You’re likely to have seen a Cult Gaia bag—does the crescent-shaped ‘Ark’ bag, or the ‘Luna’ bag with its wooden beaded strap ring a bell?—in the hands of street style stars and celebrities alike on Instagram. Priding itself in heirloom-worthy, statement-making pieces (think bags, shoes, accessories) that do not break the bank, it’s no surprise that Cult Gaia has taken the fashion world by storm over the short span of a few years since its inception.
We chat with founder Jasmin Larian about the LA-based brand, her take on wearable art, and the inspiration behind her latest collection.
1) How did Cult Gaia come about? Why did you name your label ‘Cult Gaia’?
I started Cult Gaia in 2012 with flower crowns and hair turbans made of vintage silk fabrics I collected over the years. Since then, we have evolved into a full lifestyle brand of Clothing, Bags, Accessories, Swim, and Shoes but the brand DNA is still the same in that everything we make is instantly recognisable and unique.
The name Gaia comes from the goddess of Mother Earth and the daughter of chaos, the most creative force there is in my opinion. And every great brand is cult-like uniting like-minded people in their aesthetic ideals. Women and nature are endlessly inspiring me, so there is a lot in the name.
2) What is Cult Gaia inspired by? How does your background and experiences influence your designs?
Nostalgia is a huge inspiration for me and it’s super emotional, which is how I want people to feel when they buy, wear or see our pieces. I’m always inspired by old Italian film actresses and Fellini women. My mother is also a big source of inspiration for the brand.
3) Cult Gaia creates items that are first Objects d’Art. How does this fit into your design ethos?
The cornerstone of Cult Gaia has always been about making things that are conversation starters, that are as much object d’art as they are accessory. It first captures you out of curiosity and then you realize oh I can wear it! If you carry the Ark bag, for example, I bet you everyone will ask, “Where did you get that? What is that? Is that a bag?” It garners so much attention. It’s designed to stay on your coffee table and look just as beautiful as home decor as it is [as an accessory]. When we design, I always ask “can this be just as beautiful as an object on a coffee table as it would wearing it?”
4) How do you strike a balance between art/ aesthetic and practicality?
It’s important to me that everything we make reads as wearable art. Hence the geometry and poetry in everything we make. Even with the turbans, it was something that brought a lot of attention—a recognisable and wearable art piece.
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5) What is art vs wearable art to you?
Fashion and art to me are the same. My approach to making things is that if it can’t live alone like art in a gallery or museum, then what is the point of making it?
6) Who are your favourite artists? How does their work inform your aesthetic and collections?
My mother was a fashion designer and artist and my dad have a toy company, so I was always exposed to creating things. I think this innately taught me how to create my own brand. I also went to Otis and FIT for college to get some more formal training and interned at Narciso Rodriguez and Jason Wu. I think every experience in life is valuable and culminates to what you are eventually meant to do, which for me is to start this brand and continue to create beautiful pieces.
7) What is integral to your design process?
Being in nature…architecture and artists are really inspiring to me. I’m always obsessed with unique furniture, especially chairs. I really get inspired by everything around me. I think the Gaia’s Ark looks like an abstract version of Noah’s ark, and it rocks from side to side like a boat. It’s the nuance that gets me. I sketch and work with my team to bring ideas to life.
8) Tell us more about the Soleil Collection (2019 Pre-Fall) and what inspired it.
The Soleil Collection is inspired by effortless wearability and splashes of color, meant to be magnified under the sun. This is my favorite collection yet!
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9) Do you have a favourite Cult Gaia bag?
I don’t have one. I carry different bags to different occasions.
10) When it comes to crafting a Cult Gaia bag, which is the most challenging step?
It’s a constant struggle to maintain an attainable price point, but it’s so important. Most of our bags come in boxes and dust bags. I don’t know if you can find that everywhere with the price point, we are giving. I believe in making handmade, high-quality items that will last forever and be passed down as an heirloom piece. But I don’t think everything should cost over $1,000.
From a customer standpoint, it’s shocking when you see this bag compared to other “It” bags that cost more. They’re not buying one. They’re buying two, getting one for a friend or family member. It’s the perfect gift.
11) Bamboo wood and acrylic appear to be your go-to materials. Is there a particular reason why?
Bamboo is where we began- with the Ark and the Luna. It is very sturdy and versatile. It grows like a weed so is a renewable source and we can build on so many different shapes with it. I also love using acrylic because I wish I could use stone, and this is the closest way to use it without making something that weighs so much. Some of the straps on our Luna bags are real stone because I couldn’t get the look perfect in acrylic and didn’t want to compromise the aesthetic. I’m open to all materials.
12) One of Cult Gaia’s manifestos is ‘Perfection is imperfect, as nature dictates.’ Could you elaborate more?
If you look at nature, what makes it so beautiful is the nuance, the slight asymmetry and imperfection. I seek that in everything we make so the more you look the more you see.
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