We had the good fortune of connecting with Imani Watts and Alexandria Hadley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Imani and Alexandria, how do you think about risk?
Imani: I think of risk as taking a chance not knowing what it could lead to, negative or positive. When I think about life, and what it means to live, it boils down to taking risks. Without taking risks, are we truly living or just simply existing? Our reality is the result of our decisions, and taking risks in life is what makes that reality so beautiful. With this understanding, I can conclude that risks play a major role in my life, and the way that I operate from day to day. Growing up, I have always been the spontaneous and adventurous type. Whether it be exploration in what hobbies I chose, or even just curiosity in the way things work in the world. I think this has all led me to my truest passions which are entrepreneurship and choreographing. I remember one of my first businesses at age 8 called ‘Glitter Girls’, where I reconstructed denim jeans into purses and even lunch boxes. I had no idea how to sew so I used craft glue and staples to hold them together. I didn’t have the resources or knowledge to start a real business at that age, but I had a vision. I took a risk and created products that later led me to create my own clothing line in highschool, and one of my first LLCs in college. It all started with one little risk that I took on myself to create something that I believed in, and it has been one of the greatest risks that I have ever taken. I grew up professionally training at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, and had plans to further my training at Fordham University with their program connected to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. I trained everyday for years and overworked my body, resulting in 2 injuries (pulled hamstring and a strained hip flexor) that prevented me from auditioning. Everything I worked so hard for was on the line, and I had to make the decision of whether or not I would continue to push my body or choose an alternate route. This led me to the second biggest risk I took in my life which was choosing to attend the number one Historically Black College/University, Spelman College. I met so many amazing Black women through Spelman, and gained life long sisters and connections. Risking everything to attend Spelman also led me to find my purpose, which is helping others through providing opportunities, knowledge, and resources. In finding my purpose, I was able to move with intention in every decision that I made for my life and career. Upon graduating Spelman College C’2020, I Co-Founded Bazaar Los Angeles, LLC with my childhood best friend Alexandria Hadley, and this was the best risk that I have ever taken. Alex: I feel that risks are the greatest things we can take in life, scary, but great. The other side of any risk holds this feeling of freedom, knowledge in knowing you made the choice to take a chance– not knowing the likelihood of the outcome. We fear rejection and failure so much as humans so when we exempt ourselves from these feelings we grow. We grow in ways unimaginable and sometimes don’t realize till later down the line the impact that that risk had on our life. I’ve always been a ‘daredevil’ to an extent, I’d like to think of myself as adventurous and dauntless. When I have my mind set on something that I want I will do what is necessary to achieve it. When my college counselor told me to aim for schools closer to home, even though Howard University was my number one choice at the time, I still applied, and got accepted. I had no idea how I was going to pay for it, I didn’t know what I wanted to study, and I would be leaving Los Angeles and moving to Washington D.C. without any of my friends at the time. Yet, I was not fearful, I found comfort in knowing that my willingness to take this risk would pay off in the end. I dived right into the culture at Howard University and enjoyed everything it had to offer; making memories and friends that I will have for a lifetime. My life took a pause at the end of my first semester when my father passed. Learning to maneuver life without him was challenging in itself, and every aspect of my life began to see the effect of that. At the end of my sophomore year I had to make the difficult decision of returning home for a while to figure life out– a risk in itself, and I am just beginning to recognize it’s positive impact. When 2020 began I knew I wanted to make a decision on what would be next for me, and that’s when my best friend of 19 years, Imani Watts, called me with an opportunity for the both of us. We were being given the chance to take over a local thrift store that wasn’t doing well. We accepted the offer and after months of planning and redesigning we are now the CEO’s and founders of Bazaar Los Angeles LLC. As we are still taking risk in the development of our store and brand, I find solace in this journey and the life that I am still creating.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
We are Alexandria Hadley and Imani Watts, the Founders and Chief Executive Officers of Bazaar Los Angeles. Bazaar Los Angeles functions as a department store for luxury and streetwear brands across the world. The mission of Bazaar is to provide an innovative space for luxury and streetwear clothing brands to display their designs in a minimalistic and fresh-faced environment. Over the years, we have noticed the demand for online luxury and streetwear clothing brands to have physical store locations; Bazaar Los Angeles serves as a solution to that problem. Customers get the chance to touch, try on, and experience the clothing before purchasing, and are welcomed into an environment tailored to suit their shopping needs with quality and luxury services. Bazaar offers complimentary beverages, dressing rooms, personal shopping and styling, and a cozy lounge area for each customer– an innovative experience unlike any other store. As Los Angeles natives and members of our store‘s surrounding community since 2012, we understand the needs and wants of our neighbors and local businesses. We recognize the fashion industry shifts taking place and aim to play a positive role in these advancements. We are most excited about stepping ahead of the curve, offering a store that prioritizes customer experience while simultaneously creating a space for designers and brands to grow in ways that only a physical store allows. We began crafting the vision of our store in 2017 when we were both sales associates at the SonShine Thriftshop in Los Angeles. It started off as merely a dream, and later became a reality due to the opportunities presented to us through the R.O.C.K. Church. The R.O.C.K. previously owned the SonShine Thriftshop which was successful for over 10 years, later closing down due to financial challenges brought by Covid-19. The space was graciously given to us in hopes of preserving the history and impact it made on the community. We then took our vision and resources to launch Bazaar Los Angeles in September of 2020. With plans to open Bazaar in May of 2021, we unexpectedly ran into challenges surrounding the uncertainty of Covid-19, and lack of funding. Earlier in the year, we unanticipatedly lost our start-up money due to reasons out of our control. This created a ripple effect forcing us to rethink our business plan, change our location, and find more funding. While we thought these were issues, they were truly blessings in disguise. Fast forward to recently, we’ve been able to move past these challenges and make decisions that best suit our store’s mission and goals. Although we set a strict timeline for Bazaar’s physical opening, we have learned that the journey involves lots of twists and turns, but alternative routes still lead to the same destination. We want the world to know that Bazaar Los Angeles is for the community. We thrive off providing opportunities and resources for others, sincerely, a store for all.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
As Los Angeles natives, we’re always doing things like shopping, weekend brunches, bike riding along the beach, hiking, and bar hopping around the city. A few of our favorite spots include La Barca, Banditos, T’keila, Cabo Cantina, Della Terra, Fairfax/Melrose, and the Stocker Corridor Trail.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Imani: One thing that I always like to recognize before anything or anyone is God, and how far he has brought me in my endeavors. Since 2017, Bazaar was just a dream. In 2020, it was made reality by the opportunities presented by my father’s church, ‘The R.O.C.K.’ His leadership team believed in our store’s vision, and gave us the opportunity to open our first location in their previously owned store, the ‘SonShine Thriftshop’. Their shop had been in business for over 10 years, but ran into financial challenges due to Covid-19, forcing them to close down. They generously donated the remainder of their thriftstore’s clothes, helping us begin making profit through Bazaar’s online store, ‘BLA Thrift’. Through their contributions, we have been able to create seed money for our store to be built. I would also like to shout out all of my peers, friends, family, and my line sisters for constantly supporting and believing in me and my visions. The support truly means the world to me, and I am extremely grateful for the support system I have gained in my life. Alex: The support of my family, friends, friends who are like family and my faith in God is what has led me to where I am today. I truly lean on all four for encouragement, motivation and accountability. My mother is my greatest cheerleader and biggest push to accomplish everything I want out of life. My dad instilled in me discipline and the courage to choose what you want out of life, and settle for nothing less. Another person who is constantly motivating me to go for more is Peter Watts, my best friend’s dad, who is like a second dad to me. He is always coming to us with endless opportunities, and there would be no Bazaar Los Angeles without him. I am so lucky to have grown up with the community of people that I did, and to meet so many loving souls along the way. I do believe that God ordains every step that we take, so I want to recognize and give credit to my journey and all of the people who have played such a big role in my life so far.
Photographers: Laia Moss and Alexandria Hadley Models: Danae McDaniel, Mylan Johnson, Christopher Udo, Tylor Hurd, and Justin Thomas