Imagine a serene space, full of light, where the names of goddesses are spoken with reverence. This isn’t an ancient Greek temple—it’s a Cult Gaia store. The Los Angeles–based clothing and accessories brand, founded by Jasmin Larian Hekmat, International Trade and Marketing ’10, Fashion Design ’10, gets its moniker from Gaia, the Greek goddess of Earth, mother of life, “which to me is an extremely creative force,” Hekmat says.
Hekmat’s designs (also named after goddesses like Hera and Eos, as well as her friends and family) include sculptural handbags in retro-cool materials like acrylic, resin, and wood; bold, playful apparel; and attention-grabbing accessories. “Cult Gaia is for grace, glory, and good times,” she says. “What we make celebrates the body and femininity. It’s ‘peacock pieces’—everybody’s going to come and ask you, ‘What’s that?’”
She opened Cult Gaia’s first physical space—a pop-up in Miami (which will become a permanent location in the future)—in May 2022, followed by Los Angeles and New York stores in early 2023, and another pop-up in Saint-Tropez in summer 2023. The LA store features Aegean-influenced tones and natural textures combined with Space Age-esque metallic accents—“like a shrine in another world,” Hekmat says. It also boasts an intricate, puzzle-like travertine floor.
“Cult Gaia is for grace, glory, and good times.” — Jasmin Larian Hekmat
The New York store’s design references ancient temples (as well as the Louvre, Hekmat says), with arched windows and high domed ceilings. Limestone and neutral plaster surfaces create a soothing backdrop “so your eye never stops.” An S-shaped, terracotta-hued sofa provides a warm pop of color, and lights are plotted in the shape of Hekmat’s zodiac sign, Leo.
Given Hekmat’s divine source of inspiration, it’s no surprise that her business got its start with crowns—flower crowns, to be exact, which she made as a student at FIT. Whenever she wore them, people would ask to buy them off her, so she began selling them online.
From flower crowns, she branched out to turbans and hair accessories, and then handbags. Her now iconic, basket-like Ark bag was a surprise success. When she introduced it in 2013, “it didn’t sell at all,” she says. Once Instagram gained popularity several years later, she posted a campaign to sell off inventory and “it just went viral.”
The luxury store Fivestory New York featured the Ark bag in its window. The New York Times called it the “must-have bag” of summer 2017. And its goddess-level credentials were solidified when it was photographed on the arm of Beyoncé.
After handbags, Hekmat started creating apparel, shoes, and more. The photographs would feature 100% Cult Gaia designs. “I always wanted to do clothing, and I also didn’t want to shoot our product with other people’s. I wanted to curate a whole look,” she says.
Opening brick-and-mortar stores was an essential accomplishment for Hekmat. “I felt like an imposter until I had one,” she says. “When you’re trying to get across the craftsmanship of pieces over the computer, it doesn’t feel as special as when you’re in a physical space.” And when it comes to those spaces, Hekmat is thinking very long term. “If someone found our stores a thousand years from now, they should still feel epic.” —Vanessa Machir