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How to Start Your Own Fitness or Athletic Clothing Line

Date modified: November 15, 2023
How do you start your own unique and successful clothing line?
Best Practices Business Tips
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Over the last few years, everyday fashion has seen a big shift. Activewear is now the go-to choice for many, from running errands to attending meetings. Even high-end brands like Gucci have jumped on the activewear trend. 

Young adults stretching before workoutWhile big names like Nike and Adidas have a strong hold on the market, there's still room for new brands to make a splash. Read on to learn about how to start a fitness clothing brand and create your buzz in this growing market.

Some Facts Regarding the Fashion Industry 

Getting to know the retail fashion world better can help you stand out in a competitive market by staying ahead of trends and navigating fashion industry challenges. Here are some insights:

  • The global gym apparel market is set to grow to about $385 billion by 2032.
  • The athleisure sector is expected to reach $3.2 billion in 2032, with a strong focus on sustainable fabric that particularly appeals to younger consumers.
  • There's been an increase in “recycled” athletic apparel, with a rise of 642% for men and 388% for women in the past year, highlighting the growing eco-friendly sportswear trend in the U.S.
  • Revenue in the fashion industry increased by 21% between 2020 and 2021, and EBITA margins doubled to 12.3%.

Step-By-Step Guide to a Fitness Clothing Line Launch

Launching a new business is like sprinting the 100-meter dash in clogs; you’re going to fall down a few times. To help you avoid a few stumbles, we have designed a comprehensive guide to help you through the process of how to start a fitness clothing line.

Conduct Adequate ​​Research of the Industry and Target Market

Starting a business in a field where big names like Nike already have a stronghold can feel like stepping into a major league game.  Knowing the rules and players is key, especially understanding your customers. This knowledge is foundational as you venture into selling workout clothes with your athletic clothing brand.

Entrepreneur conducting online market researchHere's a guide to researching the fitness apparel industry:

  • Market Size and Growth: Utilize IBISWorld or Statista to gauge the fitness apparel industry's size and growth rate. Explore sales data, customer count, and active businesses in this sector.
  • Trends and Dynamics: Follow fashion news and attend trade shows for the latest trends. Investigate the rising interest in sustainable materials and athleisure popularity.
  • Competitive Landscape: Examine big brands like Lululemon or Gymshark to understand market share distribution and identify gaps your athletic clothing line could fill.
  • Regulatory Environment: Consult legal experts for insights on material safety, labeling, and advertising regulations in the fitness apparel industry.
  • Demographics and Psychographics: Conduct surveys or focus groups to learn about your potential customers' demographics and psychographics. Use tools like Google Analytics to analyze your target market's online behavior.
  • Consumer Needs and Preferences: Collect feedback on prototypes or existing products to understand your target market's preferences regarding comfort, style, or durability.
  • Price Sensitivity: Analyze competitor pricing to determine your target audience's willingness to pay for quality fitness apparel.
  • Material and Design: Collaborate with designers and material experts to develop samples, testing for comfort, durability, and appeal. Stay informed on new technologies like smart textiles.
  • Vendor Selection: Tour factories, verify certifications, and negotiate terms to optimize costs without compromising on quality.
  • Cost Efficiency: Perform a cost analysis to formulate pricing strategies that would ensure profitability as you sell workout clothes.

​​Prepare a Business Plan

Creating a solid business plan is a stepping stone toward success and attracting potential investors. It acts as a blueprint for your business goals and the strategies to achieve them. Here’s a breakdown of a business plan’s key components as you consider how to start a gym clothing line:

  • Executive Summary: Overview of your business plan, touching on your company profile and goals. It covers your business name, location, mission statement, business concept, founding date, current status, and owner details.
  • Market Analysis: Covers the industry landscape, analyzing the market, target customers, competitors, and your business's competitive edges.
  • Organization and Management: Details your organizational setup, management team roles, and individual department tasks. Includes bios of team members showcasing how their expertise will bolster business success.
  • Product or Service Line: Describe your gym clothing line, highlighting the benefits of your brand, clothing life cycle, and any intellectual property rights.
  • Marketing and Sales: Crafts a marketing strategy for reaching and retaining customers alongside a sales strategy on how you plan to sell your apparel. Includes pricing and promotional plans.
  • Funding Request: Outlines the funding amount needed, its proposed usage, and funding type (e.g., equity, loan).
  • Financial Projections: Offers a five-year financial forecast, including projected income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, and capital expenditure budgets.

For further guidance, check out Hal Shelton’s book, "The Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan: A Pro Shares a Step-By-Step Guide to Creating a Plan That Gets Results."

Choose the Best Business Structure

When starting a fitness clothing business, the business structure you choose can affect how you pay taxes and how much personal liability you have.

Close up on partners shaking handsHere are a few common types of business ownership:

Sole Proprietorship 

A sole proprietorship is the simplest form, where the owner and business are synonymous. The owner is personally responsible for all debts and liabilities. It’s easy to set up, giving the owner full managerial control. The benefits of independent contractors include easy formation and minimal regulatory compliance, while drawbacks are unlimited personal liability and capital-raising challenges. This structure is ideal for small-scale fitness clothing lines with limited capital seeking simplicity and full control.


Partnerships, formed by two or more individuals, share responsibilities, profits, and losses. They combine resources and expertise, which is useful in the competitive fitness clothing market. Advantages include combined resources and shared responsibility, while drawbacks are joint liability and potential conflicts. A good choice for collaborative ventures in the fitness clothing industry.


S corporations offer liability protection and tax benefits suitable for growing businesses. Profits and some losses are passed directly to owners’ personal income, avoiding corporate tax rates. Benefits are liability protection, tax savings, and investor attraction capability, but with stricter operational requirements and a 100-shareholder limit. Suitable for fitness clothing businesses eyeing rapid growth and investor attraction.

Limited Liability Company (LLC) 

LLCs blend personal liability protection like corporations with the operational flexibility of partnerships. They offer liability shields and pass-through taxation with flexible management and fewer compliance requirements. Pros are personal liability protection and operational flexibility, while cons are a more complex setup than sole proprietorships and possible self-employment taxes. An LLC is ideal for those anticipating higher risk or eyeing a medium to large-scale fitness clothing venture.

Register Your Business

Before launching your clothing brand, it's important to register your business for legal protection and a solid entrepreneurial foundation. Here's how:

  • Choosing a Unique Name: Pick a unique name for your fitness clothing brand to stand out in the market. Check name availability in your state using resources like your state's business registry, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office registry, or domain registrars like GoDaddy.
  • Obtain an EIN: Secure an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS for tax purposes and official documentation.
  • Apply for Permits and Licenses: Identify and obtain necessary permits and licenses, such as business licenses and sales tax permits, relevant to operating a fitness clothing brand in your area.
  • Open a Business Bank Account: Establish a business bank account to separate business and personal finances for accurate record-keeping and tax management.
  • Maintain Ongoing Compliance: Keep up with business registration renewals, tax obligations, and other legal requisites to sustain your business's good standing.

Cover The Business Insurance Part

Starting and running a fitness clothing business involves various considerations, one of which is ensuring the business is adequately insured to mitigate risks. Here are some common types of business insurance policies to consider:

Type of Insurance 


General Liability Insurance

Protects against claims of bodily injury, property damage, and personal/advertising injury

Product Liability Insurance

Covers claims arising from injuries or damages caused by defects in the products you sell

Property Insurance

Protects the business property, including inventory, equipment, and the physical space

Business Interruption Insurance

Provides coverage for lost income and operating expenses if your business is unable to operate due to a covered event like a natural disaster

Workers' Compensation Insurance

Covers medical costs and a portion of lost wages for employees who become injured or ill on the job

Cyber Liability Insurance

Covers losses resulting from cyber-attacks or data breaches

Commercial Auto Insurance

If your business owns vehicles, this covers damages in an accident

Consider also consulting with insurance professionals, from insurance brokers to agents, who are knowledgeable about the taxes and legal limitations of owning a retail business. They can guide you on the types of insurance covers you should consider.

Find Funding

Chances are, when you’re starting a new business, you will need some sort of financial assistance. You can apply for a business line of credit, a startup loan, or a small business loan to get your fitness clothing line up and running.

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Here are some differences between these three options: 

  • Business Line of Credit: A business line of credit operates similarly to a credit card, where you are given a credit limit, typically ranging between $2,000 and $100,000. The average interest rates for a business line of credit range between 7% and 25%. A typical repayment period ranges from six months to a few years, with interest accruing only on the funds drawn. Business lines of credit offer continuous access to funds and often don’t have limitations on what funds can be used for. 
  • Startup Loans: Startup business loans are designed specifically for new businesses seeking initial capital to kickstart their operations. These loans often cater to businesses that may not yet have a solid financial history. The average interest rates for startup loans can vary widely, typically ranging from 6% to 20%. The loan amounts generally fall between $10,000 and $500,000, with repayment terms spanning from one to seven years. 
  • Small Business Loan: Small business loans are more traditional financing options where a lump sum of money is lent to be repaid over a set term with interest. The average interest rates can range from about 2.5% to 7% for traditional bank loans or higher for online or alternative lenders. Average loan amounts can range from $30,000 to $250,000, with terms generally ranging from two to 10 years. With large loan amounts and lower interest rates than other business loans, a small business loan may offer the controlled boost necessary to build your business. 

Choose Your Fitness Clothing Type

Fitness wear is just as stylized as any other type of clothing, and choosing what type of fitness clothing you’ll offer will help you build your brand image.

Fitness clothing and equipment Here are some options of what products you can offer:


Sportswear includes performance-based apparel suitable for a wide array of athletic activities, like running, swimming, cycling, and team sports. Sportswear is designed to provide comfort, safety, and better performance for athletes. For instance, materials that wick away sweat, improve aerodynamics, or offer thermal insulation are common in sportswear. 


Activewear is mainly defined as the clothes one wears to work out and sweat in. This can include sports, exercise, and outdoor activities. It is typically lightweight, sweat-resistant (or dry-fit), and form-fitting. It should allow free movement and comfort above all. 

On the other hand, when considering what is the difference between activewear and sportswear,  keep in mind that sportswear is tailored for specific sports. It usually encompasses team jerseys, protective items, and footwear made for particular sports – which might not be the best fit for your everyday workout or a laid-back yoga session.


This niche lies at the intersection of activewear and recreational wear. It can be worn any time of day or night. Athleisure is typically composed of articles like leggings or joggers, hoodies, and sneakers for an active yet stylish look. The hype around athleisure took a boost when celebrities and influencers took activewear from the gym to the streets and everywhere else in between. 


Streetwear is a style of casual clothing that became mainstream in the 1990s. Unlike sportswear or activewear, streetwear is more about making a personal or social statement. It's less about functionality and more about style and the expression of individual identity but often incorporates athleticwear and activewear. Major components of streetwear include t-shirts, hoodies, and gym shorts.

Understand Your Materials

If you are a newcomer to the world of clothing and athletic wear, here are some small tips to help you understand what you will be working with:

  • Fabrics: Fabrics can be picked based on the target audience. Fabric choices should align with the physical activities of your target audience. Certain activities may require more breathable, stretchable, or moisture-wicking materials.
  • Fit: Determine the purpose of your clothing line. For high-intensity workouts, consider designs that offer compression benefits. Compression can help reduce muscle fatigue, prevent strains, and enhance movement. If you're targeting a casual or athleisure audience, looser fits might be more appropriate.
  • Fabric Weight: Be mindful of the seasons and the intended region of sale. Summer collections should favor lightweight materials, while winter collections might call for heavier fabrics. For activities like running, you might prioritize lightweight fabrics to facilitate unrestricted movement.
  • Reflective Details: These are more than just aesthetic additions. With a growing demand for reflective designs, especially among night-time athletes, these details enhance visibility and safety.
  • Ventilation: Proper ventilation allows for temperature regulation and improved blood circulation. If you're designing for intense physical activities, incorporate cut-outs, mesh paneling, or other breathable elements in strategic locations.

Establish a Niche Market

Navigating success as a small fitness clothing business in a bustling market requires a mix of creativity, market savvy, and a solid grasp of your target audience.

Fitness influencer filming workout video

Here's how you can carve a niche for your brand, especially if you're selling gyming clothes online:

  • Discover Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP): Pinpoint a USP that aligns with your brand and appeals to your audience. If you're rooted sustainably, eco-friendly fitness apparel could be your niche, using materials like organic cotton or recycled polyester.
  • Create and Refine Prototypes: Develop prototypes embodying your USP. If catering to plus-sized individuals, create stylish designs offering the right support. Obtain feedback from potential customers to refine your offerings.
  • Engage with Targeted Communities: Connect with communities that share your niche values. If promoting body positivity, interact with relevant online and offline communities, sharing your brand story and how your fitness clothing line champions this cause.
  • Collaborate with Influencers: Partner with influencers whose followers resonate with your niche. For a line suited to high-performance athletes, collaborations with athletes or fitness trainers on social media can yield authentic exposure.
  • Narrate Your Brand Story: Craft a narrative around your niche, sharing the journey and impact your brand aims to create, helping to foster a deeper audience connection.
  • Collect and Act on Customer Feedback: Post-launch, actively gather customer feedback to understand their experiences, learn what resonated, and adjust your product range accordingly.
  • Measure, Learn, and Iterate: Set key performance indicators to gauge your niche strategy's success. Analyze sales data, website traffic, and social media engagement to discern what's hitting the mark with your audience and identify areas for enhancement.

Find The Right Clothing Manufacturer

Exploring the variety of activewear manufacturers is a pivotal step on the road to successfully selling workout clothes. The right manufacturer can be a cornerstone for quality and satisfaction. Here are some tips to guide you in identifying a suitable manufacturer:

  • Research Experience: Seek manufacturers with proven expertise in fitness clothing, as they can provide valuable advice on fabric and design choices.
  • Check Machinery: Ensure the manufacturers have diverse machinery to handle unique material designs for sportswear.
  • Verify Prior Partners: Ask about their past collaborations with brands. A track record of success can hint at reliability and quality output.
  • Consider Sustainability: Look for any environmental or social impact statements to find a manufacturer whose values align with your business ethos.
  • Collect Samples: Acquire samples before finalizing any contract. Conduct thorough quality checks, examine seams and stitches, and perform wash tests for color fastness. Request the manufacturers to conduct stretch and recovery tests for a comprehensive assessment.

Start Branding

A strong brand can propel your fitness apparel business forward. With a memorable name and a clear identity, you pave the way for growth and a positive reputation. Here's a roadmap to help you create your gym clothing brand:

  • Pick a Brand Name: Select a name that mirrors the essence and values of your fitness apparel brand. Online tools like Namelix, Shopify’s Business Name Generator, or Brandroot can be your allies in brainstorming.
  • Create a Logo: Once the name is in place, draft a logo. It's natural for the logo to evolve as your brand matures. If design isn't your strong suit, professional designers or platforms like Adobe Illustrator, Canva, or Looka are options to explore.
  • Build Your Website: With a name and logo at hand, it's time to create a welcoming website to showcase your products, reviews, and mission. User-friendly platforms like Wix, Squarespace, and Canva can be good starting points.
  • Advertise: Boost your brand's visibility through advertising on major social platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Tailor your advertising approach to resonate with the specific audiences on each platform, be it through influencer partnerships on Instagram or engaging visuals on Facebook.

Sum up

Starting a fitness clothing business requires careful planning and consideration in areas like business structure, registration, taxes, insurance, and understanding the industry. Budget wisely, comply with legal requirements, and stay updated with the fashion industry trends to promote the success and growth of your business.

Ethan James   Lead Writer
Ethan James is an experienced Financial Writer at Lendza with over a decade of experience.