According to Global Industry Analysts, the sports apparel market is booming. The sector is projected to rake in a whopping $231.7 billion by 2024. The growth of the sports and fitness clothing sector is attributable to the increased participation in sports and fitness activities as the population shifts to healthier lifestyles. On top of that, athletic wear is quickly becoming a fixture in the mainstream apparel and fashion industry.

Just take a stroll down the streets of major cities and you’re bound to see people dressed like they’re headed to the gym, a spin class, or a yoga studio. From leggings to yoga pants, workout clothes, and running gear, fitness apparel is becoming more and more popular in the United States and other parts of the world. This has created a lot of opportunities for prospective entrepreneurs. Would you like to know how to start a fitness clothing line? Here’s how.

Research the Industry and Target Market

Entrepreneurs who find a niche in the sports apparel world can build a lucrative business. But considering that you will be competing with giants such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shop, or The Sports Authority, you need to make sure that you have all the information you need before diving in. Just like any other type of business, understanding the market, and knowing your customers are the key ingredients for success. Sportswear is as much about comfort and functionality as it’s about looking good.

Define Your Niche Market

As a small start-up in the cutthroat fitness clothing industry, a niche market is your best chance of success — unless you’ve got the resources to compete with industry moguls such as Nike, Adidas, and the rest. Use your research to determine your target market. With the information that you’ve gathered, put your ideas to work, and design clothing that fits the description of your target customer.

When designing your clothes, determine a product mix. Consider the number and types of designs, fabrics, and styles and come up with the best mix of these aspects. Take your direction from the sporting profile in your region, city, or community as well as what your competitors are stocking. For instance, there’s a big hockey presence in your locale — as demonstrated by sporting venues, inventory in other stores, and media — make sure that you have a sufficient inventory of hockey clothing.

Prepare a Business Plan

Use your research findings to draw up a business plan. A business plan will help you define the specifics of your company and establish a business model. It’s a valuable tool when it comes to starting and running a successful fitness clothing line. In fact, a business plan is required by banks and other financial institutions to get funds for your business. There are experts who can help you prepare these critical documents. Also, there are books and online templates you can as guides when preparing a business plan.

Source Funding

Unless you’re loaded, you’ll have to get some sort of financial assistance. The good news is that you don’t need a lot to start a fitness clothing line, meaning that there are a lot of options to consider when it comes to funding. For instance, you can go apply for a no doc business line of credit to get your fitness clothing line business up and running. A no doc business line of credit is simply a type of funding you borrow in increments and repay in installments.

This type of funding is unsecured hence easy to obtain. You don’t need assets or any other form of collateral for your application to be approved. This type of funding is perfect for small businesses or start-ups. Amount offered depends on your personal credit activity and usually ranges from a few thousand to over one million. With consistency — vis-à-vis timely payments, you will be able to build credit and improve your limit.

Obtain a License

Compared to sourcing staff, finding premises, securing funding, or drawing up a business plan, obtaining a license for a fitness clothing line is a pretty straightforward process. In most cases, all you have to do is fill in the application forms and wait for the license. Ask your local licensing authority about the licensing you’ll need to operate or reach out to companies like Incfile, just to be sure. Some licenses, however, may be issued only after you’ve submitted to some kind of inspection.

Since you’ll probably be employing people, get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) by visiting the Internal Revenue Service website. If it’s necessary for your area, get a sales tax registration and apply for a sales tax license with your local Department of Revenue. Request for application information for all the information on all the licenses you need to start a fitness clothing line, along with the required documentation

Set Up Shop

Once you’ve obtained the necessary licenses, you’re good to set up your fitness clothing line store. The condition of the store you rent is contingent on the amount of energy, money, and time you must expend to ready the space for retail sport clothing sales. Remember that the location of your physical store or stores is key. Every business entity needs a name, it’s a very important element of the business. If you already have a name in mind, then that’s it.

Build Relationships with Manufacturers

Work on establishing a rapport with sports clothing manufacturers, distributors, and brokers. Hold meetings with these entities and inquire about factors such as volume discounts, delivery deadlines, and other issues that may affect the operations of your business. Before you start working with a particular manufacturer or distributor, ask for references from anyone who has worked with them before. This will help you assess whether they are reliable or not.

Starting a clothing line, or any other type of business for that matter is not easy. There are many challenges to overcome. Most importantly, you’ll need funding to get your business up and running. But that’s not all, you need a long-term financial strategy. When sourcing for funding, look for a financier that’s willing to share resources to help you overcome challenges, grow, and sustain your business. Small Business Brain has reputation for helping new entrepreneurs do exactly that.


How to start a fitness clothing line

If you’ve been served any activewear ad on Instagram, or better yet, seen an influencer tout an activewear line, you know that sportswear is no longer an exclusive genre of fashion reserved for the likes of Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour.


In fact, while Gartner’s 2018 study on the Activewear Index showed that the three giants make up a third of overall traffic for activewear, startups and medium-sized activewear outlets are making their way to center stage – and plan to stay there for a long time.


Indubitably, activewear is an infinitely bigger industry than the new-year-new-me trend. Carefully mapping out your activewear manufacturing is more important than figuring out how you’re going to take it to market. Why?


You can create all the hype and aesthetics, but people buy with their hearts and justify it with their heads.


So, if you bring to market a sub-par product, don’t be surprised to see your line plummet faster than a stunt performer at a Red Bull event.

So, if you’re in the market to know how to start a fitness clothing line – be it workout clothes and gym wear, athleisure garments, athletic clothing, etc. here’s exactly what you need to consider about the manufacturing of your pieces before diving headfirst (with the parachute).


Understanding your activewear category

With all the glitter and fairy dust lining this exciting market, don’t forget to first carve out your niche. Begin brainstorming and researching where you want to plug your activewear line into is crucial.


Athleisure? High-performing techwear? Aesthetic?

Whichever way you want to identify your brand, build your brand’s DNA, and make sure you’ve got all the supporting documents that allow you to design your pieces. For example, if you’re after designing a line focused on performance-wear, you need to have the right approvals and certifications to classify your designs as such.


Activewear styles largely fall into three buckets:


High Impact: Performance-focused activewear with maximum support, flexibility, and of course, comfort.

Medium Impact: Most athleisure brands fall into this category with medium-impact apparel having an average level of support and performance-based capabilities for activities such as weight lifting, boxing, and cycling.


Low Impact: Also classified as athleisure, low impact styles offer little support and best suited for activities like yoga, hiking, Pilates and casual exercise, and even the walk-to-brunch on a Sunday look.


Design and construction elements and considerations

A few basic considerations when you’re outlining the designs of your activewear line:



Consider the type of activity you are designing for and choose fabrics wisely. Typically, moisture-wicking fabrics are a choice selection to minimize odors and keep the wearer feeling fresh


The Fit

How much compression your pieces offer matters. Compression offers a variety of benefits such as reduced muscle fatigue, strain prevention, increased power, and movement.



Although primarily governed by the type of material you use, consider how much support your activewear pieces will provide. The level of support coincides with the type of activity you associate your pieces with.


Designing for high impact activity like running, court, and field sports? High support and anti-bounce sports bras are key.


Consider materials such as Mobile (a transparent elastic tape) used inside bindings near cutouts, armholes, and necklines to provide protection for stitches and avoid them coming apart when stretched. It is also used to ensure body-hugging fit and maintain supple qualities of the garment.


On the other hand, Power Mesh is used to reducing stretch quality and provide better structural integrity. It is sandwiched in between the fabric layers.


Panels in sportswear are specific sections of a piece of clothing targeting key muscle groups you’d expect to be exercise. For example, running shorts have paneling in line with your quadriceps (thighs) as they are your activated muscles during a run. These panels typically have specific fabrication and design elements geared to offer the best support.


Fabric weight (GSM)

Fabric weights depend on the season you’re designing a collection for s well as the type of activity. Sport lines designed for summer have lighter weights whilst colder seasons demand a heavier weight.


Similarly, high-level activities such as running the call for lighter fabrics. A fine balance of the GSM of your fabric also affects the wearability, so consider carefully.


By the same token, fabric weights should also consider body temperature and climate and environmental conditions. For warmer climates, consider cooling fabrics and for cooler climates, vice versa.


Reflective details

Reflexive details aren’t a second thought. As with most of our advice, consider the activity and whether your clothing would benefit from light-reflective stitching and prints.


A night-time cyclist or runner would benefit from bonded stitching. For tops, these reflective details are often found along the arms and the back whilst for shorts and leggings, they’re added to the sides of the shins.



Ventilation plays a big role in blood circulation. Design elements such as cut-outs, mesh paneling, and laser-cut details are found strategically placed by high sweat areas.


The type of stitching on the garment matters and it’s not only to hold the garment together but to also offer the most comfort and avoid irritation to the wearer.

Flatlock stitches are typically reserved for compression attire to avoid irritation and discomfort whilst overlock stitching is found on base-layers, tees in knit fabrics to help with stretch and recovery.

Stitching techniques such as the bag out style create stitching that is invisible from both the inside and outside. These types of stitching techniques leave a clean finish. Bonding is another technique used to achieve this.

No matter what type of activewear you design, make sure that the seams can withhold being stretched. Nothing is worse than seeing your activewear double in size (with no come back) after an hour-long workout.

Some fabric pro-tips

If you are new to the fashion and athletic wear industry, here are some quick tips to help you understand the basics of fabrics: 

For close to skin garments such as leggings and sports bras, opt for a poly-spandex mix (also known as interlock) and/or power mesh. Poly-spandex mix has a high gauge, providing beneficial give, stretch, and fit. Poly-spandex mixed fabrics also have a high recovery quality and have no show-through (i.e. it passes the squat test). Power mesh fabrics are ideal for sweat-zones as they provide ventilation and aesthetic appeal. Power mesh also offers good stretch and fabric recovery.


few fabrics used to manufacture fitness apparel stacked on top of each

For loosely fitted clothing, opt for single jersey polyester, stretchy nylon, and woven fabrics. These fabrics are light-weight and drape well.


The Collection

How many garments should you have per collection? What types of garments should you include?

A collection is usually made up of 8-15 garments of varying styles, designs, and purposes but is united by common elements.

Opt for a broad range of garments such as sports bras, leggings, shorts, t-shirts, and capris so you appeal to a wider demographic

Puffer and bomber jackets (and other outerwear) are slowly creeping into collections across global and local brands as they offer extra aesthetic and trend

Athleisure is a very trendy market, consider appealing to those looking for this style

Do your due diligence and research well-established and loved silhouettes, colors, seasonality trends, and other factors that influence a purchase. How to tip: Browse the comments and review sections of your potential competitors to get an idea of what your target market wants.

Appropriate fabrication is non-negotiable. Getting it wrong spells disaster.

Choosing the right activewear manufacturer

There is an infinite number of activewear manufacturers on the market – some with more experience than others. After you do your research and are comfortable approaching a few sportswear manufacturers with your ideas, make sure they are ready to execute it for you.


Here are some tips to help you identify an established manufacturer:


– Ensure that the activewear manufacturers you speak to have experience – and not just any experience but experience and specialization in activewear. This will allow them to provide valuable input to your fabric selection, design, and provide recommendations where they see fit.

– Sportswear manufacturers require dedicated machinery. At its core, woven garments are produced by weaving two sets of yarn whilst knit garments are produced by interloping one set of yarn. Woven and knit fabrics behave differently and thus require specialized machines.


– Have a clear understanding of lead times, ability to the source material, their network of suppliers and brands they’ve worked with (if they are able to provide that), level of customer support, and their requirements around minimum order quantities (MOQ). Consider how sustainable they are as a custom activewear manufacturer, as well.


– When analyzing samples, do a quality assurance (QA) check. Check the seams (stitches) whether they are even, have unnecessary give, etc.


– Do wash tests to see if your colors fade or spill and ask your athletic clothing manufacturers to conduct stretch and recovery tests at proper labs for you to further assess.


There are many factors that go into the manufacturing of your sportswear. Therefore spending as much time as required among your narrowed down the list of fitness or gym clothing manufacturers to pick the partner that fits you and your activewear brand is crucial.


At strenchfitness we offer low MOQ production capacity coupled with decades of experience in the activewear industry to bring you a sustainable and digital platform to start your activewear line.


All your garments will be manufactured at MAS Active, one of the best activewear manufacturers in the world that produces for leading sportswear brands, with dedicated technical support allocated to your project all the way through.