving you more time to focus on sewing. Tasks like ironing, fixing buttons and weaving can also be done by the apprentices. Having an apprentice is a huge responsibility, as you have to take out time to train the person, but it is on the whole beneficial.

If you are having trouble finding an apprentice, try having a promotion. You can put up a sign that says "Learn free for a month!" Of course, no one wants to give out knowledge for free, but it is worth it if consider that sign as bait. There is no lure stronger than a freebie. Once they start, they might feel compelled to continue after the free one-month promo and then they have to pay. Double win for you!

© 2019 Eunice Godfrey


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