MIKOH has long been one of our favorite brands, and not just because they make impeccable, chic, swim and resort wear. It’s because their DNA is so purely rooted in something consequential—female confidence, creativity, wanderlust, and wonder. Co-founders and sisters, Oleema and Kalani Miller, grew up on the beach in Southern California and the restorative nature of the ocean and sand is how they derive their solace and soul-growth. That emotion is so pure and clearly translates into their design POV when they create their modern, feminine, one-of-a-kind swimsuits and resort wear.
Melissa: Things are a little different right now, we’re in an unprecedented time...where are you getting inspiration from and how are you staying motivated these days?
Oleema: I’m fortunate to live on the beach in Hawai’i and also in a quaint neighborhood in Newport Beach, California. I have inspiration all around me, especially when at home in the islands. The calming sound of the ocean, the color of the sand during morning light, the way the sky lights up at dusk, all of these moments in mother nature are what constantly inspires me and therefore my design of MIKOH.
Melissa: Speaking of…you’re definitely the right person to ask this question—what are you wearing in quarantine, a caftan? Easy loungewear?? What’s your daily uniform?
Oleema: Again, being in this beautiful island weather calls for comfort year-round. You will rarely find me in anything other than a bikini, a sarong, and a flowy, comfy caftan. I absolutely live for an oversized maxi dress and find that if you have a pretty print, bright color, or clean neutral, you always feel fresh and put together. I’ve made a point to go for a morning dip every day, take an outside shower, and get dressed. I feel so much better with this routine and it’s definitely the best way to always feel refreshed.
Melissa: Your company and you personally are west coast and island based. Can you tell us about how splitting time between Hawaii and CA influences your creative process? How are the sun and surf cultures the same or different?
Oleema: I’m so fortunate to call both of these places home. I am born and raised in San Clemente, CA (Southern Orange County), and California for me will always be home. However, I’ve been living between there and my home in Hawai’i for the last four years. Island life is dreamy and what you expect it to be – salty air, coconut trees swaying, warm, clear blue water, and a relaxed way of life. As much as I love the slow pace here, I find myself craving the city, our restaurant scene, the amazing shopping, and the rugged California coastline. There’s such a balance between the two, and I think being able to go to both is truly the best of both worlds.
Melissa: When it comes to bathing suits, they can be the most anxiety-provoking pieces in a woman’s wardrobe. However, your collection is so wearable and offers a range of sizing and styles. How do you imbue your collection with a body positive philosophy?
Oleema: I started MIKOH alongside my sister, Kalani, when I was just 17. I’ve grown up with the brand, and it has also allowed me to grow with our clients too. The things that I loved wearing when I was in my 20’s is similar, yet so different, from what I wear now. Understanding a women’s needs, desires, and wants is such an important thing, and I think I’ve gotten more and more knowledgeable over the years. Making women feel confident, beautiful, and strong when wearing our collection is all that I could really ask for.
Melissa: There is a subtle sexiness and simplicity that always pulls through on all of your collections. How to you still keep each suit “special” and feeling fresh without veering into gimmicks or overt styles?
Oleema: I have always made a rule for myself to never follow the trends. I aspire to always create classic yet modern pieces that can translate from season to season. A statement leopard, warm Earthy neutrals and punchy bright colors will always be wearable – no matter what age, where you are, or who you are with. There’s a subtlety to our suits and RTW that allows you to make a statement without being over the top.
Melissa: Who was your last Zoom / Facetime with?
Oleema: My sister, Kalani. I swear, we must talk 15 times a day.
Melissa: We know that some of the beaches have been closed since we’ve all been at home…how did you cope?
Oleema: Being beach front has its perks and luckily for me in Hawai’i, the beaches never fully closed. There were guidelines you had to follow, but I am so grateful that I was always able to go for a swim or a surf. I honestly feel that the ocean has saved me, soothed my soul, and made this time period easier for me.
Melissa: What are some of your daily particulars that you always put on (jewelry, accessories…etc.)?
Oleema: I definitely have a routine, no matter where I am in the world. Whether I’m traveling in Bali or Japan, road tripping up the coast of California, or at home in Hawai’i, there are a few things that always make me feel like me. I have this ring that I’ve been wearing for years, it’s from New York based designer Marlo Laz that reads ‘En Route’. It is a favorite of mine and the meaning is up for interpretation. For me, that meaning is kept for myself. It’s these little pieces of jewelry that remind of moments in time and bring back the fondest memories. I also love getting some fresh air every morning, even if it’s a walk around the city block. However, I much prefer a dip in the ocean. Rituals and moments, you hold dear are so important during these times.
Melissa: Summer is obviously MIKOH’s prime season, what’s next on the horizon?
Oleema: The time has reminded me what’s important – my family, my friends, my health, my spiritual well-being, and my work. MIKOH is my baby and has been since conception. The joy, the fulfillment, and the places it has brought me brings me an overwhelming sense of gratitude, and I owe so much to my family and my team for the continued success of just a dream that I had all those years ago. We have so much planned for the near future, and I just can’t wait to start sharing it with everyone.