Cult Gaia’s Resort 2024 Collection Takes Us on a Sun-Soaked Vacation
For its first runway show since 2018, Cult Gaia sent a joyous lineup of vacation-ready looks at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. The runway show, titled “Under the Sun,” also showcased the brand’s more expressive and artisanal design language. Here’s what it was like.
Photography courtesy of Cult Gaia, Jonas Gustavsson, and BFA Photographer Jason Sean Weiss.
It’s hard not to see Los Angeles in a different light – both literally and figuratively – from this vantage point. Standing under the 11-story-high domed glass ceiling atop the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures‘ spherical building, the city opens up like a pop-up book down the middle. The harsh reds of pulsing brake lights are replaced by hazy, washed-out blues and purples. Houses can be seen wedged into the natural contours of the landscape, trees winding down the hills, and shiny buildings catching the last glints of sunlight. If Los Angeles had a designated balcony – an official lookout point – this would be it.
You might guess that these long, long views are the reason Los Angeles-based Cult Gaia chose this playground for its 2024 resort runway show. And you’d be right – but only halfway. Iranian-American creative director and founder Jasmin Larian Hekmat might have built her brand around a distinctly Californian, bohemian-luxe aesthetic, but for this particular collection, the designer found inspiration in the sun-soaked shores of Saint-Tropez. And so, we found ourselves mentally parachuting into the beachy hedonism of this tiny village in the South of France.
The steely color palette of the museum’s glass-domed terrace is softened with buttery yellows everywhere. Yellow carpet. Yellow seats. Yellow walls, like the orange-mustard buildings that wall in narrow streets in Saint-Tropez. Somehow, even the weather feels yellow – the last sunny day before an anticipated week of leaden skies and rain. Cult Gaia couldn’t have timed its show better.
I repeat: Cult Gaia couldn’t have timed its show better. A picture-perfect sunset, a gentle breeze, a rhythmic medley of (what sounds to my ear like) shourangiz and tablah on the soundtrack — it seems that the stars are aligned to infuse the evening with a golden dusting of magic. First on the scene: a dress made of a labyrinthian web of knit cording worn on top of a two-piece swimsuit. Then another netted number, festooned with pearls.
More than anything, the dresses here are big stunners. One hand-crocheted piece features sculptural circular raffia cutouts that drip from the hem. Another structured mini dress is scattered with miniscule raffia flower details. As you might’ve noticed from this writing, unsurprisingly, there’s lots of raffia. Anyone with an iota of background on the brand will know that raffia, a fiber spun from palm leaves, is inextricably woven into Cult Gaia’s ethos. Along with other natural details like crochet, plissé, and pearl, which we also see on the runway.
But these are just appetizers to the full-blown glamor that follows. Jasmin plays with the balance of architecture and nature, showcasing pieces that feel organic but still maintain their structural integrity. There’s a lot of emphasis on the bottom half; we see so much movement in the hemlines – whether its raffia trims, beaded fringe, or deconstructed panels that sway to and fro with every step. The knockout piece is a floor-length skirt that vaguely resembles a pull-apart accordion party streamer. Contrasting the stiffness of raffia with its exceptional lightness: a citron-yellow gown with delicate pleated ruffles that oscillate as though underwater.
Amongst these “goddess-like” pieces, we see a lot of shimmery party dresses and familiar silhouettes in familiar fabrics (with some new denim pieces sprinkled throughout). Accessories – the brand’s bread and butter – almost compete for attention. We see lots of high-crown straw hats and eye-catching statement jewelry. Then there are the bags, straw ones big enough to fit a beach towel or two and smaller, more date-night friendly alternatives. These are designs we’re familiar with: acrylic-box-encased purses and sculptural ivory-like clutches. And do I spy a mini version of the brand’s signature bamboo picnic bag? Just Cult Gaia just doing what it does best.
Yes, there’s something to say about the comfort of trust-falling onto crowd-pleasing hits. But overall, it’s nice to see Jasmin spread her wings a little and let loose with more fantasy. Let’s not forget that Cult Gaia rose from obscurity as an accessory label in 2012. Remember the flower crowns? Remember the Ark bag? The first item I ever bought from the brand was that signature crescent-shaped bamboo purse. I remember not being able to walk two steps at the mall without someone delivering praise.
Back then, Cult Gaia was still relatively small and only known amongst its small but cult-like following. That’s where “Cult” came from. “Gaia,” on the other hand, borrows its name from mythology, representing the goddess of the earth and the universal mother. “Our muse glows under the sun by day and glistens under the moon by night, living ‘la vie en gaia,’” the show notes read. This collection’s proof: The brand is surely living up to its divine name.