This blog post we’re talking about Brand versus Branding Your Apparel with Lisa Rosenberg from ClothingLabels4U. This topic is something we’ve talked a little bit about, but haven’t dived in deeply yet. It’s something that we feel isn’t done enough in our industry.

Brand Vs. Branding Your Apparel

What is the difference between branding products that you sell and establishing a fashion brand? We do have a number of people who purchase equipment and supplies from ColDesi and Colman & Company, who want to start their own clothing line. They’ve got a great logo and want to put it onto shirts and sell them. And they assume this is going to make them profitable (like Nike, Adidas, etc.). Unfortunately that doesn’t happen all that often. It’s very difficult to do.

Sometimes when you’re labeling your apparel, you’re labeling it because you have a brand that perhaps you’ve already built up. As an example, you specialize in fishing poles that are well known for their quality, and so you extend that brand into a few t-shirts that also have your logo on them. You already have an audience that may want to buy your branded shirts. Another example would be that you create shirts for your band or you have a recognizable name in a niche market.

When someone has some items that they’re already selling and they want to promote their brand, hopefully doing the t-shirt with their logo would help facilitate that. The labelling comes in where if someone likes the shirt and wants to buy more or wants to find out more about the brand, you have the information so that people can find you, to hopefully facilitate more sales.

Branding the apparel that you decorate.

We have a shirt from SanMar, it’s made by District and we were testing it out for DTG, and it has a tear away tag on the inside. That’s perfect because you can now put your own label there. Everyone’s going to ask “Hey where’d you get that t-shirt from?” They can look on the back of their t-shirt and know exactly which custom apparel shop made it.

Lisa, could you let us know a little bit more about how you started in your business and what you do?

I started, just like 90% of the people who need labels and are not a big huge company. I was making my own items, and I thought I needed a label. People were buying the items and I wanted to have them be able to find me if they liked the item. Or my big example is – if it was left on the beach and Justin Bieber found it, would they be able to find you?


Labels were so expensive and the minimums were so high I couldn’t afford that. So I continued making them and had these cheap printed labels that ended up fading, but it was all I could afford. Then I was wanting to market my items in a little bit of a different direction and I need more labels. I decided to search again for the labels that were out there, and I found again the same thing – high minimums and no one was willing to help me. It was very challenging, and I knew nothing about labels.


A company emailed me back and mentioned they offered woven labels. I asked them to send me samples and they educated me. The labels were really awesome and really reasonable and I thought, I think I can sell these. And that’s how it really started, almost 15 years ago.


I said I’m going to give people free samples, and they said “What are you doing? Never give anything away for free.” I said I’m going to do low minimums, and they said “Nobody does that.” I said I’m going to do no set-up fees, and they said “That’s unheard of, you can’t do that.” And I said just watch me.


Those were the three things that were frustrating for me when I was trying to find labels. I had no idea what I was doing, so I didn’t know what I needed, and so the free samples are very helpful. The low minimums are good because if you’re not Guess or Nike, or someone huge you can actually get a good quality label without paying a ton of money. And the set-up fees, I don’t even know why people do the set-up fees, those just irritated me in general.


We’re sitting here with the label package that Lisa sends out. It has a wide variety of different styles and types of labels. Could you talk about what it takes to get set-up and what kind of labels you offer?

We offer everything from just a simple satin printed, thermal printed, cotton printed, we really offer everything. But the main sample pack is for the general person who doesn’t have a clue as to what is out there and what will be best for them. We try to is include a variety of styles. The main three styles would be flat, end folded, or center folded. Then the different fabrics we offer there are four main fabrics: taffeta, satin, semi damask, and damask. We offer a variety of thermal printed, as a cheap, low minimum, quick turnaround option. Which some people opt for for the care labels. We have in-stock size labels. Then we offer a variety of hangtags, leather labels, patches, zipper pulls.

Let’s talk about application methods. You’ve got some that are heat applied and some that are sewn on. Are those pretty much the options?  

Those are pretty much the two options. We do offer a self-adhesive, but it’s not able to be washed and is really for things that can handle a self-adhesive without having an issue. Like a photo album that you could put a sticker on. For the heat applied, we offer a satin, a woven, and then we also offer the transfers. Most of them do require a heat press, but we have had people who’ve tested them with their home iron, and it’s worked fine. Those are the three main iron-ons. But those aren’t going to be as long-term wear as the sew ons.

A lot of our customers are going to have heat presses. How many washes would you expect a heat pressed label to last?

That is a very hard question to answer. It depends on the fabric they’re putting it on, as well as how they wash the items. We recommend that people test them to be sure they’re going to work as they need them to. Because everybody is doing something different. Then of course you can’t ever control how the end user washes the item. So it’s a little bit tricky. Even when you get high-end stuff at the mall, if you wash it with hot water, the transfer is probably not going to last as long as if you were washing it in cold water.

This is a conversation we have with our customers every day. If you’re in the t-shirt transfer business or you’re doing any printing or vinyl, how long it lasts depends on what the material is, how well you applied it in the first place, did you turn it inside out, are you washing it with denim.

Could you tell us more about the other option of sewn on tags?

Typically people will use those for outside branding on a hem tag or a sleeve. A lot of those are becoming more popular. We offer those as a wraparound type of item, and they can be end folded as well. That’s the latest and greatest spot for people to have labels. For the label to stand out while the person is wearing the shirt, versus having the tag on the back of the neck where it’s hidden.


Just on the hem. Which is why it’s called a hem tag. And they do it along the long part of the hem sticking out. I think that started with the sports having those tags on the bottom of the tank tops, and people figured out they could put a smaller tag on the hem and get their branding more visible, which is kind of nice.

Let’s say you are a bling designer and you want to put a tag on the sleeve or the hem, this is a great way to brand something and have people see your company name.

And when you guys mentioned the tear away tags, some people just would leave that in with the care content on there, either heat press or transfer their logo on the neck and then do some sort of branding outside piece with a woven sew on. Or you could really do an iron on at the sleeve or the hem, but then I don’t know the durability of that.

Now we’re talking about using it for a couple of different applications, in different areas. You could use these tags for custom use or care instructions. For example, a 100% cotton t-shirt from SanMar has machine wash cold instructions, but if you’re doing bling and you’re concerned about the rhinestones, you would create a label that recommends hand wash cold, turn it inside out, or use the delicate cycle. If you want to take extra care of your customers, then you can add this with any of these labels.

They are completely customizable and we try to help people customize them in the most efficient way, so they can get all the details on there without having a book for people to read. That sometimes is challenging and there’s also different label laws for different items. Which can be found on the Federal Trade Commission website. If you follow what the manufacturer has on there and then add in your part, you’re typically in good shape.

So I could tear away the logo from the shirt that I’m printing on, add in my logo tag and then recreate the other label in my own colors and branding and still provide all the necessary information, about where it’s made, the sizing, wash instructions, etc. Doing that takes things to another level, and helps legitimize you as a brand.

Sometimes people who are just starting I recommend not reinventing the wheel right at the get-go. If there was a separate logo and care label that would apply with the size they would just potentially keep that and just focus on their branding at the beginning to get started. Then when they evolve, because things always change in this industry, whether it’s you’re doing t-shirts and someone sees a beanie, or a hoodie, and you get wrapped up in that and you start selling those more. You can be more flexible to adjust to what you need, or the logo label that you purchased, whether it’s a transfer or a woven could be used on any item. Versus if it does have all that information you are limited. You don’t want to be limited when you’re spending money on not a lot of labels and then finding you’re not able to use some.


We try to help people to say, here is your options. You can get them all with your information customizable, sometimes the minimums are higher when you go that route. Or, stay simple, just do your own logo for now, brand everything, then once you get rid of that smaller quantity, then you’ll be better educated to know what you want to do going forward. And what you need and what sells. Just because you have a bunch of mediums, perhaps they run small and everyone is buying extra larges.

By replacing the t-shirt brand label people can see your brand and search for your company instead of the t-shirt brand and perhaps find several other custom apparel shops that carry that t-shirt brand as well.

Most people want to facilitate more sales, so anything you do and spend money on you want to help promote your brand and people buying more from you.

There’s two lessons in this so far. One is everyone reading this blog post should be doing this labeling on one level. And the second is that you need to determine what level, what’s the strategy of your business, and where are you. If you’re particularly small and this will be your first endeavor into it, and you’re not sure where to go, you can purchase a variety of either heat applied or sew on labels that are strictly branding. They’re going to say “HotT-ShirtShop.com” whatever your company name is. Then you can apply those to every garment so that customers (end-users) that have one of your garments is going to see your branding and can look you up.

If you already have an established business and you know what’s being order, you know what your niches are, you know who you sell to, and you want to take it to the next level up, then you can reinvent the entire label as well, if you wanted to.

You have to pick what’s best for your business. Don’t dive in too deep in the beginning.

You have been a small business person, we have customers who are in the printed t-shirt business, they’re selling maybe 400 t-shirts a month. Do you envision them going down and buying a sewing machine to sew labels on?

That’s the other challenge about the sew ons – who’s going to sew them on? Sewing them on can be done by yourself, with a sewing machine, or there are retagging companies out there that will also put your design on the shirt. Or you can go to a dry cleaners – if you don’t have too many – and see what your options are locally. The challenges is too, that if you’re shipping them off somewhere you’re increasing the costs to get the batched shipped somewhere and sewn on.


Another thing I tell people they can do is go to a local sewing shop and they would know people that could help them sew stuff on.

You could start a relationship with someone else, perhaps who has a sewing business.

That would be a good start. Then if you’re getting so many, and you have a staff, then I would say it’s going to be cheaper to get a sewing machine and get them sewn on in-house.

There’s often a lot of these scrap and sew stores where you can go into or make a phone call to and say “Hey I’m a local apparel business. I’m looking to put my own labels on all my apparel. I’m doing maybe 250-300 a month.” And they can probably connect you with someone.

They could also probably teach you how to sew so you can put them on yourself.

We’ve got some customers that do heat transfer, and that’s why they do their own custom labels with their heat transfer system.

If we wanted to do one of these heat applied labels, could you give us an idea of what an order looks like, what it’s going to cost to get going, and what it’s like to do business with you.

First of all we would request as much information as we can get as to what they’re putting it on, what style they’re looking to do, if they’ve tested the samples we sent them, and what works best. Then we would get the logo and the information they’re needing and figure out are they putting sizes on them, are they needing care content, all those different options. Figure out the size of the labels and then get them some pricing. Now the minimum for any of our iron on options, would be about 150 labels, sometimes we can do less. If there are sizes on them, then we need a minimum of 500 and it’s usually 4-5 sizes,so about 125 per, to get to 500. Obviously if they need more then that’s better as we can get the price down for them.


There are so many different options, and people just want to email me a logo, and say “Here’s what I need, how much?” I try to ask questions, and it can be very challenging, because I don’t think people really think about labels too much.

I try to tell people that these aren’t cheap and you’re going to want them to work for you. The biggest pain in the butt is buying something and you’re excited, but when you get them it’s the wrong size, it’s not what you thought, it’s not working like you need it to. We try to take the time to help them so that we can get them an order they’re going to be happy with and they can do with what they need to.

That’s more important than, “Is it cheap, quick, and easy.” Because if it isn’t right, it doesn’t even matter at that point.

We’re looking at one of your samples, let’s say I needed 1,000.

For the woven, heat press on, 2 color, we could do it for perhaps around $425, plus $50 for the iron-on part, and then the shipping. The nice thing we do offer for most of our orders, is that we do a sample for the client before we make the entire production run. We offer to send that to them so that they can be sure everything is good, and we don’t charge anything extra.

At less than 50 cents a piece this particular label is top of the line, premium.

When you jump to 2,000 it’s typically only about $100 more. So that will get the price point way down.

If we wanted a full color, complicated logo, what difference in the pricing would that make?

Typically we like to stay within about 6 colors max. The size, the style, and the colors are what are influencing the pricing. Maybe $450-475 price range for 1,000. Doing a full color and a bit bigger label. Then of course the $50 for the iron on backing. We try to keep it reasonable and work with people.

It’s not that much money and you can brand every single item. When you break it all down, you’re not breaking your pricing strategy by adding this.

It also depends to what type of item you’re branding. That will influence or guide you to what’s going to be best. I also tell people you can always take a look at what other people are doing to say “I like that, that’s going to be a good fit for my stuff.” That’s a very helpful tool without going crazy and ordering a bunch of samples of your logo.

The first decision you have to make is whether or not you’re willing to sew or contract out the sewing, or if you want to use a heat press. That’s a big determining factor for our customers.

To slightly shift gears here, there are a multitude of reasons to start labeling. We’ve mentioned it allows you to add your own branding and to add specific instructions for care and washing. In looking at the samples Lisa provided us, there’s this one label that reads “Made exclusive for Trenton Country Club.” Which is really interesting. If you’re making something that is being re-sold in stores, now you can talk to them about getting their logo put onto the clothing.

Perhaps there’s a local resort and you’re making towels, t-shirts, or caps for them, you can talk to them about adding a label that reads “Made exclusively for xxxx.” It’s about taking it up another level for your customers. And that’s something that you can charge a few extra dollars for as well. It’s also something you can offer above what your competition may be offering, giving you an edge.

Our customers are often trying to figure out how to make more money, how they’re going to get business over their competition. What we talk about all the time, is that if you try to be the cheapest in town, because that’s the easiest route, then you’re going to be working really hard, and not making the money you really want. Plus, it’s not going to leave you with a positive attitude about your work.

If you’re looking to take your apparel and best your competition, not only through sales, good quality product, and good customer service, but also, you can change the perception of the apparel that is being delivered.

We say one of the best things is to wear your own apparel, go out, talk about it. If you’re going around showing product, trying to get local small businesses or organizations, make sure you have a sample to show them the quality of the product that you can provide. If they pick up the shirt and one of the things they see is a label that matches the logo on your shirt and on your business card, that’s impressive.

Think about this, what if every customer you’ve sold something to, had your website stapled to the back of their neck?

That’s the smartest way to do it. Sometimes people talk to us and want to get hangtags instead of labels. But what do people do with hangtags? You don’t see people walking around with their hangtags on their items. They throw them away. Maybe they keep them in a drawer if they like your item, but that’s not going to help when someone’s walking around and someone else says “I like that shirt, where did you get that?”

You mentioned earlier that you offer a variety of hangtags.

We offer fabric hangtags, paper hangtags, recycled, dye cut, strings and pins, grommets, a few others as well. There’s a wide variety of those options that you can enhance your branding with as well. Depending on whether you’re in a boutique and you’re trying to compete with other items in the boutique, or definitely on any kind of retail situation. Those hangtags are required for inventory purposes, so the store owner can put their stickers on there and keep track of what they’re selling.

We have a friend who’s selling to individual stores, and one of the things he had to do was have a separate tag, so the the store could affix certain things they needed to have for their corporate standards and branding.

You want to have a resource to go to so you know where to get this stuff and someone educated about it so you can talk to them about whether you’re doing it the right way. There’s this saying that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but books with great covers often sell more. (But really they’re not talking about books.) This idea applies to grocery stores as well, you pick up things that seem interesting. Being in marketing, we’ve often bought something because the packaging was great, we appreciated the effort that went into the design and it was a great design.

You have to realize that it costs those companies more money to have those creative, individual designs. So why would they do that? They could just put it in a clear bag with a sticker on the front. Because design matters.

If you’re doing custom apparel for an event, 500 t-shirts and 200 caps. It’s an investment to do a hangtag for each item, but there’s a reason that brands that have been successful do this.

There’s a lot of people out there trying to do what everyone’s doing. So to make yourself stand out like that, puts you above everyone else. That’s what you want. Otherwise you’re just going to one of many, instead of the one that stands out, that has the hangtags, that made it look nice, and impressed people with the marketing.

And you get to charge more for that. It has additional perceived value.

It’s funny because when you think about shirts and the branding, the average person probably doesn’t think anything about the labels and hangtags, but it does have an overall impression when you’re out shopping, versus the other one. If this one looks more professional you’re probably going to gravitate to that.

There are assumptions people make. When someone sees nice packaging, nice labeling, they assume a few things – the company/brand cares about the product and how it looks, how it’s displayed to their customers, and in turn they probably care about making a good quality product as well. The labels are just one simply things that shows that you care about your apparel and how your customers think about it.

We have some great shirts at home, that we really like, that we have no idea where we got them or what the brand is. How do you get more?

Funny enough I’ve had that happen to me. They had a label, and so I emailed them and said “Hey I got this shirt, it had your label in it, I really like the feel of the shirt. I was wondering what brand it was.” And I never heard back.

This is something that people who are in the business, and perhaps have read all our blog posts and listened to all our podcasts, can take away and use this information to improve their business. They could make more money and have a better business.

The best thing about what we do, is that we offer to send people free samples. All they need to do is go on the website and fill in their information, or email me directly – lisa@clothinglabels4u.com with their address and any special samples they may be needing. That’s very helpful for people that are just starting out, or maybe they’ve been doing something already and they’re not happy with the company or the quality. We would definitely be able to help.


Have a good business!