Be Well

Former Intermix CEO Khajak Keledjian Wants Everyone to Meditate

His app's new update offers a guided session for any situation, anywhere.
Reading time 8 minutes

Breathe in, breathe out—simple, right? Like many rituals of self-care in today’s wellness craze, meditation is finally getting its moment in the spotlight. It trickled down through history from 5,000 to 3,500 BCE, found its way to every major religion, and eventually ended up in the routines of Fortune 500 CEOs the world over. Seems like they’re few and far between. And one of them Khajak Keledjian, founder and former CEO of luxury retailer Intermix, wants to stretch meditation’s practice beyond the elite and spiritual. Keledjian wants to take it to the masses.

After selling Intermix to The Gap in 2013, Keledjian became inspired by the boutique fitness studio craze and invested in cycling studio concept Flywheel. And in light of his personal search for the perfect meditation practice for him, was sparked his idea for Inscape—he knew he could do the same for meditation as other brands have done for the likes of cycling and boxing. And he wanted to add the Intermix-touch.

When Keledjian founded Inscape in 2016, “Meditation Reimagined” was his initial goal. He wanted to create a space that could take something as diverse as meditation—from ‘average’ mindfulness to more intensive practices like Kundalini yoga and and practices associated with Theravada Buddhism—and repackage them all under one roof, in a way that the common (and ideologically neutral) folk could understand and actually do. And true to his retail genes, he also wanted to provide a shopping experience that fit the ‘Inscape lifestyle.’ What’s meditation without a world takeover?

Today, Inscape’s customer base spans more than 100 countries in six continents and Keledjian still believes that his multifaceted boutique studio, offering meditation, relaxation, and a curated boutique has much more potential for growth. At Inscape, people are able to reap the widely accepted benefits of meditation, like stress relief, , and better sleep, on their own time: Inscape’s in-studio meditation and relaxation sessions, the studio’s two core formats, are set on a consistent schedule and the ‘classes’ can be booked directly through Inscape or even through third-party platforms like ClassPass. The on-average, 35-minute sessions themselves even resemble the structure of today’s most popular fitness classes—light, sound and a meditation facilitator all contribute to each experience. The company also recently unveiled an updated app which offers the exact same sessions in the form of audio-guided episodes for people to use on-the-go, wherever they wish. The app’s sessions are categorized by time-of-day and offer tools for just about every situation meditation could be helpful for: Need an energy boost? Press play on the energy-booster episode! Having trouble falling asleep? Open up the nighttime category for a complete sleep-aid menu.

Now, on the company’s two-year anniversary, Keledjian imagines a world where other people searching for the right practice don’t have to commit to just one practice—they don’t even have to look very far. Thanks to Inscape’s app they don’t even have to get out of bed.

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How did you initially envision packaging the experience of your 5,000-square-foot studio into an app… how similar or different are the 605+ experiences you plan to offer?

From day 1 I knew there had to be an app. I knew that people cannot always come—it’s not realistic. You need something to keep your anchor, to stay grounded. Technically, if you cannot come into the studio—which I knew that there’s a large population—you still get consistency across the channels.

 

When you use the app, I’ve personally found that it is very reflective of Inscape’s space—the color scheme, the sounds, the same voice you hear in-studio during sessions, and the sessions can be short but they can also be as long as they are in-studio. How important was it to remain consistent in that respect?

You hear the same voice lead the meditation, and you become very familiar with the content. Everything in the studio is choreographed. This is a curated experience. The sound, the volume, the lighting—it was almost like creating a movie. We’re still perfecting it—it’s endless. And the same goes for the app. Yesterday we did a testing of a new concept and I had someone who didn’t want to leave the meditation—she told me she wished she would’ve stayed for another 20-minutes. My goal is always to give you an experience where you’re not counting the time.

 

Are the people who physically come into the studio already familiar with the practice? Are they meditation pros?

People that come in say, “yes I go to SoulCycle,” or they say, “I watched Game of Thrones.” I’m like, what does Game of Thrones have to do with meditation? They get confused between a distraction versus a practice that brings you awareness, but not about anything that happens to you in the room. Meditation is about what you do outside of the room as you’re living—the way you eat, the way you breathe, the way you speak, the way you exercise. Lately, I’ve been sleeping five-and-a-half hours a night. Not because I force myself to wake up, I just don’t need it anymore.

 

How life-changing is that experience? When people experience ‘real’ meditation? Do they immediately feel like they’ve tapped into a secret of success? Is that how you felt when you first tried it?

On one side it’s like a gift, once you tap into it. And you know that other people can benefit from it, but they don’t know how to get benefit from it. I’ve been lucky enough, the success I had at Intermix as an independent entrepreneur—my friend that I have, that was kind of like a curator of all the different practices around the world, that’s what he does. It’s different breathing patterns or different techniques of meditation—most people pick a lineage and they go after that, right? But he was an explorer, tapping into many practices. Once I learned that, wow, there doesn’t have to be just one, what I need on a Wednesday evening will be different than what I need for a Sunday morning, I was like—this is like Intermix in a way. How do you know who is the best designer or how to pick the best item? I said why don’t I pick all of them, put them under one brand, without any heritage, lineage or to any particular practice, very secular, and let the audience and guest make the choice. That gives it diversity because I didn’t have an attachment to any one of them. I do a different practice at a different time.

 

Is making Inscape secular—void of any attribution to one ideology or religion—the key to how you see its success in spreading meditation as a daily practice to the masses?

Absolutely. Going back to what were my challenges, right, when I talked about meditation and I talked about monks—I was like, why would I want to do that? I’m never going to be living out of society, it’s not relevant t me, it’s very nice, but it’s not for me. So totally—there are many parts. When we say ‘the Intermix idea,’ in hindsight that wasn’t my plan, just the natural way things happened. I guess my instinct naturally takes me there. In terms of Intermix versus Inscape, one is inward and one is outward, but at the end of the day, both of them provide a change of pace. Now, I think it’s the new way of doing things. One person just pitched me a couple weeks ago and said “feeling good is the new looking good,” and I thought that was a great sentence. I feel responsible, sometimes, that you have to share with others.

 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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