sportsman performing back flip against city park

Why Starting a Fashion Brand from Scratch is Hard

Toile, MOQ, WooCommerce, CSS. Up until a few months ago, these were all terms I’d never heard of in my life! To me, a toile sounds like some type of delicious French pastry, not something you put on a mannequin… Unsurprisingly, learning what all these words meant was not one of the hardest things about starting a fashion brand from scratch.

As a man (it’s Dan here), a teacher and someone who pretty much knew zilch about kids’ clothing a few months ago, I thought it would be fun to write a blog post about all the things that have been challenging and difficult about this endeavour we have found ourselves on.

It’s now been exactly one month since we launched Yuugen Kids, and every day is truly a learning curve. We’ve been working on our brand for over 12 months, which started with Liz taking a fashion design crash course to learn the basics of the industry, while I spent countless hours on Illustrator playing around with logo and branding ideas.

I’d fiddled with website design in the past, working on a travel blog that I started many moons ago when I lived in Spain (Can recommend. The sangria was great! Not sure I can write that on a kids’ fashion blog but…whatever). What was different this time though, was building a website from scratch with the intention to run a business.

It has been frustrating and challenging, especially when you have slightly unhealthy perfectionist tendencies, but also rewarding and satisfying to hear and receive some great feedback. The relief I felt when our first sale went through, rather than just my countless mock test orders, was real. And here I was I thinking it was teaching that gave me the grey hairs…

shelves with fresh sweets on counter
Apparently you can eat a tuile, but not a toile…
Photo by Maria Orlova on

Success is not Linear

As a teacher, this is something we read about a lot, or get lectured to about in yet another mind-numbingly boring PD; students succeed at their own pace, and success is not linear. Unfortunately, teachers are some of the worst people at taking their own advice…

I’ve learnt just because you spend hours on something and you love it, doesn’t necessarily mean the rest of the world will. I’m used to being the one who gives feedback (aka feed-forwarding for those teacher friends out there *wink wink*), but when you’re the one whose work is now being critiqued, it really is a bit of a reality check!

black flat screen computer monitor
My favourite view on a Saturday night.
Photo by Markus Spiske on

Sometimes things don’t go as planned. We probably aren’t going to be a multimillion dollar international success story overnight (but maybe in a couple of years!). I probably won’t be retiring at 35. There is a lot of hardwork behind the scenes just to get a one nice photo that’s on brand for instagram. It’s not all as glamorous as maybe I imagined.

Other times (more than once), I’ve made one small change to the website and suddenly nothing works. You can guarantee this will be at 10 o’clock at night after tinkering unnecessarily, just to make something “look better”.

Be Prepared to Give Up (Some) Control

Clothes don’t appear on time. Labels get printed upside down. People won’t let you display your products. Manufacturers go on holidays. So many things in this industry are out of your control.

While it might seem starting a business gives you full control of everything (in some ways it does), you’re also so highly reliant on many other businesses and people to make the whole thing work.

Compared to teaching, which really only needs me and my laptop to teach a lesson, creating a tshirt from scratch has so many elements involved. Learning to accept delays, mistakes, and misunderstandings can be quite challenging, especially when you want things to be just right and to bring that idea in your mind’s eye to fruition.

Brand ‘Perfection’ Takes Time

I’m a chronic perfectionist. It’s really quite annoying, and I even frustrate myself at times. It’s actually a bit of a contrast to my ‘public persona’, which if you know me, most people think is chilled and laid back!

While Liz has spent a lot of her time and energy on the manufacturing side of Yuugen Kids, I’ve spent my time on developing the brand image, the website and all of our print designs.

Every time I jump on the website, I notice something else I could change, improve or reword. Nearly every print I’ve designed, I’m not happy about. When your brand is an extension of yourself, you want to project your best self to the world, just as we do as individuals.

wood people woman relaxation
What I found when I searched images for ‘Perfection’. That monstera is pretty nice actually, a little droopy though.
This is Photo by Mikhail Nilov on

Accepting that starting a brand from scratch is an ongoing, living, evolving process is really important for me to keep in mind. It’s really easy to get caught up in the excitement of what your brand will or could be vs. “What is the most important thing to focus on right now?”

Will updating that picture on the website of a wrinkled t-shirt really make a difference? In the big picture of things…probably not!

(Expensive) Mistakes will Happen

We all make mistakes. Sometimes they don’t matter, other times they do. And sometimes they can be expensive. When you start in an industry that you’ve never worked in before, it is hard to accept that you are a complete rookie.

Unfortunately, being a rookie also means mistakes are going to be made at some point. Some of these are minor and don’t have a major impact on your business, website or product. They might not cost you anything either. These mistakes aren’t the best ones to learn from.

wood typography photography blur
Don’t use these words in scrabble. Always go for the triple word score ‘Qi’.
Photo by Brett Jordan on

The best mistakes to learn from are the ones that cost you money, because you are sure going to make sure you don’t make them again. Our first major mistake was with ordering of our labels. We ordered the wrong style for where we wanted the label attached on the clothing and at no point did anyone correct us.

We when received them and placed them onto the leggings, we realised the whole thing would be upside down! We also grossly overestimated how large the internal label would look when stitched into the fabric.

Ultimately this was our mistake, and it wasn’t a cheap mistake to make. However, from making that error, we now understand a lot more about label design and choice. I even pay attention to the labels on my own clothes and can point out a centre, manhattan or mitre fold label in polyester, cotton or damask!

Focus on the Positives

All of that sounds quite negative really. But this was a post about the hardest things about starting a fashion brand from scratch I suppose, so you got what you came for! If you’d like some tips instead, have a read of our top tips for starting a fashion label.

To be honest though, there are so many positive things about starting your own business too. Funnily enough, they are probably the exact opposites of the things I’ve written about; all of the success is your own, you have more control over your work day, you can invest energy into the things you want to invest in, and you gain experience from every mistake you make.

It is an exciting, challenging, interesting, frustrating, enlightening and occasionally boring and slightly mundane journey (accounting and Excel spreadsheets…eww) and that is what makes this journey something special.

Not having to coordinate and time bodily functions around the school bell is perhaps the best perk of all!
Photo by cottonbro on

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