How do I Become a Clothing Distributor?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In order to become a clothing distributor, it is important to have experience in the field of apparel and, in many cases, training and education about the clothing industry. Many people who have dreams of working for or becoming a clothing distributor go to school to study fashion. It is possible for a person with either a fashion design or a fashion merchandising degree to become a clothing distributor. Fashion merchandising, however, often focuses more on manufacturing and selling clothing, which are important skills for anyone who wants to become a clothing distributor. Fashion design focuses more on the creation of the items that are to be sold, which is also an important skill set for someone working in the field, but may not be the most important skill set for someone who wants to become a clothing distributor.

A clothing distributor should understand the fashion retail business.
A clothing distributor should understand the fashion retail business.

A great way to get experience while studying to become a clothing distributor is to make use of internships and summer job opportunities while still in school. Students completing a two-year degree in fashion design or fashion merchandising have four semesters to take part in internships and one summer between school years to have a summer job in the fashion industry. Students completing a four-year degree have double the number of opportunities to get experience in the field.

A clothing distributor may purchases a variety of clothing to sell.
A clothing distributor may purchases a variety of clothing to sell.

Clothing distributors come in many sizes. Some sell thousands or even tens of thousands of pieces of the same clothing item in a given season. Others who create specialty apparel might only sell a few dozen pieces of a given style in one year. When working to become a clothing distributor, it is important to consider size. It can take quite a long time to develop a business that moves tens of thousands of units in a given fashion season, so people looking to become a clothing distributor on this scale might have to invest a great deal of time in the process.

Pursing a degree in fashion design will allow a person to gain some of the skills necessary for becoming a clothing distributor.
Pursing a degree in fashion design will allow a person to gain some of the skills necessary for becoming a clothing distributor.

People who want to become a clothing distributor that specializes in servicing boutiques, however, might be able to reach their goals more quickly. Setting up shop and making enough clients to sell between a few dozen and a few hundred units of a given item usually takes less time. Either way, it takes time and startup money to become a clothing distributor of any scale. As such, it is a good idea to start with a solid base of knowledge and experience.

Retail chains often work with clothing distributors to sell items.
Retail chains often work with clothing distributors to sell items.
Some clothing distributors work directly with independent boutiques.
Some clothing distributors work directly with independent boutiques.
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments

KoiwiGal

Another option is to try and find a mentor in the business community. There are quite a few available services which allow you to find someone in your industry to mentor you, even while you are still in school.

But, if you are starting a company this can be invaluable and will give you the chance to discuss options with someone who has been in the place that you are now.

If you are feeling particularly brave you might even try to email people who you admire in the industry and ask them questions to see if you can establish a rapport.

People do depend on each other in any industry though, so make sure you are polite and don't aggravate anyone.

pleonasm

@umbra21 - I agree and I think that people should think outside the box when it comes to jobs and internships in the fashion industry.

The plum positions are hotly competitive of course, but there are other places you can go in order to get the business experience you need. And I would argue that that experience is much more important, particularly if you are planning on starting your own company.

For example, you could work for a bead or jewelry supplies distributor company, or for a furniture company or something like that, which is affected by trends but isn't in quite the demand that various fashion companies will be.

Of course, you'll need to keep up with fashion trends as well, but you can do that with courses and reading related magazines, while the real life business experience can't be picked up anywhere else.

umbra21

It's absolutely a good idea to get as much experience in the industry as possible, but I would encourage people to give it a shot on their own once they feel confident in their abilities.

The internet has made it so much easier to create a distribution company and there are so many really good bulk wholesale clothing websites out there.

I think there are all kinds of niche markets still available. One of the ones that springs to mind is the people who sell old kimonos for others to use as raw material in crafts and things like that.

Vintage in general is becoming huge as people look for unique pieces that they will be able to get for cheaper than if they were new.

But if you are serious about this kind of company you have to make sure you aren't going to crash in the first year and experience with an established company would certainly help with that.

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