How To Start A Baby Clothing Line
Wondering how to start a baby clothing line? You’ve come to the right place. With nearly nonstop demand (there are always kids being born), the baby clothing market can be a lucrative one. But be careful, there is still a lot of hard work to do because kids' clothing brands have their own unique set of challenges.
One of those is the stringent safety laws to adhere to - particularly if your target market is in the US. But, don’t worry - I’ll get to all of that soon enough.
The thing about creating a baby clothes line, is that, unfortunately, it’s not as simple as launching general kidswear startups. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry. I’m here to help. While I have a lot of advice on the blog about starting a fashion brand, this article will solely discuss creating baby clothes. So, let’s get to it.
BUT BEFORE WE START
Have you heard about the super secret document that everyone in the fashion industry uses, but no one is talking about? Probably not. That is because you can't find it on Google or Instagram (believe me, I've tried).
It's a form I have used for over 13 years at every job I have ever had. Literally everyone from brands to fabric suppliers, use it, but you can't find it anywhere publicly.
The best part? It can cut your sourcing time in half, and save you tons of money in product development! This is the kind of info consultants charge the big bucks for. And, I'm giving it away for free until the end of the month.
So, get ready to make fashion startup life a whole lot easier, and GRAB YOUR FREE DOWNLOAD OF THE NOT SO SECRET SOURCING DOC HERE.
HERE’S WHAT YOU’LL LEARN IN THIS ARTICLE…
- Pros of starting a baby clothing line
- Challenges of designing baby clothes
- Baby clothing manufacturing obstacles and limitations
- Compliance and laws
- Labeling and testing requirements
- Baby clothes and sustainability
- Bonus tip - How to use your brand to build generational wealth
- Additional resources to help you start your baby brand
THE PROS OF STARTING A BABY CLOTHING LINE BUSINESS
Let’s start off with all the good and fun parts about starting a baby brand.
THERE’S ALWAYS A DEMAND
As I mentioned, people are always having babies, needing the perfect baby shower gift, and buying baby clothes in general - so the good news is, there will always be customers needing your brand. In fact, the baby clothing market is expected to reach USD 82.54 billion by 2027.
And, social media is amplifying this demand. Most, new parents today are millennials who have grown up on Facebook and Instragram, and tend to purchase a lot more thanks to social medias rapid trend cycles, than generations before them.
IT’S EASY TO WIN BACK REPEAT CUSTOMERS
I wouldn’t say sales are easy, but once you get momentum going with your marketing, it requires little work to keep the orders coming in thanks to higher than average repeat customers.
A major reason why parents return more than any other customer, is that they’re constantly needing to purchase the next size up for their rapidly growing children. Did you know that babies can grow up to seven sizes in the first two years of their lives! That’s A LOT of repeat business!
Not only do kids outgrow and need new clothes quickly, but all kidswear, including baby clothes, are worn hard. They’re subject to all types of tumbles, spills and stains, sometimes to the point that they’re unwearable. Clothes may get ruined in the wash or go missing and replacements are needed. All reasons why a parent might come back for more.
Bonus tip to help boost repeat buys.
Parents are generally busy and overwhelmed, so the easier you can make their lives the better. Having an online clothing store is an absolute must! And make sure you take extra care that your online store is easy to navigate, order from, and is optimized for conversions. Because, once their baby starts crying they might forget about you, and you’ll loose the sale.
YOU’RE SOLVING A REAL PROBLEM
Many new parents start babywear brands because they experience pain points or gaps in the market firsthand. This could simply be creating clothes they would like their children to wear or solving a parenting problem, such as:
- Clothes for kids that have sensory issues
- Garments for tall, skinny or non standard sized kids
- Or, clothes with designs or practical features that they simply like and think other parents would too
BABY CLOTHES: DESIGN CHALLENGES
While there are lots of pros to starting a baby clothing line. There are some challenges that are unique to the product category. Let’s discuss a few.
While growing babies can be lucrative, it does create some design challenges that baby clothing brands need to be aware of. Like the fact that parents hate spending so much money on things their kid hardly gets to wear. It’s costly, wasteful and time-consuming. They need and want baby clothes that fit in the present and in the near future too. In other words, they need to last as long as possible over the next two years.
For this reason baby brands that are price competitive (read, cheap) tend to do well, as well as the brands that are able to offer original designs that can grow a few sizes with the baby.
DON’T BREAK THE LAW
If you think you have a design for your baby clothesline, you may need to reconsider it.
Childrenswear for any age has restrictions because it needs to meet rigorous safety criteria to be sellable. This includes fabric choices, fastenings, designs and product testing.
The rules for babywear and children’s clothes differ slightly too, so it’s important to know what age range you’re making the clothes for and if they’re appropriate for their stage of development. Don’t worry, we’ll go through this in-depth later.
EASY CARE IS A MUST
Although babies don't wear them for long, baby clothes still need to be durable enough to withstand multiple washes. The fabrics should be easy to wash and retain their shape and softness. They should also be as stain-resistant as possible.
The keyword here you want to focus on is easy care for tired parents. Basically, they should be able to be thrown in the washer and dryer and come out looking the same way they went in.
NOT NICHING DOWN ENOUGH
Targeting parents is way too broad. Because, there are all different types of parents with different needs.
A lot of people that come to me wanting to create a baby line will then tell me that their niche is not just baby clothes, but sustainable baby clothes.
Where is the wrong buzzer?
Again, still too broad of a target audience.
There are all kinds of sustainable parents. There are the hard core, super crunchy, research EVERYTHING ones.
Then there are the parents that dabble. They want what’s best for their kids, but who has the time to go down every rabbit hole.
And then there are the parents that just want a cheap price because, let’s be realistic, the kid is probably only going to wear it for a few months anyway.
On the other side there are the parents that want their kid decked out in designer labels and dressed as little mini mes.
The bottom line? You need to do the market research, and really narrow in on what type of parent you are going to serve before you can even think about starting the design and product development process.
HOW TO START A BABY CLOTHING LINE BABY CLOTHES MANUFACTURING CHALLENGES
Not only are there design challenges, but there are also manufacturing challenges through the entire supply chain. Here are a few that you should be aware of.
LARGE SIZE RUNS
Becasue babies grow so quickly, the require a lot of sizes. Sadly in baby clothes you can't get away with just small, medium, and large. Baby clothes come in 9 different sizes - preemie, newborn, 0-3 months, 0-6 months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months, 9-12 months, 12-18 months, and 18-24 months. That’s a lot, and all these sizes will impact your supply chain in multiple ways.
Product Development Costs
9 sizes means 9 different patterns, and 9 different samples. And, each one of these costs moolah. To be candid, designing a baby line can be 3x more expensive than designing a kids or adult line. Wow!
Larger Than Average MOQs
This is one thing that can be a bit difficult when talking about how to start a baby clothing line, but, because there are so many sizes, factories often require a higher MOQ (minimum order quantity).
Think about it…
If you wanted to place an order of 100 pieces in 3 sizes you would be making about 35 pieces in each size.
But, if you wanted to place an order of 100 pieces split between 9 sizes you would only be able to make about 10 piece in each size.
And, here is why this is important.
Every size requires it’s own mini operation. From cutting and keeping track of all the fabric pieces for each size, to quality assurance where the factory measures every single point of every shirt to double check for accuracy, to labels and tags specific to each size. There is no doubting that more sizes creates more work.
And, for all this extra work, suppliers often require a higher MOQ, or charge a surplus fee for more sizes.
SMALL MANUFACTURING MARGINS
Speaking of MOQs. Another reason why they tend to be higher for baby clothes is because of small margins.
The margins are small for a few reasons. First of all as I mentioned in the start of the article, baby clothes are nearly akin to fast fashion, they don’t last for long. So, parents tend to want to get the best price they can.
Also factories normally take their profits as a percent of the cost of the product. So if it costs them $5 to make the product they might charge the customer $5.50. The thing is, baby clothes are small and don’t require a lot of materials, so the amount the factory can make on each piece is tiny, in this case 50 cents.
But, factories that make adult clothes that cost say about $15 (because they consume more material) will be sold to brands for $16.50. So, a $1.50 margin.
The truth of the mater is - it takes the factory just as much time and effort to manufacture a $5 product as it does a $15 product, so why go for the product (baby clothes) that would make them less money?
To combat these small margins, baby clothing manufacturers often require brands to place bigger orders. So while they are only making 50 cents or less on a garment, when you multiply that by thousands it ads up.
SOURCING SPECIAL MATERIALS
All the materials and accessories you use to make your baby clothes must comply with safety regulations (again, I’ll get to this in just a minute). This means they need to come from speciality suppliers or go through additional testing.
These tests, and generally higher quality materials cost more, and will ultimately reduce your bottom line.
BABY CLOTHES COMPLIANCE LAWS
THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. IT IS MEANT MEARLY AS SUGGESTIONS FOR THINGS TO FURTHER REASEARCH AND DISCUSS WITH YOUR LEGAL SERVICES TEAM.
As I’ve already started to touch upon, there are special laws surrounding baby clothes. When learning how to start a baby clothing line, you need to know that all children’s clothes sold in the US are subject to safety standards, chemical and heavy metal restrictions, and specialty labeling and testing as enacted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in 2008. It seems daunting to get your head around but don’t worry, I’m going to show you where to start.
It’s important to note that these rules are specific to selling baby clothes in the US. If you plan to sell your baby clothes to countries outside of the US, I recommend checking their own laws as there may be some differences.
This is serious stuff. Those who don’t comply could end up with a fine or even a prison sentence. And, at the very least, it’s a giant waste of money money if your clothes aren’t legally allowed to be sold.
BTW. If you register as a small batch manufacturer, you may be exempt from carrying out costly third-party testing to be compliant with certain regulations. Instead, you may be permitted to do your own tests, use a non-CPSC accepted laboratory or get written assurance from suppliers.
BTW, Importers, or brands, can also register as small batch manufacturers, but their supply chain partners must also qualify as well.
To qualify, you and your suppliers must have a total gross revenue of $1,337,894 or less from the sale of consumer products in the past calendar year. You should also have a ‘covered product,’ This means no more than 7,500 units of the same product were manufactured in the past year.
LABELING AND TESTING REQUIREMENTS
CPSIA is a mandatory tracking label for children’s clothes which your suppliers need you to supply in a ready-made label file when you submit your tech pack. This must include your:
- Company name
- Company information
- Production location
- Production date
- Batch number
It’s not enough to supply label information though. All kidswear (including baby clothes) must go through third-party testing with a CPSC-accepted testing company. Visit the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission website to find a full list of accredited companies. It looks a bit overwhelming at first but they have a video tutorial explaining how it works.
There are additional costs you need to factor in your budget for mandatory third-party testing. Tests start from around USD $300 per clothing style. Don’t forget, all fabrics, materials and accessories you use must be tested which incurs more costs.
Most kidswear must be compliant with the Flammable Fabrics Act 1953 which regulates highly flammable clothing. Both day and night wear must meet a standard for flame resistance. This means you’ll need to pay more attention to your sizing as clothes need to be snug-fitting. You will also have to test prototypes for flammability.
Compliance with the Flammability Act is mandatory for all clothing aimed at children aged nine months to 14 years. There’s one exception. Baby sleepwear for newborns under nine months doesn’t need to meet these requirements as babies at this age aren’t as mobile. They’re exempt from being treated with flame retardant chemicals as long as:
- A one-piece garment doesn’t exceed 64.8 cm (25.75”) in length
- A two-piece garment has no piece exceeding 40 cm (15.75”) in length
All fabrics, dyes and materials (such as buttons and zippers) must meet total lead content restrictions.
If you use dyed fabrics, paint or screen printing or added any accessories like buttons, you will need to get your clothes tested for lead by a CPC-accepted laboratory.
The most common place phthalates hide are in pigment prints! So, be careful.
Generally baby clothes should avoid draw strings, and anything with holes that a babies hands could get caught in. For example faux tacked down bows are often used instead of the real thing. And knits and laces should not have large openings that fingers could get stuck in.
There are lots of other regulations around baby clothes so, I suggest reading up on government websites, or hiring a legal professional to make sure you are checking all the boxes to be compliant.
HOW TO MAKE BABY CLOTHES SUSTAINABLE
Since baby clothes have a high turnover rate, it’s a good idea to think about the environmental impact of your baby clothing business throughout its lifecycle. Keep reading to find a few ways to make your baby clothes more eco-friendly.
USE ORGANIC NATURAL FABRICS
The fabric you choose has an impact on the environment as well as the baby. Infants don’t develop a skin barrier until the age of two so their skin is delicate and highly sensitive to temperature changes, moisture, fabrics, chemicals and even air quality.
In general, organic natural fabrics are much healthier for baby’s skin as they’re hypoallergenic and non-irritant. Natural fabrics like cotton and hemp are known to be breathable, comfortable, durable and temperature-regulating. They’re also more stain-resistant than synthetic fibers as they’re much easier to clean.
Natural fibers are also better for the environment because the majority of them are renewable and biodegradable. This means they can be cultivated without depleting the earth’s resources. Then, once they reach the end of their useful life, they will break down without a trace or be easily recycled.
Choosing organic takes natural fibers a step further as it ensures no harmful pesticides, fertilizers or other chemicals were used in the supply chain. It also means the baby’s clothes are free from irritant-causing chemicals. If you do go down the organic route, aim for materials that have been tested and certified.
USE NATURAL DYES
Think about this. Young children tend to chew or suck their clothes. What if the fabric they were putting in their mouth was toxic? Natural dyes tend to be a lot safer.
Using natural dyes helps ensure the baby doesn’t come into contact with potentially harmful carcinogenic synthetic chemicals.
And, the same goes for the environment. Natural dyes have a much lower impact on the planet and can more easily biodegrade and return back to the the earth than synthetics.
AVOID CHEMICAL FINISHES
Remember how early I discussed how baby clothes need to meet certain flammability requirements. The solution is not necessarily ading a fire retardant finish on the fabric. Because many of those finishes can be quite toxic.
Also, chemical finishes such as PFAS are used in all types of clothing for their waterproofing and stain-resistant properties (sounds like another great option for messy kids right?) However, these toxic chemicals have been found to be endocrine disruptors which are harmful to the immune system and physical development. They may even be carcinogenic.
BTW, PFAS have been nicknamed ‘forever chemicals’ because they take so much time to break down naturally. As a result, they end up polluting the environment. Forever chemicals have been found in waterways, fish, soil and even in polar bear livers.
THINK ABOUT CIRCULARITY
Since baby clothes have a high turnover, it might be worth creating a recycling or ‘take back’ scheme for preloved babywear to reduce the amount going to the landfill. For example, Carter's® Baby & Kid Clothing collaborates with TerraCycle to recycle children’s clothing from any brand.
Or you could find ways to make baby clothes last longer by ‘growing’ with them like Patata Modeler and their award-winning Clothes That Grow range. The innovative brand has found a way to reduce fashion waste by creating a fabric that expands with the child.
BONUS TIP - LET’S TALK GENERATIONAL WEALTH
If you have a baby or young children, you may be able to get a tax break for your business if you employ them. As long as they’re doing legitimate work for your business, you can pay them tax-free.
As an example, you could hire your kids to be your models and pay them an annual wage of up to $12,000. There’s no federal income tax and your business gets to take a deduction for the payment. Not only does it keep money in the family but it’s a good way to get your kids involved in the business. Plus, you don’t have to pay models to test or promote your clothes. It’s a win-win!
- Step by step guide to go from idea to launch in just 6 months
- How to start a fashion brand in 9 step
- Apparel sourcing tips
- Business plan template
WHAT DO YOU THINK? DID I ANSWER ALL YOUR QUESTIONS ABOUT HOW TO START A BABY CLOTHING LINE?
Are you ready to break into the baby clothing industry? Let me know in the comments! BTW, thinking about starting a kids clothing line - I’ll have the follow up to this baby article for you very soon!