June 15, 2024

Last year, Cult Gaia opened its first store, settling on Melrose Place in West Hollywood, Calif.

Now, following several months of major retail expansion, the contemporary brand is launching its fifth location with its newest boutique in the Miami Design District.

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Los Angeles designer Jasmin Larian Hekmat, who launched the resort-influenced womenswear label in 2012, did a test run in the Miami shopping area with a pop-up store. “That pop-up store in the Miami Design District did very well. I mean, the sun is always shining in Miami,” the designer and entrepreneur said. “My soul lies under eternal sunshine, and there’s nowhere better for that than Miami.”

The sun plays a large part in the new store’s 1,500-square-foot interior. Two of the three rooms have domes and within each dome are 7-foot-wide frameless oculi that allow light to flood in. Under one oculus stands a 12-foot-tall concrete sculpture of an elongated Giacometti-like female nude created by Hekmat’s mother, artist Angela Larian. Underneath the second oculus is a 14-foot-tall Banyan tree surrounded by a serpentine sofa designed by Brandi Howe.

The Banyan tree is a reflection of an outside mural dominated by a Tree of Life of blue-and-white handmade tiles created by South African artist Michael Chandler. The mural with 1,800 pieces portrays the Garden of Eden and images of nine goddesses. “I feel this mural is something where you could just sit outside forever and continue to see something,” Hekmat said. “It brings us full circle with the name Gaia, the goddess of Mother Earth and the daughter of chaos.”

The Banyon tree in the Cult Gaia store in Miami. Photo by Kris Tamburello.The Banyon tree in the Cult Gaia store in Miami. Photo by Kris Tamburello.

The Banyon tree in the Cult Gaia store in Miami. Photo by Kris Tamburello.

Walk through the store’s arched entrance and you will be greeted by a saying that wishes good fortune upon all those who enter: “May all the doors of the world always be open to you.” It is a phrase that Hekmat heard often from her Persian grandmother when she was growing up.

The A-frame outpost, designed by Jess and Jonathan Nathon of Sugarhouse, opened Monday with Cult Gaia’s spring collection of blazers, trenchcoats, cutout details in tops and dresses and mini and maxidresses with plenty of earth tones. There are also handbags, shoes and jewelry.

Hekmat said she strives to create beautiful heirloom pieces that will live in closets forever. “When I’m designing, I wonder what it will look like when it’s secondhand. That really informs my principles,” said the designer who wants to incorporate longevity into her creations. “I always wonder what it’s going to look like at the bottom of a box or in its worst state. It has to look beautiful.”

Beauty has always been the driving force. As a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, she started making goddess-inspired flower crowns for friends as a hobby. Those flower crowns morphed into the Ark bag, an airy half-moon-shaped bamboo handbag that grew to become a must-have among Instagram influencers.

Creativity is a tradition in Hekmat’s family. Her father, Isaac Larian, immigrated from Iran in the early 1970s at 17 with $750 in his pocket. He put himself through school at California State University — Long Beach, using his dishwasher wages to pay his expenses to get a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. He went on to found MGA Entertainment, the company behind the popular Bratz dolls and other toys that have made him a billionaire.

His business sense was passed down to his daughter, who s opened her first store on L.A.’s Melrose Avenue.

Soon after, a second store was unveiled in the Soho area of Manhattan, and then a seasonal outpost in the Hamptons. Late last year, a quickly installed shop appeared in St. Barth in the French West Indies in time for the busy holiday season. And a sixth store will be opening this spring at the upscale Palisades Village shopping venue developed by L.A. billionaire Rick Caruso in the elite Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles.

“Retail is important because I love controlling my product, the distribution of my product and the experience that people have with my product,” said Hekmat, whose brand is also sold at Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s. “I feel like our retail locations really set a precedent and a standard for how we want to be seen.”

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