Mirror, Mirror: With Intermix, there's a new vibe on Walnut

The specialty womenswear store is organized by color. The labels are high-end established designers.
The specialty womenswear store is organized by color. The labels are high-end established designers. (RYAN S. GREENBERG / Staff)
Posted: September 27, 2012

Talk about the perfect closet.

Hanging out at Intermix is like chilling in a celebrity's glitzy 3,000-square-foot walk-in boudoir with track lighting.

The specialty womenswear store opened Friday on Walnut Street in the former Knit Wit space and is packed with pretty clothing, organized by color and outfit.

Even if I can't wear - let alone afford - all of the clothes in this store, I love this concept.

In one section, you'll find a pair of cobalt blue tuxedo jeans next to colorblocked sweaters, some blue and black, some blue-gray and black. Hanging next door are sheer floral shirts that would look great with those jeans. Funky bags and shoes, color-coordinated for these clothes, are nearby.

Across the store is a rack peppered with similar looks in burgundy. More tuxedo pants. More peplumed shrunken jackets. More sheer blouses. The labels are an assortment of high-end established designers like Diane von Furstenberg and Helmut Lang and newer ones like Michelle Mason and Parker; many make pieces, ranging in price from $300 to $1,600, exclusively for the store.

The whole vibe is very twenty- or thirtysomething, big-city, downtown New York, or maybe even San Francisco chic.

"From Day 1, the idea was to select the best items from European and American collections and mix them so the shopper sees the best of the best," said Intermix cofounder and chief executive officer Khajak Keledjian.

Keledjian, 39, who moved to the States from Beirut in 1987, opened the first Intermix in 1993 in New York's Flatiron District while he was still a student at New York University.

At the time, European brands dominated the fashion scene. So did mall shopping. However, fashion was on the cusp of change: The American contemporary designer was starting to get popular, people were just beginning to worship all things celebrity, vintage stores were going mainstream, and a "high-lo" mix was finding fans, rather than the old way of dressing in one brand from head to toe. Although specialty mall stores like Banana Republic already were displaying groups of outfit-friendly clothes together, Intermix took that aesthetic to urban centers, which, along with urban renewal, would help cities become shopping destinations again.

Intermix and Scoop, another New York creation that showcases clothes in the same way, laid out for women - including celebrities such as Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Kardashian - how to appear downtown chic in all the now labels. No one has to guess what might look good with what.

The Philadelphia store, which almost landed in Juicy Couture's space on the corner of 16th and Walnut Street, is Intermix's 30th. Market sources said the company was worth about $100 million in 2010, when there were 24 stores, WWD reported. Keledjian said he spent more than $1 million turning the store into a loftlike space.

As Philadelphia tries to earn more fashion kudos, a store like Intermix can have a big impact. Part of New York's inherent style cred comes not just from the many designers based there, but from the hordes of well-dressed women walking the streets. Philadelphia has its fair share of fashionable shoppers, but many lack a creative willingness to mix and match in a way that showcases true style.

The fact that Intermix came to Philadelphia instead of the King of Prussia mall also means the city has finally earned the cachet that might better attract upscale specialty boutiques like a stand-alone Diane von Furstenberg or Tory Burch.

"People who say shop in New York, or on the Internet, have no reason not to shop here," said Corie Moskow, executive director of Rittenhouse Row, the nonprofit marketing organization that promotes the shopping area west of Broad Street. Intermix "presents exciting new lines to the high-end customer, and it's good whenever nationals come to Philadelphia."

On the flip side, Intermix's move to Walnut Street means rents will more than likely continue to rise.

On the Walnut strip, once home to local independent retailers like Nan Duskin and Knit Wit, Joan Shepp is the only local boutique left. She's now nestled among new stores like Dr. Martens, Jack Wills, and Bettie Page, but she may be moving within the year as her rent has more than doubled.

Meanwhile, after the city's recent successful fashion-focused extravaganza - The Philadelphia Collection and Fashion's Night Out - stores continue to open on Walnut Street: On Thursday Anne Klein will open its first-ever flagship store.

Ironically, the Chief Creative Officer of The Jones Group is Scoop founder Stefani Greenfield, who was in town Monday putting finishing touches on the space that is also organized by outfit and color - although the only label sold is Anne Klein.

"A fabulous wardrobe is composed of individual and important separates," said Greenfield, who believes the store layout enables women to take more fashion chances.

"Fashion is all about evolution, not revolution."

Clearly a new way of shopping is emerging on a newfangled street.


Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or ewellington@phillynews.com. Follow her on Twitter at ewellingtonphl.

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