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How Apparel Brands Can Easily Do a Brand Extension into Accessories

For any apparel brand, an extension into the accessories category is the next logical step. You already sell clothing items, some of which may be clearly branded — why not extend that line into smaller accessories? They fit beautifully into wrap displays and are equally at home on social media feeds. Plus, accessories open a whole new price point that could make your brand more accessible to your most valuable target customers as well as new entries. When you’re looking for a companion to an already-successful clothing line, accessories just make sense. 

The challenge, as always, is to execute a brand extension strategy that will bring that level of success. How will you optimize supply chain logistics in a way that benefits your bottom line? How can you capitalize on and preserve your existing brand equity with products that could be considered a down-market stretch? How will you ensure a positive ROI for your new accessories line? The following steps explain how to do a brand extension in a way that meets all of these critical goals. 

How to do a Brand Extension in 5 Steps

If you’re looking to move into the accessories market with a brand extension that reduces financial risk, produces greater market penetration, and increases overall sales revenue, follow these five steps: 

Step 1: Complete a Thorough Brand Audit

The most successful product line extensions are those that maintain a consistent identity with their parent brands. They feel on point, organic, and natural. That’s because they fit within the context of the greater company message — and that message is unequivocally clear within the parent brand itself. 

Every time you launch a new product line, it’s wise to start with a solid foundational understanding of your brand as it stands today. As part of a comprehensive brand audit, ask the following questions: 

—What does your name stand for in the apparel market? 

—What are the key adjectives or attributes customers would use to describe your company today? 

—How has your brand shifted over the past year — or how has the public’s perception of your brand shifted?    

Whatever product line you launch needs to embody these answers just as clearly as your parent brand does. This will preserve your brand equity and ensure that your newest product line rides on the success of the original. 

Step 2: Identify Your Strongest Extension Options

Most brand extension ideas come directly from considering the problems of your target customers and identifying the products that would solve those problems. 

Accessories and apparel operate a bit differently. Your strongest accessory options are those that will generate the “I have to have that” impulse. You’re betting money that your customers won’t be able to resist adding another small item to their shopping cart, either online or in-store. What are the top three accessory items that your target demographic can’t get enough of? 

If you’re able to move quickly through the design and manufacturing process, you should definitely consider tapping into current trends and striking the iron while it’s hot. Follow the example of Glossier  — they launched a limited selection of branded accessory items (embroidered hats, printed sweatshirts, branded hair clips, and more) that they knew their audience would go nuts for. They sold out almost instantly. 

Step 3: Design Your New Products

This is the step that trips up most up-and-coming fashion brands. You know you want to launch custom accessories, but you don’t have a specialized accessories designer on staff who can help wrangle the design and approval process. Don’t worry  — some on-demand accessories manufacturers offer design services as part of a comprehensive package. The best provide this service for free. 

Here’s how that works: 

You submit whatever design collateral you’ve got on hand  — logos, fonts, visual style guides, and Pantone colors. The designer will come up with graphics that are specifically optimized for the resolution and sizing of the accessory items you’ve chosen. After your approval, they’ll produce full “tech packs” to be forwarded to the factory for production. If you don’t have a designer in-house, we strongly recommend partnering with a full-service manufacturer who can get this done quickly and easily. 

Step 4: Strategize for Cost-Effective Manufacturing

Manufacturing is one of the steps where you can spend (or save) a lot of money with a brand extension. Even though you’ve already got an apparel supply chain established, most traditional manufacturers aren’t agile enough to produce accessories quickly. Plus, they often require MOQs in the thousands. Unless your system allows you to evaluate samples and order small quantities for A/B testing, you might want to consider more cost-effective options. 

To reduce financial risk and maximize ROI, consider launching your custom accessories line through an on-demand manufacturer. That way you can test multiple samples without a significant investment and you can order small batches of your final products for resale. On-demand manufacturing offers the speed and savings that you miss with mass production. It’s a great solution for apparel brands who are just starting to experiment with brand extension into the accessories market.  

Step 5: Market Your New Product Line

Finally, it’s time to spread the word about your new accessories. We suggest clients utilize accessories as content for their social media feeds  — a strategy which helps prevent the seasonal lull in traffic between apparel collections. In many cases, this is all it takes for accessories to sell themselves, and sometimes the organic return is greater than an equivalent spend on digital ads! 

To take things further, incorporate your new line into your existing successful PPC campaigns, influencer marketing, and paid social initiatives. You’ll save quite a bit by utilizing existing channels, which will help maximize your ROI at the end of the day. 

Custom accessories have the power to widen your customer base and increase your market share  — affordably. They’re great for loyal brand advocates, who are already wanting to spread your message to the world. Most importantly, they’re a natural and profitable next step for apparel brands who are looking to expand their inventory. When you launch a brand extension using the steps above, you’ll be set to enter the accessories market with a solid strategy that maximizes benefits and minimizes costs.  

The/Studio is an on-demand manufacturing firm dedicated to helping brands learn how to do brand extension well. We’re proud to offer low MOQs and professional design services that make producing your accessories cheaper and easier, with proven high-quality results. Contact us to launch your next product. 




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