True story: on Instagram, you’re never more than two posts away from a Cult Gaia Ark bag. Ok, three. Ok, ﬁne – we may have just made that up. But the sentiment is still the same as the reality: in just over 12 months, this graphic, structured, half-moon bamboo bag has become nothing short of an Insta-phenomenon; as viral as they come. It’s swung from the arm of everyone from mega-inﬂuencer Rocky Barnes to Rihanna and Beyoncé, spawning a 2,500-long waiting list in the process. But how exactly did the cult of Cult Gaia happen? And – crucially – in this warp-speed day and age, how can the brand ensure it’s not just a one-hit wonder?
“Product is queen,” the brand’s LA-based founder Jasmin Larian tells Grazia. “It will speak for itself. I think we’ll always make pieces that make people look twice.” It’s a strong statement – but if her AW17 collection is anything to go by, she’s putting her money where her mouth is with a move towards ready-to-wear that we can already see dominating our feeds.
“I launched Cult Gaia in 2012 and its cornerstone has always been making pieces that are conversation-starters,” Jasmin explains, inadvertently revealing part of the secret of what informs a cult hit. “The Ark is recognisable, a head-turner, and sure to prompt the question, ‘Where did you get that?’ People need to be compelled to ask that,” she continues.
She’s not wrong. Word of mouth is still the best marketing tool there is. And Instagram is nothing if not the modern-day incarnation of the water cooler or the village green; a platform to tell anyone who’ll listen about your new favourite discovery.
Also key, however, is accessibility. And with price points at and around the Dhs1,000 mark, it’s something that has no doubt fuelled the Ark’s enormous success. For Jasmin, it’s a key retail strategy, and she credits the renewable resource bamboo “growing like a weed” as aiding the brand’s attainable status.
Despite a solid idea, great product and a background in design – she cut her teeth interning at Narciso Rodriguez and Jason Wu, not to mention growing up with a dad who invented Bratz dolls – it wasn’t plain sailing from the beginning. “The Ark was a piece I always loved but it was slow to be adopted by the public. It was only when a few of our inﬂuencer fans began sharing it on Insta that the ‘Aha!’ moment happened. The viral effect really took hold last summer. Now, I have a pinch-me moment every week. Mostly when I see our bag next to a Birkin!” she laughs. An old icon, and a new one.
Photos: Supplied and Instagram