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En Route: Theory of Gaia

Theory of Gaia

Address: 174 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002

STORY + VIDEO EDITING BY RACHEL SCHWARTZMANN – Shop Theory of Gaia –  PHOTOS + FOOTAGE BY BRIDGET BADORE FOR THE STYLE LINE

New York City-based boutique Theory of Gaia originated from a place of empowerment.

While the shop itself is rooted in one of the city’s most dynamic neighborhoods, Theory of Gaia aims to transcend the usual retail experience by acting as a hub for women from all walks of life to gather, shop, and truly connect. Founder Haamacha Donadi has also made it her personal mission to inspire her daughters (one of whom the shop was named after), and show that anything is possible when it comes to pursuing your passions. As she aptly mentioned in our interview below, “Honestly, every woman that comes through the doors has a story to tell, something to learn from. They share, we laugh, cry even pray, and if they find an item that speaks to them and gives them confidence, then we’ve done our job.”

Speaking more to the above, it’s hard not to fall in love with Haamacha’s lively spirit and inimitable passion for both the people and products that embody what Theory of Gaia is all about. During our chat with the shop-boss, we also learned of the importance that events and other offline community-building initiatives play in Haamacha’s overall mission. Coupling this with the thoughtful assortment of apparel and accessories that filled the shop’s corners, we left our meeting feeling nothing short of inspired.

As you’ll find more of in our interview below, there’s truly something for everyone (and everywhere) as the shop’s online presence mirrors what can be found in-store. Discover the sartorial magic for yourself in our full conversation with Haamacha, who chatted more about who the Gaia girl is (literally and figuratively), why style is an essential role in our lives, and what she hopes to teach the next generation of women. Also, enjoy exclusive photos (and footage!) captured by Bridget Badore for The Style Line.

My name is Haamacha. I’m the founder of Theory of Gaia.

I’m a mother of 2, and motherhood is actually my full-time job. My children are my joy and strength and I’m determined to raise them the way I was raised: To be independent women who rise above all the adversity they will face in life. I value faith, family and amazing girlfriends who laugh, cry and cheer me on.

Give us some background on your relationship to style and how this passion led to the inception of Theory of Gaia.

Theory of Gaia was born from a need honestly. When I lived in Milan, I often saw girls showing up to parties wearing the same clothes. While I was in school, learning Italian I met this super stylish girl. I eventually asked her where she bought her clothes and we actually took a shopping trip together. From there, Theory of Gaia was born, we wanted to provide fashion forward clothes what did not break the bank. It wasn’t until I had my eldest daughter Gaia that I had the confidence to actually accomplish this goal I had for 5 years. My passion stems from me wanting my children to have an example of a woman who followed her passion regardless of all the obstacles. How could I teach them to be empowered, if I was not? So I had to do it. 

Talk to us the Theory of Gaia woman. Who is she? How do you hope the shop helps to enhance the shopping experience and lifestyle?

The woman who shops at Theory of Gaia is confident, cultured and chic. I actually have a name for her –a “Gaia Girl” as she is a girl’s girl whose not about competition but sharing and coming together to accomplish goals. She might be mid-career or an executive, or she might be a student. Although she takes pride in looking stylish and well-presented, she dresses for herself and she has priorities beyond shopping. She needs her wardrobe to compliment her lifestyle while still being wallet conscious. I’m very proud of how Theory of Gaia is a shopping destination, but also a great space for women. It’s welcoming, has a warm vibe that allows women to come in and we actually often talk about what their goals and finding pieces that will give them the confidence when they look into the mirror. 

What is one question you wish people asked you more often?

Why did you not quit while you opened and closed Theory of Gaia twice?

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We love that Theory of Gaia is “inspired by women with goals.” Who are some of these women and why do you believe they best embody the Theory of Gaia ethos?

We have amazing women that come through our doors – Chrissie Hynde is one for example. When we first met I honestly didn’t know who she was. She was staying a the hotel next door and for days she would pass the store and we would chat – From politics, music, drugs, and family. She actually curated the music in the store. From Chrissie to Kiersey a great actress who’s a regular I was blown away when I saw her the first time as I thought my daughter looked exactly like her… It’s crazy! We chatted travel, goals, film.

It’s not about who they are, it’s about what they’ve experienced and how they share these experiences in our Ludlow boutique. Honestly, every woman that comes through the doors has a story to tell, something to learn from. They share, we laugh, cry even pray and if they find an item that speaks to them and gives them confidence then we’ve done our job. 

 

“My passion stems from me wanting my children to have an example of a woman who followed her passion regardless of all the obstacles. How could I teach them to be empowered, if I was not? So I had to do it.”

[CLICK EACH THUMBNAIL IN THESE GALLERIES TO EXPAND IMAGE]

With regard to the shop, tell us more about how it came together. What areas of the shop do you hope visitors engage with and why do you think the LES is the best neighborhood to bring the Theory of Gaia vision to life?

The space happened organically. After hosting several pop-ups, we realized that the Gaia Girls enjoy the space due to its vibe. We get compliments all the time about how the space is so warm and friendly. Our Gaia Girl sales associates actually welcome you in our home. It’s a pleasure to have customers in, get to know them and that’s what allows us to serve them better.
As far as engaging, we have hosted a few private events with our Gaia Girls. Naturally, the first talk was with mothers. The session went really well and this will be the start of Gaia Girl Sessions. Events where we invite inspiring women to do what we usually do, talk goals, how to accomplish them, and create a community of women who support one another instead of competing with one another.
The LES is amazing right now, it’s changing and the tenants are changing too. The location allows us to connect with women in the neighborhood, professional women starting out and advancing in their fields. They are doctors, students, creatives and CEOs of amazing institutions. We learn a lot from them and it’s my hope that they also take away something from their experience with us.

Talk to us more about your partnership with Gaia Girl Gives. Why is philanthropy a part of the Theory of Gaia ethos and how do you hope this act of giving extends to the shopper community as well?

Gaia Girl gives is an initiative in partnership with 14+ foundation. The philanthropy part is thanks to Nchimunya Wulf and Joseph Mizzi. They build schools in Zambia, where I’m from. In many cultures, an education is often the only way out of poverty and living in a western country is a great advantage.
Theory of Gaia is not only a fashion destination but a space of sharing, growth through our Gaia Girl Sessions. As the founder, if we preach empowerment it’s again important to actually do and not just say. Goals is a word often in our vocabulary at TOG, and for us, it’s about reaching our goals but also empowering girls to reach theirs collectively as women. 

How do you think creativity contributes to some of the world’s bigger conversations and what role is Theory of Gaia playing in this?

Speaking from a Zambian women’s perspective, art and fashion are not valued in our culture. You are taught to be lawyers or doctors. These were my choices growing up. I was not at all interested in the above and loved fashion. Many people underestimate the power of image, how clothes can change your perception of yourself. How the right clothes can change your mood. Our style is called effortless style, it’s deliberately oversized fashion, fashion-forward, and cool clothing for women with goals. We take this very seriously.

When women come together, inspire each other, work on goals, and looking effortlessly chic we are unstoppable. The bigger role is that I hope I can be an example to African girls that you don’t have to follow the cultural norms. You can follow your passion in fashion, for example, learn, surround yourself with like-minded women – and guess what? You can make a living out of it. This is something I wish I knew when I was younger, but thankfully I did get the memo later in life.

“Honestly, every woman that comes through the doors has a story to tell… if they find an item that speaks to them and gives them confidence then we’ve done our job.”