Karleen Ilagan’s life seemingly functions on serendipity.
The 29-year-old, who along with partner and artist Robin Guilfoil, owns the University District art collective Moksha, had moved back to her native Spokane after working at the store through college and a few years after graduating with a degree in biology from the University of Washington. At the time, Aleph Geddis, with whom she’d become good friends, owned the business.
“I was visiting Robin, and we ran into him,” she says of Geddis. “And he was saying, ‘Did you hear – Moksha’s closing after 12 years.’ And we were like, ‘That’s a bummer – it’s such a cool space, a great shop!’ And he kind of just put it on the table. ‘You guys should take it over!’” Within a month, Ilagan had moved back to Seattle.
“Our vision is to utilize a brick and mortar, not just use it to sell clothing, but to create a creative space for artists of all disciplines,” Ilagan says, “which is why our vision of taking it over was to open it more as a venue space by night, boutique during the day.”
“So many people fall in love with this space,” she says of the shop’s high ceilings, wood floors, and a back room that offers room for Ilagan’s yoga classes on Sunday nights, Guilfoil’s silk-screening of the couple’s clothing line Evergold, and art openings the third Friday of every month with live music, drinks, snacks, and the opportunity to speak with the artists. Moksha carries more than 15 local clothing and jewelry lines, including Annie Johnston’s modern tribal jewelry, and Bettie Brown knit hats and beaded bracelets made by Thee Satisfaction’s Catherine “Cat” Harris-White, who Ilagan met while attending UW.
“She came in for an art opening,” Ilana says of Harris-White. “I think it was our first opening after we took over, and it was very bare. We reconnected and exchanged contacts. She invited Moksha to be part of her Bettie Brown pop-up at Chop Suey. It wasn’t until February that we started carrying her merchandise, and even made an event out of it where she deejayed and performed some of her solo stuff.”
Another coincidence led Ilagan to teach yoga. “When I moved back to Spokane, I was trying to figure myself out,” she said. “There was one hot yoga studio I heard about, and I ended up going.” It turned out the owner had danced at the same ballet studio as Ilagan and her sister when they were younger, and they recognized each other immediately. “She started courting me to do teacher training,” she says. “Eventually I ended up managing the studio for a couple of years, as well as teaching, and then this opportunity presented itself.” In addition to yoga at Moksha, Ilagan teaches classes at a hot yoga studio on Capitol Hill.
Many artists’ paintings adorn the walls including the colorful ones of Guilfoil and Seattle artist Sofia Ibarra. An art opening April 17 with mixed media artist Alex McAdoo came about because they visited Sodo’s Studio 18, where they were working with a fashion designer who participated in their fashion show last fall. They met the designer through a mutual friend from Spokane.
May 9th will feature the musical experience of Theory: Norvis Jr, another installment in JusMoni’s series Theory. “She’s up and coming,” Ilagan says of JusMoni. “She has music artist friends from Oakland to Brooklyn, and she’s invited them to perform here, so it’s bridging that culture, using this space to create, meet people, and make friends.”
Ilagan says they are currently brainstorming for artists to invite for the University District Street Fair May 16th and 17th. “We’re just starting to pick up momentum,” she says. “It’s been fun, but it’s hard work. We work seven days a week.”
As for the coincidences, they’re endless. “Robin and I are 29, and our birthdays are only four days apart. The previous owner, Aleph, started Moksha when he was 28, and we took over when we were 28. You never know what the world will hand you,” she says. “But this is the one and only. It’s its own entity, it always has been. That’s why it’s a mission for us to continue this legacy.”