Preface: The Pep Talk



I’ve been running a screen printing and embroidery shop for over 15 years now, and I have developed a certain amount of perspective and wisdom that comes from being there to witness other’s failures and successes in the clothing line industry. I get a lot of different kinds of clients that come to me for various reasons, but there is one type of client that I especially enjoy working with, and these are the ones that come to me to start a clothing line. I don’t usually take time to sit down and write out my thoughts, but when it comes to questions about starting a clothing line, I find I can’t keep quiet because consulting on these issues has become one of the more rewarding aspects of my experience in the apparel industry.

Now that we have the sentimental stuff out of the way, it’s time for some hard, cold reality. This is for those that are serious about starting something new and putting in the hard work it takes to make a clothing line a success. Being serious about the novelty of your enterprise means coming to the realization that there is no formulaic method out there (and that includes this discussion), waiting for you to discover it, which will shine a light on the only true path to entrepreneurial success. The first thing to realize is that there is no path; and you are not just another entrepreneur that needs to consult the most recent literature on starting a business before making a decision.

‘Entrepreneur’ is a useless and hackneyed term thrown around which offers you nothing but membership to the mindless herd of people struggling to start a business who want others to tell them what to do. The entrepreneur gets books about being an entrepreneur and then blames failure on bad advice from those books. But you are not an entrepreneur – you are serious about taking what you know and using it to embark on something new, something that is so new that there are no models or statistical prognostications that can predict its success or failure. Thinking of yourself as just another typical case of entrepreneur among the masses of entrepreneurs will only prevent you from being fully committed to creating something that is authentic, innovative, and unprecedented.

It’s not that there isn’t a lot of advice and knowledge that is very helpful in your endeavor to start a clothing line, after all why would I bother writing this if that were the case. The point here is that despite all the literature out there claiming to guide you down the path to certain success, there is no certainty, and relying on a preconceived model or method is only going to prevent you from making the decisions and judgments that are appropriate for you at a particular place and time. In other words, if you are indeed committed to starting something new, the very nature of its newness will guarantee you will be required to make judgments for which there is no method or model to rely on. And the success or failure of your enterprise will often depend on your ability to make creative and innovative decisions for which there is little guidance from authoritative sources.

So what is my role as a self-appointed consultant on starting a clothing line if there is no guaranteed model or method to maximize the chances of success? First of all there are the basic things you need to know; secondly, there are the many years of experience in being part of the clothing line industry and watching the various mistakes that people make. It is from experience like this that I believe the best advice comes, because it is knowledge gained directly from concrete circumstances in the world instead of from someone’s abstracted theory about how the world works. For this reason, it is my hope that this can be an interactive discussion in which other people with experience in the clothing line industry contribute their thoughts.

In order to avoid misunderstandings on this initial point, it should be noted that there is nothing wrong with reading up on all the literature about starting a business, and I would even recommend it. The difference I want to emphasize here is between those who rely on that kind of formulaic knowledge to make all their decisions, and those who, on the other hand, are able to take that knowledge with a grain of salt, knowing that they must rely on their own judgment in the end because they are in unique circumstances and engaged in a novel enterprise. Starting your new clothing line is going to be an exciting experience, and this excitement is due in no small part to the character of uncertainty involved in beginning something new and making the independent decisions necessary for success.

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