There will surely be plenty of people eager for meditation’s mind-calming and heart-opening benefits in the wake of the presidential election. Search the Internet for meditation centers in New York City, and Google turns up pages of results.
Khajak Keledjian, whose trailblazing Intermix stores put the likes of Yves Saint Laurent, Chloé, and J Brand side by side on the shop floor, has tried them all. Keledjian became a serious meditator in 2007, right around the time the recession hit; the stress of running a 40-door retail operation led him to the practice. Transcendental, vedic, mindfulness. Each center had its pluses, but mostly Keledjian saw the minuses, be they dusty spaces or not-up-to-snuff teachers, so he meditated in his homes in Manhattan and Sagaponack. His practice made his brain clearer and his body fitter. “It gave me the answers,” he is fond of saying. Following the sale of Intermix to Gap for $130 million, his wedding, the death of his father, and a cathartic trip to Burning Man, a brain wave hit. Why not apply the mix-and-match philosophy he made his fortune with at Intermix to a modern meditation center?
Enter Inscape, a 5,000-square-foot mindfulness center opening today at 45 West 21st Street in the Flatiron neighborhood of Manhattan, and the simultaneous launch of an Inscape app that includes guided meditations, sound baths, relaxation techniques, and breathing exercises. Keledjian knew he was onto something when a 2014 article about his personal meditation practice was published. “I was approached by people who don’t even know me. ‘Where do you go?’ ‘How do you do it?’ Some recommendations worked, some didn’t, and I realized there’s a need for a concept like this that lives in the physical and the digital.”
What sets Inscape the brick-and-mortar space and Inscape the app apart is two-fold. First is its nondenominational approach, and second is its teacher-free classes. Sessions in mantra, focus, and mindfulness styles are led by audio guidance in two immersive, surround-sound studios. There are no gurus at Inscape, and Keledjian sees that as a selling point. In fact, he interviewed more than 200 voice professionals before choosing an employee whose accent mingles Australia, South Africa, and California to be the voice of the brand. She’s known as Skye. Keledjian and his business partner Lew Frankfort hired the Dutch architect Winka Dubbeldam, noted for the folding glass exterior of her 497 Greenwich building, to design the Inscape space. Dubbeldam created a pair of studios. The larger of the two, the Dome Room, takes its cues from the wood temples of Burning Man, complete with LED lighting; meditation props designed by Jeffrey Bernett for Knoll, Herman Miller, and Ligne Roset; and alpaca blankets from Ecuador. Inside, the hurly-burly of Manhattan falls away. (This I can personally vouch for, having completed an impromptu lunchtime meditation that felt like the shortest—and best—33 minutes of last week.) Classes lengths are 33, 44, 66, and 88 minutes. The smaller studio, the Alcove Room, will house a rotating list of artists’ works. First up is Tini Courtney, whose months-in-the-making 18,000-foot rope installation looks like a giant-sized dream catcher. It’s an apt metaphor for the Inscape project.
This is not a business for me; it’s a lifestyle,” Keledjian says. Remember, though, he opened nearly 40 stores in the 20 years he ran Intermix. Frankfort transformed Coach into a $5 billion brand and became an early investor at Flywheel. Just how big Inscape gets and how quickly is up to the customer, Keledjian insists. But it will get bigger. Says Frankfort: “People are looking for much more balance in life, looking for ways to be more connected with who we are. I’m hooked on it.” Studiogoers can grab a kombucha on the way out, or select from an array of beauty products and gifts, including Haeckels skin care and Keap Candles.