Seeing that this post has proven to be popular among our readers, we’ve decided to give it an update! We want our followers to always have the latest and best possible advice to help them kickstart their own clothing brand. We’ve expanded upon our previous content, added two new tips and even created an infographic. Enjoy!
So you’ve spent a considerable amount of time and money producing your personalised T-shirts so the next logical step is to sell them and for that you’ll need promotion. This part of the process is too often overlooked by designers and that can be a huge mistake. The way you present your T-shirt design or brand online is a massive part of engaging potential customers and influencers – It is your first impression, after all, and you only get one shot at those.
Thankfully, the Internet is a great resource for marketing your clothing brand – if you know how to use it. If you don’t, keep reading, here I’ll help you out step by step.
How to present your T-shirt brand online
Before you jump on the computer in a pinning frenzy, stop and take time to think about the best way to promote your designs. How do you want your tees to be seen? The way you promote your garments should mirror the brand’s image and style. If you take a flick through the lookbooks of successful brands, the style and tone of the images go further than just a picture of a garment. They are selling a lifestyle, an image, and if you intend on being successful, you should do so too. The best brands and designers have a clear idea of themselves and market directly to their captive audience through their promotional images.
#1 – Create an Environment
Shooting images of your custom clothing in the environment that you think represents how they should be worn is a no brainer. Here are a few tips on how to create your brand’s “look and feel”.
- Create a mood board. As the first step of the process, a mood board will help you visualise and put on paper the ideas you have in your head. It will also serve for future reference when you’re deep into the production process. Long gone are the days where designers created mood boards with hand-made collages. Nowadays there are online sources like Pinterest and Designspiration that allow you to get creative without getting your hands dirty. A mood board should represent the general feel of your brand. Your inspirations should be there. If you’ve never created a mood board before, here’s a useful guide on how to do it.
- Ask around. Go up to your family and friends and ask them how they see your clothing brand. What type of environment do they think your garments belong to? What kind of people do they think should wear them? The opinion of a third person might give you a new perspective on your project.
- Do some research. Do you have a target audience? If so then you need to ask yourself where this people hang around. If your label is a bit more corporate maybe that place would be an office, but what kind of office? A stylish office? A regular old office? Or Google’s offices?
- Shoot. Pictures, mate. I’m talking of pictures. Sometimes there’s just no better feeling than walking around with a camera (or smartphone) looking for inspiration. See a beautiful building? Take a picture of it. Spot an interesting looking bloke? Take another picture. You may be surprised at how inspiration can strike when you’re just walking around.
Here are a few clothing brands that have done a good job at creating an environment for their products:
If you were creating edgy, urban clothing then strong, high contrast images of angry looking models with a city backdrop would work well. The brand Manikinfresh excels at this by conjuring a simple picture of a model looking over his shoulder, expecting to be chased at any time. Edgy.
A similar situation, but in a slightly less aggressive manner is the lookbook from the discontinued brand Honour Over Glory. The attractive models are pictured wearing garments in different locations depending on the season, which of course must be a consideration. In some of the images they position themselves near the coast and others in the city, always portraying style of the brand. Is this the epitome of hipster?
A different look is what wholesome Matthew McConaughey’s clothing line Just Keep Livin’ was looking to achieve. His longhaired models were shot in the American wilderness with axes and other rugged, manly things. This is clearly the image that the brand wants to be associated with and it fits perfectly with the style of the t-shirts.
The Zanerobe collection shows a much more laid back approach with some of the images even looking a little blurry. They have chosen to keep the tone and image really informal which is in line with their brand as a whole. The photographs of the barefoot models skate boarding and drinking Corona look like they were taken of an informal street gathering and not for promotional purposes at all, or maybe they were, we just don’t know.
#2 – Focus on the Models
Clearly one of the biggest of deciding how to promote your T-shirt designs revolves around the choice of whether to use models or not. Just like the environment you carefully selected, the models you choose have to represent the right image for your designs. Tattoos or no tattoos, muscular or skinny. These are questions you need to ask yourself before you start the selection process so don’t be afraid to go all Simon Cowell on your modelling hopefuls. After all, it’s your brand.
This can sometimes be a cost thing as we don’t all have glamorous friends, and although Dave is always offering, he probably isn’t the best choice for promoting your brand. Finding the right model may not be as hard as you might think. There are online resources like Model Mayhem that offer a catalogue of international models that may work for little or no money as long as they’re compensated in another way. You might allow them to use the pictures for their portfolio or give them free garments in exchange for their work. Just don’t expect to hire Cara Delevingne this way.
Like many other T-shirt brands Own The Night and Honour Over Glory often select “alternative” looking models with tattoos and tunnel piercings. This gives a clear indication of the way that they see themselves as a brand and how they want to be seen. Any Forty also uses inked models along with younger looking skater types to promote their T-shirt designs. It looks like their images have been photoshopped on to a background to make them look like they are outside. It creates a different effect and focuses on the garment more. Label Natri uses the same models in all their promotional shots, and position them in different locations. This creates a strong identity, as all of their new T-shirts are instantly recognisable by the two models.
#3 – Let the T-shirt do the Talking
If all that sounds like too much to handle then maybe the best option for you is to make things simple. Often times less is more and, when done well, minimalism can be the epitome of elegance. Sometimes it is better to just let the T-shirts do the talking and present them in the most simple, but effective way. This could be laid out onto a table or other surface, or on a hanger.
Abercrombie & Fitch often presents its T-shirts across a surface with some creases manipulated into the garment to give a tactile quality and a feeling of authenticity. You don’t want to pull your garment so tight that it looks like it is rigid or uncomfortable.
Johnny Cupcakes’ products are laid out in uniform style with equal gaps and everything at a slight angle.
By rolling up the sleeves on their T-shirt designs Kill Joss maintained the tactile quality and gave them a personal look. The hangers bring the aesthetic of a retail shop to the online store, which has a familiar quality and provides a different look to most other stores. It gives the impression of a small business and the with the maker movement a real trend at the moment this has to be a plus.
#4 – Shoot a Promotional Video
A picture can speak a thousand words, but many pictures will help you sell T-shirts. Putting together a promotional video may seem a little out of reach for small brands, but with the technology currently at your disposal and a little bit of creativity there are no limits on what you can achieve. If you have the budget for it, the contacting a production company would be the best idea, but if you don’t, here are some basic elements you’ll need to create your own promotional video:
- Lights. Do not underestimate the importance of lighting. Good lighting can make the difference between a terrific video and an awful one. Luckily there’s no need to spend tons on a lighting equipment.
- HD Camera. You have to do HD. There’s is no way to go around it. It is particularly important for fashion brands to feature clear crisp videos where the real colours and quality of the garment can be appreciated even if it’s being watched on YouTube. Unfortunately, most of your budget will go on the camera. According to YouTuber Sharon Farrell, a good camera for video can go anywhere from £350 to £800. See it as an investment. If you’re serious about your business, then this artefact will not only serve you to shoot promotional videos, but also to take amazing pictures for catalogues and social media for years to come.
- Microphone. You may forgo the microphone if you don’t plan on recording audio yourself, but if it’s the other way around then I highly recommend getting one. The ones that come with the cameras (even the expensive ones) tend to be rubbish.
- Editing software. Professionals may prefer Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro, but there are other options out there that won’t burn a hole in your wallet. There is free software like iMovie that might surprise you with the quality finish it can achieve. If you’re uploading the video to Youtube (which you probably will) then YouTube editor is a also great choice.
If you’re looking for inspiration check out the video done by the brand Zanerobe, like a lot of their look-books it conveys a really natural and honest impression, if a little rude in places, and represents their brand image perfectly.
Honour Over Glory released a number of promotional videos where the focus was on their models. The Own The Night video it is shot in a behind-the-scenes style, showing the models and designers having fun whilst photographing images for the catalogue. Getting an insight into a brand is trending since it makes the company seem more approachable.
#5 – Get in touch with trendsetters and influencers
We’ve talked about the power of influencers several times here at Printsome Blog and the reason we keep doing it is because it works! Consumers are more connected than ever.
Look for the influencers in your industry. If you have no clue on where to start, here’s a list of some of the most popular fashion blogs in the UK.
Once you’ve identified them, it’s time to get in touch. A good ol’ fashioned email should do, but if you don’t get a reply or can’t get your hands on an address, social media is also a good way to go about it. Take the time to draw up a well-written message. It needs to explain your brand, why you’re contacting them and what you’d expect from a future collaboration. Don’t send anything too long or you’ll run the risk of boring the reader – and have them click away halfway through.
Some of the things you may ask an influencer are:
- Invite them to give a talk at an event
- Exchange of free products for reviews
- To wear your product (and upload pictures to social media, of course)
- To give you a shout out in a social network
Don’t take it personal if you don’t get a response right away – or ever. This people are constantly being pestered with solicitudes. Keep your hopes up and switch your attention to that second person on the list. Chances are there is an influencer out there with the target you’re looking for that will open your email. But, as I often say, you can always hire a professional. If you have the cash to spare, tools like Maker Studios offer to match brands with the most appropriate content creator.
#6 Promote your business through external services
“It pays to advertise” some say. As a new business, resources may be scarce therefore it might be difficult to invest on publicity, but if you want your brand to be seen then it is something that you should definitely consider.
a) Promote on social media
If you’re new to social network then you may feel like your posts and messages often get lost in the black hole we’ve christianised as the cyberspace — and you may not be that far off. Tweets have an average life of 20 minutes, while Facebook posts last for about three hours. After this time goes by, and unless it goes viral, messages get lost forever. The only way to counteract this effect is to pay for some promotion. Ads on social media let you reach a wider audience, while at the same time target a specific demographic. If you want to get more likes, more views and potential customers then this is the way to go.
b) Contact third party members
If social media is not your thing, then it might be a good idea to approach a more traditional type of promotion like advertising on someone else’s website. Some of the benefits of announcing your business on a third person platform are:
- Reaching a wider audience
- Being related to the website’s attributes (if they’re known for featuring good quality products, for example)
- Showing up more often on Google searches (they’ll give you a backlink which is good for SEO)
- Targeting a specific market
Websites like TEEHUNTER let you advertise your t-shirt business for a price. Subscribing to this service will allow you to be published on a platform where some of the best t-shirt designers get showcased. TEEHUNTER is a website, an online shop, a blog — a community for T-shirt fans where they can gather and celebrate their favourite garments. T-shirts are divided into categories (like fandoms) so customers can easily find their select pieces.
#EXTRA: Showcase your brand in #TshirtTuesdays!
#TshirtTuesdays is a space in our blog that goes out every Tuesday (duh) and showcases new talent in the T-shirt industry. Anyone who owns or works for a new (or not so new) clothing brand has the opportunity to apply and perhaps be featured within our blog. Promote your brand and who knows what else! If you’re interested in being featured on #TshirtTuesday send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll help you out.
How to promote a t-shirt brand: The infographic!
Last but not least, here you have this awesome infographic with a bit more simple version of all of the steps above, don’t forget to share it around! =)
Do you have more ideas on how to present your t-shirt brand online? Then please, let us know in the comments below or get in touch with us through our social networks. For more awesome content, keep reading the Printsome blog.
Printsome is an online t-shirt printing agency in UK providing printed t-shirts for designers and brand all over the UK. For advice on screen printing or DTG, or for a quote request get in touch with us today!