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But Johnny and Blackhart partners Chris Boland, left, and Jason Arnold, right, grew tired of working for others, and were preparing to hawk their houses to start their own brand.
That's when an alliance with Allyance fell into their lap.
Allyance was primarily a snowboard outerwear brand that had stalled. The owner, a "retired" 30-something New York investment banker, wanted to make it work or pull the plug, Johnny said. The two groups joined forces.
The Blackhart Brotherhood team brought industry contacts and design, marketing and sourcing expertise to the table. The New York partner, who they declined to name, brought money and New York fashion world connections.
The first Allyance line designed by Johnny and his partners is shipping this month to retailers.
They describe it as having a "retro sport feel with a militaristic twist and a dash of prep." They started small for spring with T-shirts, shorts and boardshorts, below, with lots of logos and branding messages.
The logo push is part of the plan to build buzz. Johnny said he took note of Bob Hurley's approach when he first started.
Bob surrounded himself with a powerful team, and got Hurley T-shirts with the Hurley name out in the marketplace and on all the right people, such as musicians.
Some stores that picked up the spring line include Michael K. in New York, Sun Diego, Spyder Surf, Hobie, and ZJ Boarding House.
For fall, Allyance jumped to a full cut-and-sew line with 250 SKUs, including jackets, pants, "punked up" sweaters, left, boardshorts and overshirts.
The home runs for fall so far have been the sweaters (right), jackets and overshirts.
The goal is to be relevant in action sports stores and fashion boutiques.
Given its experience, the Allyance team, which includes Dale Rehberg, who has worked with the brand since 2004, believes it can become a "brand of caliber in five years."
"You can be grass roots, be cool, and you don't have to be $100 million," Johnny said.
"You can be very profitable as a $25-million brand by doing it right. We understand profit and margins - not just the cool, groovy part of design. We know how to run a company."