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Artist Profile: Hila Klein on Teddy Fresh and Ceaseless Creativity

Hila Klein, photographed and styled by Tatiana Bruening.
Hila Klein, photographed and styled by Tatiana Bruening. By Courtesy of Tatiana Bruening
By Hannah E. Gadway, Crimson Staff Writer

Hila Klein is a creative, and she is unafraid to embrace every facet of that identity.

Klein is the creator and CEO of Teddy Fresh, a growing streetwear brand which has been worn by celebrities such as Sofia Vergara, Heidi Klum, and Billie Eilish. The company boasts a wide array of artistic collaborations with brands like Marvel, Ripndip, and Looney Tunes. Outside of Teddy Fresh, Klein also co-hosts the Friday episodes of the H3 Podcast, one of YouTube’s most popular comedic podcasts.

While Klein now balances many creative endeavors, things didn’t start out this way. In an interview with The Harvard Crimson, Hila Klein expanded on the path that led to her current position.

After starting out on YouTube with her husband Ethan, the duo launched a podcast together. Diversifying her career through a podcast led Klein to explore other creative outlets.

“When we launched our podcast, we also decided to launch a clothing line, which I was kind of thinking was going to be my hobby and passion project,” Klein said. “And, very quickly, [Teddy Fresh] became my full time job, and more.”

Developing Teddy Fresh wasn’t Klein’s first experience with creative pursuits. Before starting her YouTube career, Klein studied art in Israel, where she is originally from.

“I think I've always been kind of a creative first, but not necessarily married to one medium,” Klein said. “When I went to art school, by design they made us take all kinds of classes. I did painting, sculpture, screen printing, video art, photography, basically all of it.”

“I think that really fit my personality because I can never fully pinpoint it, like, ‘Oh, I'm a painter,’ ‘I'm a fashion designer,’ or ‘I'm going to be this one thing,’” Klein elaborated. “I mostly have this creative energy that I like to explore.”

While Klein utilized her creative energy for many years through YouTube and her personal sketchbooks, eventually fashion became her main outlet.

“It was at a time where we were making like one video a week for YouTube,” Klein said on the birth of Teddy Fresh. “And I felt like I had more time on my hands. Like I wanted more for myself, I wanted to do more. And I always had this love for fashion.”

“And it was also at a time where I felt like when I wanted to go shop for myself, I didn't really know where to go to find the kind of stuff that I would want to find,” Klein said. “It was a combination of all these factors where I felt like I wanted another creative outlet outside of our videos.”

Quality is one of the defining characteristics of the Teddy Fresh brand. Klein’s unmatched eye for detail can be seen in every aspect of the brand’s clothes — from the high caliber of their fabrics to the iconic teddy bear logo that appears on every garment.

“The big thing for me is that I’m heavily involved in everything that we receive,” Klein explained. “As part of my daily [routine] at the office, I’m always looking at everything with everybody. It's definitely also a teamwork and collaborative environment.”

Klein’s enthusiasm for the small things is shared by her entire team. “I think I have probably such a passion for it that I've been very involved in it, and I slowly set a standard of what it is that we're looking for, so that everybody else on the team also knows how to comment and what's going to be good enough for Teddy Fresh.”

“We all kind of have an understanding now, and we know. If we see a shirt, we’re like, ‘Is this Teddy Fresh enough? Or do we need to add something?’”

One thing that has made Teddy Fresh so popular is its ability to maintain this attention to detail while establishing collaborations with iconic pre-existing brands. While Teddy Fresh was created only six years ago, it has already worked with IPs such as the Care Bears, SpongeBob, Elton John, and more. To Klein, staying creative while working with these partners is crucial.

“Whatever the guidelines are, there’s always going to be a creative way to make it feel special,” said Klein. “To me, whenever we collaborate with another IP, I don’t want it to feel like just merch, like I just took their graphic and put it on a t-shirt.”

“That’s what makes collaboration with us different than with other corporations,” she continued. “I don’t feel fulfilled enough if it’s just something very simple,” she commented. “I always try to push it as much as I can.”

Pushing the boundaries is key to Teddy Fresh’s growth. Since its creation, the brand has transformed from offering a small batch of unisex hoodies and shirts to producing a wide-ranging collection that includes everything from jewelry to dog clothes. When asked about other spaces that Teddy Fresh still has to explore — such as a possible line of Teddy Fresh sneakers — Klein revealed a few things that the brand is looking forward to.

“Yes, shoes are a big one for me,” Klein said. “I’m such a sneakerhead myself. I feel like for the longest time, I’ve been kind of waiting to see if I can find a partnership to collaborate with. I really want to be able to confidently say, ‘This is a really good shoe and you’re gonna love it.’”

While Teddy Fresh footwear is still in its early stages, Klein emphasized her excitement for expanding into that space. “I mean, I would really love to be able to see a full look, you know, head to toe,” Klein said.

She also alluded to another space: Cosmetics. “Pretty much just this year I started to fully enjoy makeup and do it,” Klein said. “So I'm starting to think about that.”

Teddy Fresh takes up most of Klein’s day-to-day attention, but it is far from her only creative outlet. Outside of Teddy Fresh, Klein manages a popular Instagram account where she shares her makeup and fashion looks. Additionally, she still co-hosts the Friday episodes of the H3 Podcast, alongside her husband Ethan Klein. The podcast allows Klein to showcase her favorite outfits to the channel’s audience of nearly three million subscribers.

“I feel like all the other days are like me going to work, when I go to Teddy Fresh, and then the podcast is like me going to a cocktail party,” Klein said.

Klein expanded on how her focus on fashion has become a key part of the Friday shows. “Slowly, I just started to dress more because I was enjoying it,” said Klein. “I don't do much on my day to day,” she explained, “so every time I would go to the Friday podcasts, it was kind of like my opportunity to dress nicer and wear something that I've been waiting to wear somewhere.”

“The crew can pretty much prepare everything, and Dan and Ethan, you know, they already do it so well,” Klein continued. “It really allows me to just show up pretty much and kind of just enjoy the fun.”

At the end of the interview, Klein shared her advice for young entrepreneurs, especially those who are working on establishing themselves in creative industries.

“It’s important to be true and authentic to yourself,” Klein said. “I think it’s more important for something to come from an authentic place, because, when it does, you’re not going to burn out. You’re going to always be excited to work on whatever this is going to be, and I think it’s going to drive you to the best results."

“Another thing is, sometimes it’s okay to start small,” Klein continued. “So whatever it is that somebody might want to start, you don't have to try to go for the big thing right away and overwhelm yourself.”

“Slow growth can be more steady and more sustainable,” according to Klein. Staying authentic to oneself has certainly worked for Klein, judging by the success of Teddy Fresh. While the brand started small, it has flourished thanks to Klein’s ceaseless creativity and passion and seems poised to reach new heights.

—Staff writer Hannah E. Gadway can be reached at hannah.gadway@thecrimson.com.

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