The New Cult Gaia Store In Miami Is An Elemental, Edenic, And Culturally Informed Retail Space

  • 27 Mar '24
  • 6:13 pm by Beverly Pereira

To set foot into the newest outpost of Cult Gaia in Miami is to wander through a richly poetic world that harks back to the mythical Garden of Eden. It is sprawling but not stark, sparingly detailed yet never sparse. The 1502-sq-ft retail space is infused with motifs that are a nod to the brand itself—the LA-based label Cult Gaia is inspired by nature and femininity. Every vacation-ready piece, from its sculptural ‘it’ bags to ready-to-wear couture, footwear, and accessories, is an intentional allusion to the philosophy of fashion as art. 

When brand founder Jasmin Larian Hekmat launched Cult Gaia online way back in 2011, the brand became a sensation almost overnight. Its famed flower crowns and turbands were the pieces to have; then came the structural Ark Bag in 2013, which solidified the brand in the hearts and minds of the young and fashion-forward. 

Despite ‘arriving’ a little over ten years ago, the retail spaces have only just arrived. January 2023 saw the arrival of the first physical store at Melrose Avenue, California, followed by another in New York in February. Of course, ardent followers of the brand would already be in the know of the charming Saint Barths outpost. Larian Hekmat took her time to envision every one of the retail spaces to be truly reflective of the stellar brand she has grown with love and care for over a decade.


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The Cult Gaia flagship in Miami is culturally inspired by the founder Jasmin Larian Hekmat’s Persian roots. Image Credit: Kris Tamburello

Now, Cult Gaia’s Miami flagship finds a fitting home in the Miami Design District. Designed by Sugarhouse, the NYC-based architecture and interiors firm that had also designed the Soho outpost in 2023, the retail space was brought to life by Sugarhouse founders and principals Jess and Jonathan Nahon in close collaboration with Larian Hekmat. The store is inspired and culturally informed by Larian Hekmat’s Persian heritage as much as it is by iconic historical archetypes, temple architecture and, befittingly, Mother Nature. 

“Jasmin is an exceptional visionary. She either comes to us with a word, in the case of Miami, ‘home’. Or an image, in the case of New York, an interior photograph of the Palazzo Della Civilta Italiana. She and I have developed a unique way of communicating in that we hardly have to communicate at all. It is nearly telepathic,” shares Jess Nahon of Sugarhouse.


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Artist Michael Chandler was commissioned to design the mural facade composed of 1800 hand-painted blue tiles. Image Credit: Kris Tamburello

Even before entering this gorgeous new store, visitors are graced by a towering mural of a hand-painted Tree of Life on its facade. The A-frame of the store’s exterior sets itself apart from the typically flat architecture of Miami’s Design District yet sits well with the design of local casitas. “We create a unique concept for all of our work. It is the framework we use to base the decisions throughout a project’s life. We were particularly interested in the vernacular architecture native to tropical climates and the historical references to the term home. The A-shape form is a homage to these most simple homosapien structures. Choosing to clad it in tile was in direct response to Miami’s tropical climate and has a historical precedent in Latin and European construction,” says Jess.  

The 1800-piece tiled mural was crafted by Cape Town-based artist Michael Chandler. Reminiscent of the lapis lazuli hues of Persian mosques, palaces and pottery, the hand-painted, blue-toned tiled façade was designed in response to Larian Hekmat’s Persian culture and Henri Rousseau’s fantastical painting ‘The Dream’. The ceramic mural depicts a silhouetted tree with its branches extending across the storefront and features flower-crowned nymphs, birds, a grove of foliage, and even pomegranates that pay homage to the founder’s grandfather.

Interestingly, Chandler referenced Indian textile versions from the 18th century as well as living botanicals to create this mural that’s part nature, part imagination, part fantasy, and part reality as the perfect homage to Cult Gaia’s values and ethos. Above the Tree of Life, a blue-tiled sun shines brightly at the apex of the store.

 “We were introduced to Michael through another client of ours (a Belgian sculptor and artist) in March of 2023. We immediately fell in love with Michael’s whimsical and deeply historical approach to the creation process. He is as much a historian as he is an artist. We began exchanging ideas and within a couple of months, Michael began developing his initial line sketches. He was ready to ship the 23’-0” x 24’-0” tall package to Miami by mid-September. I know that he would agree that this was an unusually fast timeline,” Jess explains.


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The storefront’s design is culturally and historically informed while paying tribute to the founder’s family values. Image Credit: Kris Tamburello

As visitors walk through the arched central door they are welcomed by a beautiful greeting that reads: “May all the doors of the world always be open to you.” Personal to Larian Hekmat who remembers her grandmother repeating the saying to her as a child, the saying echoes her grandmother’s wisdom and welcoming spirit. “Upon entering, guests are greeted with a motto that resonates deeply with my family values. In designing the Miami store, I endeavoured to honour our rich heritage in a manner that’s both personal and profound,” says Larian Hekmat.

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Custom biomorphic wall mirrors by New Vernacular Studio and unlacquered brass rods are the only adornments on the walls of this store. Image Credit: Kris Tamburello

The interior is segregated into three primary sections with a fourth room concealed at the north end. These are light-filled rooms with deeply sincere and incredibly artistic references to history. One enters the store and finds themselves wrapped in the soothing creamy hues of Bianco Avorio Limestone and Bianco Santa Caterina Travertine. Clean and uncluttered, this open room displays collections of clothes hanging from unlacquered brass rods reminiscent of Cult Gaia’s jewellery. 


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This concrete sculpture by the founder’s mother, artist Angela Larian, depicts a composed and confident Gaia with angular elements. Image Credit: Kris Tamburello

This primary room is punctuated by a dome open to a seven-foot-wide frameless oculus that drenches the space in natural light. The dome and the oculi trace their lineage to the Pantheon, the ancient Roman temple for all gods, and the inclusion of this design element reinforces the brand’s belief that everyone is a goddess of the earth. 

Beneath the dome, a 12-foot concrete sculpture, a soaring Giacometti-like female nude, meets the eye without detracting attention from Cult Gaia’s irresistible collection. Crafted by Larian Hekmat’s mother, artist Angela Larian, this towering structure ties in with the nymphs from the façade and the goddess Gaia herself. “This piece not only celebrates her unwavering support and inspiration but also stands as a beacon of matriarchy and womanhood, which continually fuels the creative essence of Cult Gaia,” Larian Hekmat explains.

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A reference to rock-cut cave temples, the dressing rooms afford privacy and serve as display shelves too. Image Credit: Kris Tamburello

Next, visitors arrive at the central dressing area crafted from a hundred individually chiselled sandstone blocks. The illuminated niches allow for the display of Cult Gaia’s accessories, bags and footwear and simultaneously serve as a design element that references rock-cut cave temples. 


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A towering Banyan tree emerging from a Brandi Howe-designed sofa appears to soar towards the skies. Image Credit: Kris Tamburello

In the second primary room, a serpentine sofa designed by Brandi Howe sits central to this space. Howe had also designed Larian Hekmat’s beautiful Miami pop-up. Strategically set under the second of the store’s skylight domes, a 14-foot-tall Banyan tree, planted within this sinuous sofa, mirrors the Tree of Life from the façade. “Like the sacred tree from Buddhism, it invites visitors to sit and achieve their awakening within this temple of fashion,” states the press note. 

Every one of Cult Gaia’s retail spaces incorporates the brand’s DNA, and the newest outpost in Miami is a reflection of the LA-based fashion label’s ability to keep reinventing itself yet remain timeless.