A Chat with INTERMIX CEO Khajak Keledjian

The 41-year-old co-founder of INTERMIX, which now boasts 40 location and two new ones in Miami (Lincoln Road and Bal Harbour,) is the very definition of success. Starting as a sales clerk at Benetton not long after his family arrived to New York City from war-torn Lebanon, Keledjian has a knack for not just sales, but merchandising, and figuring out exactly what’s next. Maybe that’s why Gap has smartly kept him on as CEO, even after Keledjian sold INTERMIX for them for $130 million in 2012.
Tell me about your exclusives.
Collaborating with great designers to create unique pieces is part of our DNA. We’ve got strong partnerships with the designers we carry – they look to us for feedback because we know what our client wants and what excites her. We work with most of the designers we carry to create completely new styles and sometimes even new deliveries and collections – about 30% of our merchandise is exclusive to INTERMIX.
To celebrate our new stores this year, we asked artist Pieter Ceizer and ELEVENPARIS to create limited-edition sweatshirts. We’re debuting them one at a time, with each city’s design launching at the store opening. The Lincoln Road sweatshirt says “Magic City” for Miami. Also, just for Lincoln Road, we’ve brought in some exclusive handbags from Metal Skin. The designer is from Miami and the colors and the exotic skins have a very Miami vibe.
How has retail changed since the early 90’s?
When we opened our first store, the geography of retail was different. Now with e-commerce, everything from across the globe is right at our clients’ fingertips. So, at first your competition was in the neighborhood, then it became domestic, and now it’s international and very digital. The need to deliver an exceptional in-store experience and an online experience that mirrors it is key. The other difference is our vendors are now opening their own brick & mortar stores and ecommerce sites more than ever before.
How did you choose Francesco Locastro for the mural?
We like finding strong talent and supporting them early on, especially when that talent’s local. Locastro’s modern vibe is sophisticated but it has an edge – like INTERMIX.
How do you choose new brands to go in Intermix and how do you treat trends?
Sometimes we discover a designer on the street, we get a recommendation, we see them at shows and on Style.com. Our inspiration comes from the shows, street style, magazines, art, music, travel and we combine the creative side with data, and instinct. INTERMIX is an incubator for up-and-coming designers. We discover what’s next, and our clients expect us to deliver it.  In retail, you need to be different, and set yourself apart. We see the same shows that our competition sees, but we imagine telling a different story. Then we select designers and only certain pieces from their collections for us to style with the unique INTERMIX twist. We’re always out in market and in meetings with vendors and designers. This spring, we added around 100 new vendors. Our buyers are very talented at balancing the next “it” style with of-the-moment pieces to make our assortment exciting but still relatable.
There are 3 different stores in Miami. What differentiates each store?
The market in South Florida’s unique because there are different types of customers from Lincoln Road, Collins Avenue and Bal Harbour. The Lincoln Road client has a downtown edge; she’s a bit chiller than our clients on Collins Ave and wears her Valentino flats with rag & bone denim cut-offs. Our Collins client is wearing the latest, if not the next, must-haves – she’s less casual than the Lincoln Road client. Our Bal Harbour client has a refined chic look. She shops for specific occasions and she likes designer separates to mix into her looks. In that sense, the market’s distinct because there’s such a range of shoppers and styles but they’re all looking to us for our mix and our unique styling.
How did you pinpoint Miami as the place to focus on for multiple store?
The Bal Harbour boutique and Miami stores are doing phenomenal business and we have the demand to support another store. We’re also renovating and expanding our Bal Harbour flagship. There’s an influx of capital over the past few years on Lincoln Road and the street’s attracting international and domestic retail tenants and consumers. Over the years, we’ve watched where our clients shop, and then we open there – we like to be in their neighborhood, a regular stop when they walk by on the way home or on the weekend.
Who do you see as the quintessential Intermix customer?
The INTERMIX client has strong personal style in an individualized, unexpected way.