After Matthias Hug moved to Los Angeles from Switzerland to attend art school, he began to think of ways to make extra money to pay for his tuition. Then a lightbulb went on. He decided to create an elevated version of the iPhone case, which at the time was bulky, cheaply made, and for the most part, poorly designed. In 2013, “totallee’’ was born, and since then has manufactured some of the world’s thinnest and best phone cases.
“At the time I was living in a small apartment in Hollywood so I wanted to create a product that was small, light and would fit in my closet,” explained Hug. “A phone case seemed like the perfect choice. I wanted the brand name to sound catchy and related to California, so I came up with ‘totallee.’”
As the company grew, so did the need for space. Eventually when Hug’s apartment began to resemble a warehouse with boxes everywhere, he started the search for an office space, which led him to South Pasadena.
“I’d never been to South Pasadena before but as soon as I visited, I instantly liked it,” said Hug. “I love that it’s a nice small town in the middle of the big city. I grew up in a small town in Switzerland and I noticed a lot of similarities between the two. It’s very walkable and there’s lots of green everywhere. I moved here two years ago—it’s a great place to live and work.”
Over the past six years, Hug kept moving to larger offices around town to accommodate his growing company and team. Recently they moved into their fourth new space, which is located just off of Mission Street. The product line has also grown, now offering cases for iPhones, Pixels and Galaxy phones, in addition to screen protectors and a variety of accessories such as wireless chargers, phone ring grips and phone charger cables. The ultra-thin phone cases are available on totallee’s website, on Amazon and at Walmart, and come in an array of colors and materials, including transparent and leather options.
“We’re really known for our signature style, which is the super-thin phone case that we offer in three different options,” Hug pointed out. “Our most popular case is made of polypropylene, which is a thin plastic. There’s a clear case made of TPU (thermosplastic polyurethane), as well as one with a leather backing. Customers like our products because they’re not bulky, they offer scratch protection and grip, and they’re sleek and minimalistic, which is in line with the aesthetic of the iPhone.”
One of the challenges that Hug and his team constantly face is trying to stay on top of the latest phone trends and models, while making sure that they produce the right-sized case whenever a new phone comes out. While he admits that the process can be a bit nerve-racking, they’ve been correct every time so far.
Hug’s most recent venture has been the creation of a natural skincare line, Fleur & Bee, which launched in April and features high-quality ingredients at an affordable price. So far, the line has four products — an eye cream, face cream, toner and vitamin C serum — with a cleanser coming out in October.
“Even though phone cases and skin care are two different things, the one thing that unites them is the importance of taking good care of our customers,” said Hug. “My team and I are only here because of our customers, so we always send them thank-you gifts and do whatever we can to show them our appreciation for their continued support of our business.”
totallee is located at 1020 Mission St. in South Pasadena. For more information, call (855) 855-2627 or visit totalleecase.com and fleurandbee.com.
totallee Business Spotlight appeared in the print edition of the South Pasadena Review on 8.30.19. Support Local Business.