The Pro Files: How Designer Hila Klein Balances Her Brand Teddy Fresh and Her YouTube Career (Exclusive)

Klein — the CEO of Teddy Fresh and part of the 'H3 Podcast' — speaks with PEOPLE about her fashion brand

<p>Tati Bruening</p>

Tati Bruening

You may recognize her from the H3 Podcast, or maybe you’ve visited, or perhaps you’ve seen her brand worn by fashion stars like Heidi Klum herself. Regardless, Hila Klein has made an impact in both the fashion and creator communities.

After gaining traction on YouTube alongside her husband Ethan Klein — whom she is currently expecting her third son with — through their joint H3H3Productions channel, the Israeli-born designer, 35, created the streetwear brand Teddy Fresh in 2017.

But the Los Angeles-based brand — known for its high-quality products and, of course, teddy bears — started from a more unusual place. 

“At the time, Ethan, my husband, and I were just doing YouTube videos. That was our main thing and our only thing for a while. We were just making a video a week, and we were working together on that. But it picked up, and it became pretty big,” the CEO tells PEOPLE exclusively.

“But over the course of two weeks when the Adpocalypse happened, the revenue went down 80%, which was just insane,” she says, referencing the 2017 phenomenon where YouTube restructured its advertising guidelines, making many creators see drastic decreases in advertising revenue. 

“And it kind of shook us because all of a sudden you realize you're totally at the hands of this company, and you don't know what could happen at any moment,” she says. “You always hear you want to diversify, but that was a real moment where we felt like, ‘Okay, we need to do other avenues so that we don't have it all in one basket.’”

<p>Gilbert Flores/Penske Media via Getty</p>

Gilbert Flores/Penske Media via Getty

Using a “let's just try to go after it and see what happens” attitude, Hila dove head-first into fashion with Teddy Fresh, and Ethan, 38, began podcasting, where he is now a podcasting juggernaut who heads the massive H3 Podcast.

“And to our big surprise, both of them actually picked up and became our main thing now, which is pretty crazy,” Hila says.

Six years post-Adpocolypse, with her Magic: The Gathering collab and her upcoming appearance at ComplexCon this weekend in Long Beach, Calif., the CEO spoke with us about all things Teddy Fresh.

Is fashion something you’ve always been passionate about?

Growing up, I always cared about it, but I didn't have a lot of money — my parents were kind of on the struggling side. My mom sometimes had a little bit of money, so I would rather her not buy me a bunch of things, but one nice thing. I always cared about it.

<p>Tati Bruening</p>

Tati Bruening

Where did you start from when building Teddy Fresh?

What originally inspired me was I just really wanted to make stuff that I could buy — that was pretty affordable, but also really high quality for the price, and just fun, colorful, playful, creative. I always liked vintage stuff, and I felt like there was a world where you could combine elements from the playfulness of vintage clothing and also make it more accessible. And so I just noticed that I couldn't find what I wanted and started from there.

What were some challenges you faced in creating Teddy Fresh?

There were all kinds of challenges. One is the growing pains of a growing company. It takes time to figure out the positions that you even need. Starting out, I had no idea. I had never worked in a fashion company or done anything in fashion, so I didn't even know what the company should look like or what the different departments and positions within each department were.

<p>Cindy Romero</p>

Cindy Romero

How did it work, then, running this company without prior experience?

You just learn as you go. Something happens, and then you realize, ‘Oh, that's something we need to address. That's something that we need to make sure doesn't happen again.’ Quality control, testing, things that you don't immediately think of when you're just thinking about a beautiful design — there's so many other steps that come with it to get a really good product at the end, even shipping. 

What’s a challenge that comes from selling clothes online versus in stores?

When you're shopping online, you don't get to walk into a store and try something on or feel it, and so you take a gamble as a buyer. Providing people with really good customer support is so crucial. 

What’s a typical day in your life like as CEO of Teddy Fresh?

Today, for example, was a bunch of fit meetings. We have different sessions with the different models where we just fit everything that we have that week. 

What do some other days in your life look like?

Sometimes it can be a costing meeting where we review: ‘Okay, we've sent out this new monthly drop to the factories,’ and we get back the pricing and we review, ‘Is this even going to work?’ Or if one style is getting really high price and therefore a bad margin, then we kind of workshop the idea a little bit and decide, ‘Okay, maybe we need to remove some of the details or maybe a wash is not necessary here, and we can make it without the wash and then meet the cost.’ So it's all kinds of meetings like that.

As CEO, I'm sure you're involved in everything at Teddy Fresh — what's that like?

I'm very involved in the design and all of the creative. I meet with the design team every time we launch a new collection, and we have a few meetings throughout from concept to sketch review and basically all the way until handoff, where we hand off the finished design collection to the development and production team. It's a lot. It's just ongoing. There's marketing obviously that I'm also involved in. Reviewing marketing concepts and models and photo shoot ideas and social media plans, deciding on new collaborations we want to pursue, for example. It's really kind of endless. 

How do you balance running a fashion brand while also being part of a large online community?

I just optimize my schedule, and I know I have a certain amount of time every week, and I just prioritize. If there's something I can't be at, I make sure somebody else can be in it or send me notes, or I'll go over it later at night. It's all up to scheduling, and my calendar is my weekly Bible. I check what's tomorrow on the calendar and kind of plan the day in my head.

<p>Cindy Romero</p>

Cindy Romero

How do you make time for the H3 Podcast?

With the podcast, I've kind of reduced my presence ever since Teddy Fresh became my main thing. And so I only do the Friday podcast generally, so I know on Friday I don't work basically at Teddy Fresh. It's kind of like my day off there, and it's my podcast day. 

I’m sure the H3 Podcast community supports Teddy Fresh — what’s it like to have that community while having a fashion brand?

It's amazing to see and it's kind of like our built-in marketing mechanism in a way. It's really cool. 

What are your long-term goals with Teddy Fresh?

My goal was always to make a brand that can last through the years, because I've seen brands come and go, especially in streetwear. You'll see sometimes something really gains traction out of nowhere and then disappears. And so I've always really admired brands that can stay for the long run. 

What’s it like seeing big-name stars like Sofia Vergara, Howie Mandall and Heidi Klum wear your brand?

It's so surreal. I can't even put it into words because I used to watch Project Runway as a kid back in Israel, and I never even thought in a million years that I would have a clothing line back then, not even a chance.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

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