In a bi-weekly series, we're interviewing female executives, founders, CEOs—basically, boss ladies—on their "power suit" a.k.a. the outfit they wear every day for easy dressing to conquer whatever the job throws at them.
You immediately know a Cult Gaia "Ark" bag when you see one—half-moon shape, bamboo slats—but according to the brand's founder and creative director, Jasmin Larian Hekmat, that wasn't always the case. The original bamboo carry-all (now available in a variety of colors, with plenty of copy-cats trying to cash in on its popularity) first debuted in 2014, but took a few years to catch on with consumers.
"People didn’t believe it was functional," Larian Hekmat explains. "Through social media and Instagram, we were able to show people how to wear it and pull it off. I think that's how [the bag] took off. I watched the anatomy of a trend happen in that way."
Once the "Ark" made it into the hands of stars like Beyoncé and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and fashion influencers such as Chriselle Lim and Danielle Bernstein, the rest was history. The "Ark" is now one of the most coveted bag designs around, but Larian Hekmat isn't resting on her success. She's constantly brainstorming even trendier accessories for the brand, and says she "has no shortage of ideas."
This ability to constantly create is in her DNA, after all. Larian Hekmat comes from a line of artists (her mother was a former fashion designer, while her father created the Bratz dolls). Prior to starting Cult Gaia, Larian Hekmat honed her craft at FIT and interned with Narciso Rodriguez and Jason Wu. The designer tells me she wanted to make dresses at first, but actually started making flower crowns and hair accessories before "falling into" the handbag category.
Once the "Ark" reached its zenith, Larian Hekmat revisited the ready-to-wear category. "I always made my own clothes and wanted to use them in photoshoots with our accessories," she says. "I wanted to curate the full look." Later on, she added footwear and swimwear, allowing fans to get that head-to-toe Cult Gaia aesthetic.
The brand, with its *wink wink* cult-like following, has undoubtedly lived up to its name. Larian Hekmat explains its nomenclature, saying, "The best brands have a cult-like mentality in that they attract like-minded people, so the word Cult was obvious. Gaia means the goddess of Earth and the daughter of Chaos, so to me that represented femininity and nature, which are all driving forces to my creativity." And as the leader of this fashionable "cult," Larian Hekmat embodies the brand's ethos, often wearing her own designs. Find out how she dresses for driving this fabulous brand, ahead.
Her Morning Routine
"Four times a year, I am in New York City and Paris to show the Cult Gaia collections. In between that, I am always visiting our factories in Brazil and China or coming into the office in Los Angeles. When I'm in L.A., my mornings start with my son waking me up. I feed him, play with him, then I either walk with him to get my coffee from King's Road Cafe or I walk to the office and have a coffee there.
After that, the day really depends. I start my days sometimes with interviews or breakfast meetings and then continue on to more meetings to touch base with my team. Though I have a hand in everything, I oversee marketing, creative, and sales, so I make sure the operations are going smoothly. The most structured part of my day is definitely the mornings when I know I will have my coffee or if I wake up early enough, I'll go to a ModelFit class or pilates. "
Her Getting Dressed Strategy
"I'm lucky I make my own clothes because I look into my closet every morning and just put on the first thing I see. That's why I started making sets, they make it so much easier to get dressed and I always end up looking put together and professional. Then, I just throw on a fun bag or shoes. When I travel, I put all my clothes on a rack so I can plan out my day and night outfits. I try to pack clothes that I can mix and match, so it's super easy to change the look up. I also just learned about rolling up my clothes, which is incredible, and I put smaller items into a Ziploc bag to keep things organized."
Her Work Uniform
"If I'm not in Cult Gaia dress or set, I am wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and one of our shoes. I like denim from Golden Goose; I have a pair of sparkly jeans from them that I've been wearing a lot. I also love Moussy and AMO jeans. I get a lot of basics from Simon Miller and outerwear from Celine or The Row. For shoes, I'm always in a low heel or mule from Cult Gaia."
The Three Words That Describe Her Power Outfit
"Easy, chic, and cool."
"'Just do it,' as Nike says. I feel like that's the secret to my success: Just get started and figure out the rest later. That's how my brand started, I had flower crowns and then just figured out the bags and ready-to-wear from there. I also believe in the power of pivoting. In this day and age, you can pivot and be or do anything you want to do."
If you love Larian Hekmat's work style, shop similar pieces, here.
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Marina Liao is the former fashion news editor at MarieClaire.com, where she covered celebrity style (from Meghan Markle to Katie Holmes), fashion trends, and shopping advice, plus conducted original interviews with industry insiders. She's also had many opportunities to write content in other areas such as beauty, food, tech, and even home. Her previous fashion stints include POPSUGAR and Cosmopolitan.
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