Cult Gaia’s Jasmin Larian Hekmat talks about his creations, career and what’s next
Cult Gaia was launched almost ten years ago and has since made headlines and picked up our Instagram feeds with its iconic bamboo Ark bag and prominent celebrity following. Although Cult Gaia started with a few “it” bags, it has grown into a lifestyle brand in its own right, comprising ready-to-wear, shoes, accessories, swimwear and its launch on. newer: sunglasses. Founder and CEO Jasmin Larian Hekmat tells us about her childhood roots in the fashion world, what inspires her creatively and the challenges she had to overcome to bring Cult Gaia to where it is today. ‘hui.
Have you always been interested in fashion and a career in the fashion industry?
My mother is a sculptor and was a fashion designer, so I have been surrounded by design and creativity since childhood. As a child, my mom and I collected these wonderful vintage fabrics that one day I knew I would use to create and inspire my own line. My dad ran the toy company that started the Bratz dolls and I grew up designing miniature collections for each of the dolls, which really made a difference for me. I studied fashion design at FIT in New York which was right next to the Flower District. In my free time, I made these goddess-inspired flower crowns that my friends and I would wear around town; we had several people who literally stopped by and asked if they could buy them on our heads. A friend urged me to turn my flower crown hobby into a business, and I did; I expanded my offering from flower crowns to turbans, created from vintage fabrics that I had collected over the years. From those humble beginnings, the brand has evolved into what it is today.
It’s been a decade since Cult Gaia launched. What were the obstacles that you faced and how did you overcome these challenges?
I always say that in order to create something special and lasting, lightning has to strike. It is a common misconception that Cult Gaia was an overnight success, it actually took over two years for our first bag, the Ark, to take off and become the Cult Gaia ‘hero’ piece that ‘it is today. Building on the success of a bag, we are still working to become a true lifestyle brand and have since launched shoes, ready-to-wear, swimwear and, more recently, sunglasses. With each new launch, Cult Gaia continues to diversify and gain traction.
How would you describe the aesthetics of your design?
Fashion and art are so inextricably linked that it has always been important to me that everything we make is seen as wearable art and makes people say “wow! My approach to design is to create pieces that evoke emotion and really make you feel something like any great work of art.
One of our manifestos is “Perfection is imperfect, as nature dictates”. If you look at nature, the slight asymmetry, flaws and nuances are what makes her so special and inimitable.
What’s your favorite Cult Gaia outfit?
At the moment it’s the Serita dress with the Fifi platforms and the Bara bag.
Who, what or where inspires your creativity?
Being in nature, architecture, art, with friends and the female form are all really inspiring to me. Recently, I have become fascinated with furniture, the way each piece fits together so naturally. I compare the joints of furniture to the seams of clothes. I love to play with the way each piece interacts, twists, and fits together to create styles that truly flatter and honor the female body.
Do you have a favorite piece that you have designed?
It’s like asking me to choose a favorite child. There is something unique and special about everything we do and manufacture.
Cult Gaia has been seen on many celebrities and stars. What’s been your pinch moment since the line launched?
Of course, it’s always exciting to see celebrities that I admire in our rooms, but I get just as much satisfaction seeing women on the streets, at lunch, at the beach and beyond wearing the collection. . We put so much of our heart and soul into every collection, so hearing women tell us that our clothes make them look beautiful is always an amazing feeling.
This is your first collection of sunglasses. Tell us a bit about sunglasses and the inspiration behind them.
New projects have always fueled my creativity and the development of sunglasses was the perfect outlet. We always intended to create a fully realized lifestyle brand and sunglasses seemed like a natural next step for us. This collection is classic but also offers our client this “that” factor that she is looking for in our products. I also feel like the sunglasses weren’t disrupted in the classic but clever way – what’s there for me is either too crazy or too basic in my mind, so I was happy to lend our DNA to this new category. Each of the names we have chosen for the glasses has a special meaning, for example, Hera is the Greek word for warrior queen, Katka is Greek for pure and Meira is Hebrew for light.
How has the past year and the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business?
This past year has really made us double down on the things that have contributed to the success of the brand in the first place. As a brand, we have always had a close and direct relationship with our customers through our own e-commerce, and social media has always been at the heart of our success; we are able to pivot quickly and design products that directly meet the demands of our customers. While many brands that rely heavily on their wholesale business have struggled, our e-commerce business has actually grown by 120% over the past year. We also heard from many clients who saw us as a welcome escape from the realities of the outside world. Our message has become more human, more creative and the collections we have designed during this period reflect this.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
I urge all entrepreneurs to embrace the power of adaptability. Be ready to change and evolve when something doesn’t work. I was able to grow Cult Gaia by constantly being able to pivot and because of my courage… Laziness will never work.