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The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch - Sleepy Eye, MN
  • HAALA Denim brand created by native Sleepy Eye residents

  • Dustin and Darrin Haala grew up in Sleepy Eye, graduating from St. Mary's High School in 1999 and 2002, respectively.
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  • Dustin and Darrin Haala grew up in Sleepy Eye, graduating from St. Mary's High School in 1999 and 2002, respectively.
    They both went on to attend St. Cloud State University. Dustin graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Marketing. Darrin graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications.
    "We initiated HAALA Denim because we were looking to start a business that involved creativity, domestic craftsmanship and an overall concept that both of us could contribute to," Darrin said.
    They both agree that this venture happened rather quickly. It started as a hobby. Their first venture was making custom jeans in New York City.
    They took those sample jeans and went a step further by doing custom washes on them from their own bathtubs and washing machines that were impressive enough to get them their commercial wash house that they now work with.
    "Denim is an evolving canvas that can take on so many different forms," Darrin said. "The opportunity to work with something that we can be very creative with is what sparked our interest." 
    Darrin said being a model in NYC for the past five years has also influenced his curiosity about the other side of the business.
    According to the Haala brothers, HAALA Denim is all about fabric, fit and finishing. All of their fabric is
    supplied by Cone Mills, which is a world-renowned premium denim supplier.
    Perfecting a variety of fits was nearly a two year development, they said. The experienced pattern maker is the base of their technical abilities to create the fits and make necessary adjustments through the trial and error process. After perfecting the fits, they continue to work on several different washes and details in addition to creating the newest and most exciting trends.
    "The premium denim business is a small world of key designers who have a hand in several of the big brands that you see today," Darrin explained. "We feel that we have the drive and the talent to become one of those key players." 
    Their niche is that they create a contemporary, stylish fit that can still accommodate a wide demographic.
    "Many times the specific look of our favorite brands only work for a certain body type," Dustin said. "Through some tricks with our patterns, we have perfected fits that are unique and fashion-forward, yet can be worn by men and women of all ages." 
    Dustin added that the quality control and consistency of the garments is the key to creating a long lasting relationship between their brand and the customer.
    Their jeans are currently being made in Los Angeles, Calif., the denim capital of the USA for premium jeans. Los Angeles is a city that provides all artisans–pattern maker, sewing contractor, wash house, embroider and sample maker–in one central location.
    Page 2 of 3 - They said when creating a denim brand, there are several key subcontractors that need to be sought out. They have developed their Los Angeles team from the ground up by developing a relationship with a pattern maker, followed by getting sewers and a washhouse on board.
    "You can't do everything, so you try to put together a team of individuals who can work together and communicate well," the brothers said.
    Developing a sample product is one thing, but they also wanted the infrastructure to produce the denim on a larger scale.
    HAALA Denim has two styles currently being sold in an uptown Minneapolis store called Atmosfere.
    "The jeans had a 15 percent sell through the first few days they were on the floor; which is high in the premium market," Dustin added.
    The line is also being carried by a Las Vegas store, VASARI. They have also gained recognition from a nationwide store called SCOOP, as well as meeting with Bloomingdales and Norstrom, who have given good feedback about the line.
    "Our goal is not only to begin building our brand in the boutique market, but also to get our inventory and cash flow moving so we are ready to make a smooth transition into larger productions for bigger stores," Dustin said.
    According to the Haala brothers, several steps had to be taken and will continue to be taken in order to execute production and get the jeans distributed.
    It takes about three tries to get a base fit to work with a specific wash or treatment. Everything from the shape and dimensions of the pockets, belt loops, stitching and details need to be communicated to the sewers in technical packages.
    Darrin creates all of the designs for custom buttons, rivets and leather patches within various software programs. The designs are used to make molds for embossing and branding.
    "Everything down to the letters used in our logo has been custom created," Dustin said.
    After beginning this venture in 2010, the Haala brothers can surely say they have found their passion and this is what they want to make their life's work.
    "This experience has taken us beyond our imagination," Darrin said. "Three years ago, we couldn't have told you we would be designing jeans and have our own brand." 
    They said that the inspiration for this venture came from wearing premium denim and always searching for the latest fit and wash to wear as a consumer.
    "We also had inspiration to create an American made product and jeans are simply engrained in the culture of American men and women," the brothers said.
    They also credit their parents and sister for being supportive and energetic about their hard work.
    Page 3 of 3 - "Making each other proud is one of the greatest accomplishments we could ask for," they said.
    They also have a strong relationship built on trust between the Haala brothers. They own 100 percent of the company, 50/50 without any outside investors.
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