Prepare to feel envious of the following photos! We are in Hawai’i with sisters Oleema Miller and Kalani Miller, talking about their relationship both as sisters and Co-founders of MIKOH, where Oleema is also the Creative Director. They might have their hands full, but with the ocean at their fingertips, they always come back to center.
As sisters who also run a business together, how do you manage the different parts of your relationship?
Oleema: We are fortunate enough to have two very different passions and skill sets that allow us the space to focus and flourish in our own ways. From the very beginning I have always been passionate about all things creative- from designing the collections, the website, directing photoshoots and lookbooks, and so on. However, I truly believe you should learn all aspects of business so you can understand the complete in’s and out’s of all the layers of owning and running a company.
I am so fortunate to work with Kalani. She has what some may say is “blind faith” in me and my vision for MIKOH. From the very first phone call when I asked her if she wanted to start the company with me, to all of the crazy ideas, shoots, campaigns, product development, and events, she has always trusted and believed in my sometimes “out there” ideas. Having someone have that much faith in you is inspiring, moving, and really makes me feel like I can take on the world. It’s that much better with her by my side. Kalani drives a tough bargain, can move mountains, and can make magic happen on the craziest timeline and budget. I am beyond grateful for her.
Kalani: I am always so grateful to be in business with my sister. We’ve had so many “pinch me” moments (from the hectic runway shows to flying to private islands in Tahiti), and I look at her and acknowledge that it is so much better, sweeter, and more memorable to experience these special times with her. We complement each other and both stay in our lane, while also allowing each other’s input and feedback. Oleema has so eloquently led our team and has such a vision for our brand. Her designs and passion for creative have never faltered from day one and it has been our driving force. I have taken on more of the business side and love overseeing the logistics, production, and watching it all come to fruition. I am lucky to be able to bounce so many ideas off of her, and I know I will always get an honest answer. We both live and breathe the MIKOH brand so authentically it has just fallen into place.
Talk to me about Hawai’i and surfing! They seem to play big roles in your inspiration. How do they influence your everyday life and well being?
Oleema: We are so fortunate to have had the childhood that we did. Our daddy has been a surfer his entire life. He grew up in Sherman Oaks and would hitchhike to surf Malibu, Zuma, and up and down the California coast since he was a kid. His love of surfing, beach culture, and living by the ocean enabled us to have the most incredible experiences throughout our childhood. We grew up in San Clemente, a small beach town in southern Orange County and surfing and going to the beach was simply just what we did day to day. My love for surfing, the ocean, the sand and the stars all comes from him. He taught my siblings and me what it means to appreciate and nurture Mother Nature, to surround ourselves always by sunshine and the sound of the trees swaying in the wind, and to find peace and solitude always by the sea.
Now, as an adult, I cherish him and his values that much more. I currently reside between Haleiwa, on the North Shore of Oahu, as well as Newport Beach in California. Having the ocean in my backyard here in Hawai’i is even more magical than I could ever have thought. It’s truly what dreams are made of! Having the ability to run and jump in the ocean to start the day fresh or to wash the day off, or to quickly go grab a few waves in between work and life, and to feel the powerful calming energy that the waves and ocean offer is somewhat a spiritual cleanse and renewal, day after day. The ocean constantly reminds me that nothing is permanent and we as individuals have the power to change, to grow, and to evolve just like the tides that bring sand and take it away, or the waves that can gently lap the shore or loudly and passionately hit the shoreline. It’s these daily reminders that help center, ground and inspire me.
Kalani: The heart of our brand and upbringing has always been the ocean and surfing. Oleema and I come from a tight knit family that spent countless days at the beach and now as an adult, I am lucky to have the ocean right in my backyard. I have this strange obsession with being at the ocean or at least seeing the ocean once a day, no matter how cold or stormy it is. There is something calming and so familiar about it that it instantly can make me feel at peace. They say that the cure for anything is salt water, tears, or the sea, and I couldn’t believe in that more. Luckily, we live a life driven and surrounded by the ocean.
What was your inspiration for MIKOH?
Oleema: Being that we grew up surfing and in the surf industry, swimwear, bikinis, and the culture that surrounds it was just a part of who we are. That coupled with the fact that our parents have always instilled in me to be independent, never take no for an answer, while being supportive beyond my wildest dreams gave me the ability to reach for the stars. Looking back to when MIKOH was born, I was just 17 embodying the saying “ignorance is bliss” when the idea of MIKOH first came about. I knew I wanted to create swimwear that was unique, modern, and undoubtedly cool. I wanted to make something that made girls and women feel powerful, confident, and to give them an edge that only MIKOH pieces could make them feel. I was, and still am, so passionate about the same goals and foundation that we started MIKOH with and have never lost sight of that.
Without a college background, formal education in design or business, or textbooks and business plans to work off of, I knew no bounds of success. I didn’t know what failure was or what it would look like, and I didn’t know the risks or the fears of starting and running a business; all I knew was that I was passionate, driven, and willing to do whatever it took to be successful. I am so grateful for my ignorance as it allowed me to spread my wings, have no fear, and to only look ahead.
Oleema: I find inspiration all around me, each and every day. I have always found beauty in nature and in beautiful objects. Whether it’s the color of the veining in a piece of stone, the gradient colors of the ocean, the dark and moody textures of boulders, or the pastel pink skies in sunsets, nature’s color palette will never, ever disappoint. I’ve always had an obsession with shells, with rocks and different woods, and the way the ocean meets the sand or falls off and turns deeper blue as it hits the depths of the sea. You can see these colors always in each of our collections.
I design for myself, for my friends, my family, and most importantly, for the women that inspire me. I design for women that are strong, confident, and not afraid to be sexy. For women that trust in the power of a bikini or a beautiful dress to evoke a feeling and to feel feminine and powerful all at the same time. For women that want to stand out, stand tall, and not be afraid to take risks. And for the women that may have lost their way and are looking for ways to find themselves again. My greatest success is to inspire women to embrace their curves, their natural beauty, and for simply being themselves – for that is the most beautiful quality of all.