Whether you’re an avid TikTok lurker or you like scrolling through Instagram for hours on end, you’ve probably come across some sort of streetwear. Its projected industry value of over $300 billion doesn’t just show the popularity of stylish, comfy pieces among celebrities and everyday people but also the number of new brands that have been popping up as of late.
But despite its booming popularity, starting a streetwear brand can be a daunting task — especially if you don’t have any background in fashion. Cut and sew garments (clothing that is made from scratch) can be expensive to produce, so many new brands opt for print-on-demand (POD) instead, which is a lot more affordable and requires less up-front investment.
And if you’re one of the many people who want to start a streetwear brand but don’t know where to begin, this guide is for you. In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about starting a streetwear brand without cut and sew, from building your brand identity to promoting your products.
Let’s get started!
The Origins of Streetwear
Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane, shall we? Streetwear, as we know it today, first came to fruition in the late ’70s to early ’80s, thanks to skate and hip-hop cultures. At the time, most mainstream fashion was geared towards older, preppy audiences — think Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger — so youth culture needed their own fashion aesthetic that would better reflect their interests and lifestyle.
However, it was in the ’90s when streetwear really started to take off, thanks in large part to brands like Stussy, Supreme, and A Bathing Ape (BAPE). These brands popularized some of the most iconic streetwear silhouettes that are still coveted today, such as graphic tees, hoodies, and tracksuits.
And while streetwear has changed and evolved over the years, its DIY roots are still very much alive in today’s brands. In fact, many of today’s most popular streetwear brands — including Off-White, Yeezy, and Palace — were all started by skateboarders, graffiti artists, and hip-hop musicians who wanted to create their own unique fashion aesthetic.
Now, enough about history — let’s get into how you can start making your very own mark on the streetwear world.
Step 1: Identify Your Streetwear Brand’s Design Style
Yes, streetwear does count as a style. And while it can be difficult to nail down a specific definition for streetwear, there are definitely some common characteristics that you’ll see across most brands.
For starters, streetwear is usually pretty casual and relaxed, with an emphasis on comfort and functionality. Think oversized tees, hoodies, and sweats. And while streetwear can be pretty casual, that doesn’t mean it has to be boring — in fact, many streetwear brands incorporate bold graphics, bright colors, and interesting patterns into their designs.
This is why determining your brand’s very own design style is such an important step in starting a streetwear brand. Not only will it help you create a cohesive collection, but it will also make it easier for customers to identify your brand and become loyal fans.
One design style that has been particularly popular in streetwear lately is minimalism. This style is all about paring down designs to their essential elements and emphasizing clean lines and simple silhouettes.
If you’re interested in starting a streetwear brand with a minimalist aesthetic, take some inspiration from brands like Carhartt, Off-White, and Acne Studios.
If you like being extra, then a maximalist design style might be more up your alley. This style is all about going big and bold, with lots of bright colors, patterns, and graphics.
Some streetwear brands that embrace a maximalist aesthetic include Misbhv, Gypsy Sport, and the Cactus Plant Flea Market.
If you have the passion and talent for it, you can also create your own original artwork to use in your designs. This is a great way to add a personal touch to your brand and make your designs truly unique.
The great thing about streetwear is that there are really no rules — so feel free to experiment with different design styles until you find one that feels right for your brand. Whether it’s pulling inspiration from your childhood, your favorite music, or even your hometown, the most important thing is that you stay true to yourself and what you believe in which will definitely reflect in your designs.
Just Your Logo or a Slogan
If you want your streetwear pieces to scream and radiate your brand message from the rooftop, then consider incorporating your logo or slogan into your designs. But it’s not enough to just have a cool logo — it also needs to represent what your brand stands for and what it means to you.
For example, Supreme’s logo is simple but effective — it’s easy to remember and it instantly conveys the brand’s cool, edgy aesthetic. Similarly, BAPE’s logo is also pretty simple, but it’s unique and easily recognizable, which is why it’s such an iconic streetwear logo.
Step 2: Scope Your Streetwear Brand Competitors
It’s already a given that you’ll be up against some pretty stiff competition when starting a streetwear brand. So before you start designing your first collection, take some time to scope out your competition and see what they’re doing right — and more importantly, what they’re doing wrong.
This research will not only help you avoid making the same mistakes as your competitors, but it will also give you some great ideas for how you can make your brand stand out from the rest.
Step 3: Create Your Unique Brand Story
Once you’ve seen what your competitors are up to, it’s time to start creating your own unique brand story. This is what will make your brand truly special and distinguish it from all the other streetwear brands out there.
Your brand story can be anything — it can be based on your personal experiences, your hometown, or even how you got into streetwear in the first place. The important thing is that it’s authentic and relatable, so take some time to brainstorm and figure out what story you want to tell.
Step 4: Design Product Concepts
This is the part where you actually tell your brand story through your designs. The great thing about streetwear is that there are virtually no rules when it comes to design, so you have the freedom to be as creative as you want.
Choose Products That Fit Your Brand Story
Hmm, but while there are almost no limits when it comes to design, you still need to make sure that your designs actually fit with the overall aesthetic of your brand. For instance, if your brand is all about simplicity, then you probably don’t want to be designing overly complicated garments. You can focus on comfy basics which you can then style in different ways to create a variety of looks.
On the other hand, if your brand is all about being different and standing out from the crowd, then you can go wild with your designs and experiment with different cuts, colors, and materials.
Start With a Simple Collection
One major mistake that a lot of new streetwear brands make is trying to do too much, too soon. When you’re first starting out, it’s important to keep your collection small and manageable so that you can perfect your designs and manufacturing process.
You can always expand your collection later on — but for now, it’s best to start with a small, tight collection of well-executed pieces. For example, you can start with a staple t-shirt like Shakawear’s 7.5 oz Heavyweight Unisex tee. Check out our concise product review below!
Step 5: Start Creating the Hype
Of course, it’s not enough to just have great designs — you also need people to actually know about your brand. And the best way to do that is by creating some hype around your launch.
The Importance of Social Media
One of the most obvious ways to create hype is through social media. These days, it’s pretty much essential for any brand — streetwear or otherwise — to have a strong social media presence.
Not only does social media give you a platform to showcase your designs, but it also allows you to connect with your target audience and build a community around your brand. After all, streetwear is all about connecting with like-minded people and sharing your love for the culture.
So make sure to set up social media accounts for your brand on all the major platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and start posting engaging content that will get people interested in your brand.
Once your collection and social media pages are all set, you can start drumming up excitement for your launch with a pre-launch campaign.
This is when you start teasing your collection with sneak peeks, behind-the-scenes looks, and other types of content that will get people excited about your upcoming launch.
Step 6: Keep Upfront Costs Low With Print on Demand
Alright, but how exactly do you fulfill the orders once they start rolling in? Well, if you don’t have the upfront capital to invest in inventory, then you can always use a print-on-demand service to take care of all your manufacturing and fulfillment needs.
This way, you only have to pay for the products once they’ve already been sold — which means that you can maintain zero to low financial risk. Plus, you get to save time and money on things like warehousing and shipping. All you need is to work with a print-on-demand partner like Awkward Styles and you can get started with your streetwear brand ASAP.
Rinse and Repeat!
And your streetwear brand is off and running! But that doesn’t mean you can just sit back and chill—you need to keep the momentum going by regularly releasing new collections and keeping up with the latest trends.
You should also keep tabs on your KPIs and use that data to improve your designs, online store, and overall business strategy. Once you get the hang of things, you can start scaling up your operation and expanding your reach.
It’s Time to Rock Your Streetwear Brand!
You’ve got the style, the story, the vision, and now the how-tos. It’s time to turn your streetwear dreams into reality and take over the fashion world, one dope design at a time!
With the right strategy and a whole lot of hustle, you can launch a successful streetwear brand that will make waves in the fashion industry. So what are you waiting for? Work with us and let’s get started!