Moksha is a clothing and jewelry boutique shop in the International District, having moved here from the University District one year ago. They continue to provide unique and interesting products inspired by Asia. The International Examiner caught up with Karleen, co-owner of Moksha, to talk about their business, products, and future goals. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
International Examiner: How did you become the new owners of Moksha?
Karleen Ilagan: That’s a great question. Not a lot of stories start like this, but I actually used to work at Moksha back when it was in the U-District, and became good friends with the owners. And he actually sold it to my partner and I about four years ago, and that’s how we became the new owners of Moksha.
IE: Why did you move to the International District?
KI: We moved to the International District in hopes to build community. We wanted to be more accessible to our following, and the U-District was going under construction and rent was going higher, so we sought out this neighborhood to build more community.
IE: What differences do you see between the customers you had in the U-District and the ones you have now in the International District?
KI: With being in the U-District, a lot of our customers were students who had no money. So now moving down here, a lot of our customers are working people who work around here, or live around here, and I would say it’s a little older. But, we still have our following from our old space.
IE: I saw that “Moksha” is a term from Jainism. How did Moksha become the name for the shop, and what is the meaning behind it?
KI: So, Moksha is.. .also a Hindu term, and in Sanskrit it means roughly “liberation,” “freedom,” and it’s more of the idea of breaking the cycle of samsara, which is the cycle of rebirth and karma. …[O]nce you attain Moksha, you achieve freedom from that cycle.
IE: How is Moksha involved in the community?
KI: So, we support the local designers and artists by inviting them to carry their products in our shop, and they also like to host events, art openings or zine release [or] music release parties, just to create a space for community to come together and celebrate art.
IE: How do you select your products?
KI: Our products are a lot of one-of-a-kind things. …[S]ome of our designers have used recycled material to create new things, and that’s being one-of-a-kind; like, for instance, we have a line that uses recycled Indian silk saris to create dresses. And then we also have vintage kimonos that have been hemmed or upcycled to create a more modern look, versus traditional, so a lot of the things we carry are just one-of-a-kind pieces. …I would say that’s what we like to promote ー that you can’t find these things anywhere else.
IE: Do you produce original products? What is the story behind the “International” line?
KI: Yeah, we did in the beginning start silk screening ourselves and printing out T-shirts, just a limited number of designs, just to see how they would do. And they actually did pretty well, and with the International Line, we actually reached out to our friend, local artist Ari… he has a very distinct handwritten style of art. So we asked him to write the word “international” for us to promote our move from the U-District to International District.
IE: Did you make this “International” line when you moved to International District?
KI: Yeah, that was our idea behind it, to make the statement that Moksha is now “international” and it goes along with the theme of what we carry from our travels to Southeast Asia, to some of the local designers that use upcycled materials from all over the world.
IE: What has been your favorite event Moksha has supported so far? Can you tell me about it?
KI: Yeah! So we’ve always been a fan of local artists and musicians and carrying that with our move, we teamed up with Wing Luke [Museum] to host JamFest – [with] any artists of our choice – and we had Nic Masangkay, who did a spoken word [piece], Ansarel, who did an acoustic guitar and singing [performance], and Rogue Pinay had an album release party where they all performed in the space and packed the house.
IE: So, these events are about more than just clothes?
KI: Correct. Yeah, …the idea behind Moksha is an all-inclusive space to talk art and connect on that idea that everything is art.
IE: What has been the most difficult thing running a small business?
KI: Um, the most difficult thing about a small business is having time for myself. It’s kind of like having your own baby, you’re here to take care of it, make sure it runs properly, and it’s giving myself that space to still be me.
IE: What kinds of events are you planning for the future?
KI: Events we’re planning for the future? …[W]ell, our space now is not as big as our old space to hold such events, but we look forward to hopefully creating a block party or some kind of music event during Dragon Fest, or more night markets, and for Moksha itself just more release parties….
IE: Please tell us more about the night markets.
KI: Oh, the Night Market? Once every summer, King Street is closed off for food carts. [T]here’s a music stage by the [Nagomi] Tea House, and it’s where the neighborhood can just be out walking, eating from 7 or 8 and goes it until midnight or 2 [a.m.].
IE: Please tell me your future goals for your business.
KI: Future goals? Well, we’re just lucky to have landed in this awesome community, so we just hope to build more connections and collaborate with other businesses around here and create community through art.
Moksha’s opening hours are Tuesday – Sunday: 11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Moksha is located at 670 S King St. in the International District.
For more information, check Moksha’s official website: http://mokshaseattle.org/