Perhaps it was a childhood affinity for individuality that sparked the desire to create his empire. Or maybe it was just a matter of fate meeting opportunity, but Khajak Keledjian clearly remembers being the only member of his private school with a strong enough aversion to uniforms that he was given special permission to dress differently. “I used to say that the uniforms were itchy so I could have a reason to dress how I wanted, said Keledjian as he perused the inventory in the Soho outpost of his INTERMIX boutiques. “And I think that’s when it really started in the sense of standing out; maybe my allergic reaction was in my subconscious, but I never liked wearing the same thing [as everyone else].” The anecdote was amusing, but actually quite closely mirrors the driving force behind the widely lauded chain of INTERMIX stores that he’s created. By he, of course, I mean along with the help of his brother-cum-business partner, Haro Keledjian, who’s been his right hand man since the inception of the brand some 17 years ago. Together the twosome has taken what started as a single, free-standing, multi-label boutique in New York’s Flatiron district and multiplied it exponentially to reach the levels of retail stardom they have today. An extremely hands-on entrepreneur, Khajak’s involvement includes such crucial aspects of the business as marketing, merchandising, and business development; Haute Living caught up with the INTERMIX ring leader, otherwise referred to as Mr. Mix by passer-by street style photogs, at his Soho-located, Prince Street boutique, to chat the start, the store, then and now, and what it means to live an INTERMIX lifestyle.
“People thought we’d only work in the New York market,” recalls Keledjian. “Even I thought I’d have maybe one store uptown and one downtown; but when we went to Miami and realized [the concept] would work in other markets, they started to open one after the other.” The reason for the widespread success of the INTERMIX boutiques has very much to do with the Keledjian’s tailor-made approach to buying for the boutique—it turns out it’s all about intermixing. Not only in terms of the merchandise available in the stores, which does in fact reflect a nice balance of pieces by super relevant, top-notch designers, as well as on-the-rise stars, but also individually at each boutique, in every market. This feat achieved by localizing the buy to appeal to the lifestyle of the clientele who frequents each location—“it’s not a cookie cutter chain concept; say you’re traveling and lost your luggage, our customer needs to know she can come to us for the outfits she needs while on holiday, but know she’ll wear it all going forward when she’s back at home.” Not too shabby a concept—it’s refreshing for a retailer to take their shopper’s lifestyle into such consideration; a reality that’s evident even in the way the store is merchandised. “The stores are edited.” Keledjian’s analogy is quite fitting as the boutique really is broken down: “Daytime, ready-to-wear, eveningwear, sportswear, casual-weekend looks; the lifestyle is clear so she knows which way she’s navigating.” He continuously referred to the INTERMIX shopper as “she,” breathing life into the pronoun and speaking to the obvious connection he has with everything INTERMIX-related.