Internet impresario follows his passion for fashion

YouTube's Chad Hurley and his business partner are now hoping do to retail what the Internet has done for video.
February 15, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Last year, one of the Bay Area's top tech executives stepped down as CEO of YouTube to focus on a new industry -- fashion. Chad Hurley and his business partner are now hoping to do to retail what the Internet has done for video.

You might expect to find one of the tech world's leading businessmen shopping on San Francisco's trendy Fillmore Street, but you might be surprised to find out that one of those executives founded one of the stores.

"It's all design. You're creating a product that that hopefully people enjoy," Hurley said.

Hurley is probably best known as co-founder and CEO of YouTube. In 2005, he quietly helped launch a clothing and leather goods brand. He wasn't able to focus on his passion for fashion until he stepped down from YouTube last October.

"Really early on, we kept quiet about it because we really wanted the brand to stand on its own," Hlaska co-founder Anthony Mazzei said.

Hurley studied fine art and graphic design in college. He teamed up with Mazzei when he realized that there was a growing need to meet the fashion demands of Silicon Valley executives. Together, they formed a company to create high-end bags, wallets and other accessories for men looking for a middle ground between hipster bike messenger and stuffy businessman -- and that's how Hlaska was born.

"The word is literally a combination of Hawaii and Alaska. This is a combination of extremes, but yet American, and for us we wanted to mix this somewhat professional look with a casual style," Hurley said.

"This is actually where we started as a brand, so we really like to think we have a wallet for every kind guy. Guys are very picky with the style that they want," Mazzei said.

The pair operates three stores the Bay Area in San Jose, Palo Alto and San Francisco, as well as Hlaska.com.

"It's not something we're dabbling in, and we are just trying to create, you know. After I did the Internet thing, it's something that's been a process," Hurley said.

This year, Hlaska introduced a line of men's shirts, jackets, pants and hoodies.

"We make all this clothing in the Bay Area," Mazzei said.

That's one of the ways that Hlaska hopes to set itself apart from the competition, by making its products in the United States -- many items at their Burlingame headquarters.

Their products are designed in the Bay Area and supplies are purchased locally. Hurley and Mazzei even sell watches made in San Francisco. They say it's all part of their plan to build on the spirit of innovation that has come to define the Bay Area.

"I think it's one of the places that you have a great opportunity to create a brand be -- it in the fashion world or the Internet industry," Hurley said.

The pair feels out-of-the-box thinking is what's driving their growth. They are hoping to take after other Bay Area fashion icons like Levi's, The Gap, and Banana Republic and go viral across the nation with Hlaska. They have stores and hope to open more in other major U.S. cities within two years, but they say they'll do it on their own terms and at their own pace.

"I think too many times when you are in these industries, you continue to do things again and again because that's always been the way it's been done. For us, we don't have any of that baggage," Hurley said.

Hlaska is planning on branching out this summer when they release a women's line of handbags and outerwear.

Written and produced by Ken Miguel


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