The sisters behind Orange County-based swimwear brand Mikoh
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Gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue may be some women’s dream, but having your swimsuits make the pages of the magazine is the best thing a swimwear designer can hope for.
For Orange County-based sisters Oleema and Kalani Miller, it’s happened twice -– last year one of their suits was featured just as they were launching their line, Mikoh, and this year, three of their bikinis were worn by the models sprawling on white sands or perched on the corner of a yacht.
The sisters grew up surfing the waters of Orange County and infuse pop colors, dreamy watercolor prints and interesting details like a peek-a-boo back of shirred fabric on a one-piece into the line, and have caught the attention not only of Sports Illustrated but celebs such as Cameron Diaz and LeAnn Rimes.
We caught up via e-mail with the sisters. They’re currently in Australia at a surf competition and, of course, gathering inspiration for their next collection.
I know the two of you are in Australia. What are you doing there?
Oleema: We are both over here for a little bit of fun, to see some of our best friends as well as to watch the Quiksilver Pro that is happening at Snapper. For me, I am inspired on every trip I go on. Australia is a really inspiring place with its culture, landscape, and from just being surrounded by our friends from around the world.
Kalani: Australia has become like a second home to me over the last couple years. My boyfriend surfs in the Quiksilver Pro at Snapper Rocks, which kicks off the year for the World Tour. Not only is the weather amazing, the water is bathtub warm, the food is mouth watering, and it’s always a great start to the year. I always look forward to coming here and spending time relaxing, hanging with koalas, and clocking a lot of beach time.
Congrats on your second issue of Sport Illustrated. Can you describe how this exposure has changed or helped your business?
O: Thank you so much! I would say that Sports Illustrated has completely changed and helped MIKOH grow in such a positive way. I feel that many women look at SI as the shopping guide for swimwear so it’s definitely helped increased our sales. Aside from that, SI in my eyes legitimizes you as a brand and I think having MIKOH in SI is one the greatest things that can happen to you as a swim brand.
K: Thank you! We are so happy and over the moon about the latest SI issue as well as all other press. It definitely helps with our exposure and is an amazing experience seeing such beautiful ladies wearing our suits during shoots around the world. SI has brought our business to the next level, showing our peers we are here to stay and making a strong statement to the swim world about who we are.
I know you both grew up surfing, but your suits look teeny. Are they wave- and surf-proof? Or more for lying out and looking good?
O: I competitively surfed for about 10 years, and I have never worn or surfed in a more comfortable suit. When it comes to swimwear, less is more. There is such a great range of styles in the collection that you can have a suit that is great to go surf in and be active, and there are suits that are great to get the perfect tan. I’d say they’re the ‘all in one’ type of bikini.
K: The suits are definitely multi-function. They are very secure when surfing and doing water sports and also help you to look fabulous while doing those sports. They are also great for pool or beach-side relaxing. Comfort has definitely been high on our priorities, and we have had positive feedback from surfers and loungers alike! Growing up in the industry of surf and on surfboards a lot ourselves, we know the importance of comfort and feeling secure in your suit!
Do you still live at the beach? And is that where most of your inspiration comes from?
O: I currently live in Corona del Mar in Orange County, and I absolutely love it. I’d say most of my inspiration comes from the world around me each day. I do a fair bit of traveling and am inspired by each place I visit. The beach and ocean obviously hold a very special place in my heart, and it is something that I’m very passionate about. Inspiration to me comes in all shapes and forms.
K: Right now, I live sort of a gypsy lifestyle. My boyfriend and I jump from country to country and plane to plane. I have learned that home is where the heart is and you can create a little nest no matter where you are. For the next few months, Australia will be home. After I graduated college from UCSB, I have spent a lot of time on the road, and I love it. Home base will always be San Clemente, where my family lives. No matter where we go, there is always a beach close by. It is fun to see the different sands and shells around the world, and we love collecting them.
Lastly, are you going for an SI three-peat? It looks like Mikoh is a favorite of the magazine. Which isn’t a bad thing ...
O: We are most definitely going for a three-peat! I’m already crossing my fingers and toes. I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I was to be in SI two years in a row, let alone have three suits in there! I just feel blessed every day to be able to do something that I love and hopefully get some girls looking fabulous in MIKOH during the process!
K: We are definitely crossing our fingers! We are finishing up the designing of the 2012 collection, and it looks amazing. We hope SI thinks the same! Looks like we will have to wait until next February to find out.
-- Melissa Magsaysay
Top photos: From left, Jessica White, Irina Shayk and Bruna Schmitz in the 2011 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, all wearing Mikoh bikinis. Credit: Sports Illustrated via Mikoh Swimwear
Lower photos: Suits from Mikoh. Credit: Mikoh Swimwear