Summer is just around the corner and we’ve got the beach on our minds, so naturally we reached out to the founders of MIKOH—a.k.a., the beauties behind our Countersun campaign, Oleema, Kalani, and their mother, Charlene Miller—to talk about, well, everything under the sun.
No strangers to the beach, these California natives (now, part-time Hawaiian locals) grew up with the ocean in their backyard and spent most of their lives in bikinis, traveling around the world to catch the best waves. Not only are they fearless leaders, but this female-led family company is really making waves for a greener world and currently exploring ways in which they can make MIKOH eco-friendlier and more sustainable. Get to know the women behind MIKOH and learn about their best sun practices. (After all, a family who suns together, stays together, right?)
Beauty Counter: Tell us a bit about MIKOH.
Kalani Miller: We started the line when I was still in college. Oleema came to me with a great idea of starting a swimwear company, and we ran with it. There was no swimwear at the time that had the perfect fit, cuts, and styles that we were after. There was a huge hole in the marketplace. Our audience is everyone from [newborns] to women of all ages. We started a kids’ line which mirrors similar styles to the MIKOH line. There really is something for everyone in our line, whether you like a skimpy cut or a more full-coverage piece.
Oleema Miller: We started MIKOH when I was 19 years old (11 years ago), when I was just freshly out of high school. I had always taken the road less traveled, and I knew that embarking on a journey of starting my own brand was exactly the direction that was meant [for] me. The MIKOH woman is strong, confident, and cool. She loves fashion, the outdoors, and isn’t afraid to take risks. And yet, she is humble, hardworking, and will never take “no” for an answer. Our pieces are modern, yet minimal, and always with a hint of fun. I design for myself, my friends, and for the women I aspire to be more like. MIKOH pieces are meant to be effortless, timeless, and treasured.
Fun fact: In Japanese, “miko” is a term that once meant “female prophecy.”
BC: How does having been a professional surfer inform your design sensibility?
OM: I don’t just design from a fashion perspective—I think about functionality and how our pieces will wear in and out of the water. I think having my background in surfing definitely plays a huge role in my design process, and makes our collections that much more dynamic and diverse.
BC: Did your interest in style come from your mom?
KM: My style has always come from her lifestyle, growing up. We grew up in a small beach town in Southern California, so, the beach, as well as our family, has constantly inspired us. My mom has a classic style and mixes in pieces inspired by the islands and tropics.
BC: We hear you’re exploring more sustainable production methods. What’s on the horizon?
OM: We are always moving forward and searching for innovative methods to make our company more sustainable and more eco-friendly. We currently manufacture in Bali and are exploring options for our fabrications, our packaging, and production to be as green as possible.
BC: Swimwear is so personal. How is MIKOH inclusive of body types and ages?
KM: Something that we really stress is inclusivity within our brand. There truly is something for everyone of all sizes and shapes and preference of coverage. We also do a full line of ready-to-wear, so we have every aspect of the beach lifestyle covered.
BC: What’s the biggest perk of working with your sister?
OM: My sister, Kalani, and I are first and foremost best friends and sisters before we are business partners. We prioritize our relationship always and never lose sight of the importance of it. Being able to share the experience of starting and building a brand and travel the world with her has been something that has really made our relationship and MIKOH that much more special. I’m so grateful for that.
KM: It is amazing to be able to go through all of these experiences with my sister. When we are having a “pinch me moment,” we definitely have looked at each other and been so happy to be able to go through these amazing milestones, both professionally and personally together.
BC: Can you give us your favorite easy summer recipe – something that works if you’re entertaining?
KM: I love to start the day with a delicious and healthy smoothie. I like soaking chia seeds overnight in your preference of milk (I like coconut milk)! I add my favorite protein powder, fresh greens, berries of your choice—I like blueberries because of their strong antioxidant properties—and lately, I have been adding coconut butter to make it creamy. It is the perfect way to start your day.
BC: Bikini or one-piece – personal preference?
OM: Bikini all the way. Way more comfy, more options for how to mix and match, and can easily throw on anything over and have it double as undergarments.
KM: Bikinis all the way! I try to experiment with one-pieces but I am definitely a bikini girl at heart.
BC: Best tips for staying sun safe?
OM: Biggest hat you can find, lots and lots of sunscreen (reapplying is key), seeking shade when you can, and not spending hours and hours in the sunshine.
KM: Our mom has told us to never leave the house without a hat, and I still listen to that daily. Having coverage from the sun as well as daily application of sunscreen will help preserve your skin.
Charlene Miller: A good hat and a pair of sunglasses is always an essential for the beach or being outdoors.
BC: Favorite beach in the world?
OM: You can’t beat the beach in front of my house in Hawaii, but Tavarua in Fiji is pretty magical and the sunsets are to die for!
KM: A small heart-shaped island in Fiji called Tavarua is home to my favorite beaches.
CM: There is nothing quite like waking up on the beach in Hawaii. Hawaii feels like home to me as my mother grew up there, and I have spent countless days waking up to the ocean mist. Nothing quite beats that.
BC: What’s the #1 song on your summer playlists?
OM: Anything from Alt-J, Lana Del Rey, or from my favorite Hawaiian band, Hapa.
KM: “In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry.
CM: Anything from Jackson Browne.
BC: What’s in your beach bag?
OM: Lots of sunscreen, my Hydro Flask filled with ice-cold water with fresh lemon, my favorite straw hat from Janessa Leone, and my Pomeranian pup, Panda.
KM: Sunscreen, a hat, my Kindle, and a reusable water bottle.
CM: A good book, a bag to collect seashells, a pair of sunglasses, and a cute MIKOH cover-up.
BC: What are you most looking forward to this summer?
OM: Spending days beachside, hosting BBQs in my front yard, and warm and balmy nights under my coconut trees with a glass of wine in hand.
KM: The sun and warmth!
CM: My best memories are taking my four kids down to the beach when they were young. As soon as summer comes along, I head to the beach with my husband and children. The best days are spent at the beach.
BC: Who is your style icon?
OM: Japanese street style is always inspiring, and I’ve completely fallen in love with visiting Tokyo. The way the men and women (and even kids) pair together their pieces is the epitome of cool.
KM: I gather style inspiration from my travels. I love having basics and then adding in a piece to make it pop.
CM: I am constantly inspired by the tropics and Hawaiian Islands. Easy, light, and breezy silhouettes are my go-to. I love colorful dresses and anything that can remind me of the islands.
Now for some mom-specific questions:
BC: Did you always know your daughters would do something big?
CM: My husband and I have always been supportive of our four children’s dreams regardless of what they were. We let them discover who they are on their own and in their own time. We have always been there to lean on, have questions answered, and offer any support that we could.
BC: As the mother of four, how did you support your kids’ creativity and interests?
CM: With four children, I always believed to have them in as many activities and try as much as they wanted. They have done everything from karate to sailing to tennis to ice-skating and have loved it all. We have never forced them into any activity. I have always let them forge their own path. Naturally they were all drawn to the ocean, and that is the root and at the core of our family.
BC: #1 piece of advice for moms everywhere?
CM: Let your children grow up outside and in nature. The kids had minimal screen time as it was before technology was a major factor. Allow your children to forge their own path.
Feel like hitting the beach now? Before you go, grab these beach essentials!