Brothers Darrin and Dustin Build HAALA Denim from the Ground Up
In 2010, when brothers Darrin and Dustin Haala (pronounced hah-lah), co-founders of HAALA Denim, decided to dive into creating their premium jean brand, they never imagined their target market would be the equine community.
“My brother and I have always been best friends and talked a few times about creating a business,” Darrin said. “We had no idea what that would be, but determined it should be something we both like.”
That something ended up being streetwear jeans. They experimented with DIY washes and embellishments in bathtubs, sinks, and washing machines.
“One thing led to another, and soon, we wanted every part of the jeans to be ours,” Darrin said. “After some time contemplating, we decided to take a dreamer’s chance. I remember the phone call. It was very late at night. Dustin was ready to go for it, and so was I. It gave me comfort and confidence knowing that, whatever would happen, we’d be chasing it together.”
“We remained working at our current jobs, and Dustin kept us going by plugging in money for all of the learning and testing needed throughout a two to three-year research and development process,” Darrin said. During that period, the brothers decided to move to Los Angeles to pursue the best place to build their brand.
“For the next six years, we committed to developing the brand with a hands-on approach, building up our team to make the best jeans possible,” Darrin said. “After tons of sampling, mistakes, trial and error, and money spent, I was able to gain invaluable insight on everything that goes into the product, from fabric, pattern making, cutting, sewing, washing, hardware application, finishing, quality control and all the little details that are required with manufacturing jeans.”
After years of hard work, and selling wholesale through various fashion retailers, they began searching for ways to get closer to their customers and find a more niche target market. After collaborating on a direct sales model, current sales director, Holly Gregg suggested that a pivot to the equestrian market might add the spark that HAALA Denim needed to take off.
“Holly’s insight gave us a good idea that jeans are a big part of the equestrian lifestyle,” Darrin said. “We saw a gap in the market for a more premium, clean, modernized jean for the horse world. Something that could be dressed up and ridden in.”
After attending the Quarter Horse Congress, Darrin understood the wear and tear that a rider’s jeans go through. So, he went back to experimenting.
“I went back to the drawing board and added an extra piece to the puzzle, which is now one of the main attractions to our product – our custom fabric,” he explained. “(Our original fabric) was nice but needed a couple of extra ingredients to make it stronger and hold its shape even better. The goal was to create a performance stretch denim that would be extremely comfortable, but durable with unmatched stretch recovery so that the jeans held their shape. Getting that fabric perfected took time, but we’ve now been producing it for the last three years.”
HAALA Denim spread the word about their product by attending large horse shows across the country. Their customers did the rest, bringing people up to the HAALA booth to get other exhibitors, trainers, and judges to try on a pair.
“There was a lot of talk about how well they fit and hold their shape,” Darrin said. “It was so fulfilling to see people walking around in the product that I’d spent the last eight years working so hard on. Little did I know, it was just the beginning. The equestrians really embraced it from there on out. They have been so supportive of us and made us feel welcome. Even though I didn’t grow up or compete in this industry, I have a huge appreciation for the lifestyle and community feel that this industry displays.”
Just a few years after breaking into the equine industry, you can find HAALA Denim at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala with its own storefront in Arena 2. Looking back, Darrin is proud of what he and his brother have built.
“My favorite part of building the brand has been building it together with my brother, and making our family proud of the name that’s behind it,” he said. “We’ve gained not only customers, but friendships along the way. I often find myself cheering someone on or feeling happy for them when their name is the last called in the class. We have learned so much about what our customers do, and that has been fun. We’d like to thank all of our customers for supporting our dream.”
CLICK HERE to view their ad in the May Fashion Issue of GoMag.