Miller girls’ bikini business makes runway debut

Kalani, left, and Oleema Miller are the women behind the Mikoh line of swimwear for women. The San Clemente natives had their debut runway show in Miami earlier this month. Photo: Jim Shilander
Kalani, left, and Oleema Miller are the women behind the Mikoh line of swimwear for women. The San Clemente natives had their debut runway show in Miami earlier this month. Photo: Jim Shilander

By Jim Shilander

Kalani and Oleema Miller can, as much as anyone, lay claim to the title of queens of the beach.

The sisters’ bikini business, Mikoh, just launched its sixth season in Miami at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Swim, where they had their first runway show on July 19.

“It’s definitely been a dream of ours for a long time, so to see it come this far is a dream come true,” Kalani, 27, the older of the two sisters said.

Oleema, 25, primarily handles the designs, while Kalani tackles the business end. This year was finally the right moment to take their designs to the big stage.

“We wanted to wait for the right moment to do a runway show,” Oleema said. “It’s a whole other step up from just showing in Miami. It was a long wait, but we’re happy we did wait until the right moment. We couldn’t have had it turn up better.”

The duo’s parents, Jim and Charlene Miller, encouraged them to indulge their creative side growing up.

“We were always doing art projects, trying every sport or any project you can imagine,” Kalani said.

Early on, all the Miller children learned how to sew, cook or do other creative endeavors.

“We really lived the ultimate San Clemente lifestyle growing up,” Oleema said. “We were on the surf team. It was instilled in us to do something creative and it was something we want to do in our professional lives as well.”

She calls Mikoh the “perfect partnership,” since it provides both balance and autonomy. The manufacturing is done in Indonesia’s island of the gods, in Bali.

Kalani’s side of Mikoh extends beyond just numbers. Her role encompasses multiple areas of the business, including the marketing, production and working with vendors.

“It’s been a learning experience for both of us, learning how to communicate with people,” she said. “It’s a little bit of everything. We bounce ideas of each other. It’s nice to be in business with your best friend and get to travel around the world together.”

Oleema said the two working together hasn’t changed their relationship much.

“If anything, we’ve gotten closer,” she said. “Growing up, we were just a grade apart, so all the after school activities, we all did together. It’s fun to watch us both evolve as women and in our personal lives.”

Jim Miller, who owns Coastal Surroundings, a San Clemente landscape architecture company, said his daughters have largely figured out the business side on their own, though he and Charlene are willing to provide advice when it’s asked for.

“They’ve earned everything,” Jim said. “No one handed them anything. They had to work for it.”

Jim first realized where things might be headed in the direction they did after Oleema finished high school. Kalani was in college at UC Santa Barbara and Oleema was still trying to figure out what she wanted to do.

“The epiphany came when Oleema asked me to look at some drawings she’d done of bathing suits, and here were several pages, front and back,” he said. “I told her ‘Wow, that’s really good.’ And the light bulb went off.”

The sisters’ older brother, Jason, is also involved in the business full-time, largely handling web design. Younger sister Hana is finishing school but the girls are “definitely trying to draft her” into joining the business when she finishes.

“Every day is a learning experience,” Kalani said. “We’ve never had a company before. This is our first go at it, so everything we do, we’re new to it. Every day we’re learning a new skill. We’ve made mistakes, but they’re just lessons. We’ve learned how to process it together and not make the same mistakes.”

Oleema said the sisters’ hometown is obviously a major point behind the brand, which uses the first two letters of their last name, with the initials for each sister, including younger sister Hana.

“San Clemente is definitely the quintessential beach,” Oleema said. “We grew up surfing, across from Lasuens beach. We’ve been wearing bikinis our entire lives and grew up in a very creative household, so there was an emphasis to do something creative and independent.”

The Mikoh girl, she said, is reflective of that, of a small-town girl trying to conquer the big world. She said the company can be a lesson for others about doing what you can to make what you want happen.

“There’s so much opportunity for something out there if that’s what you want to do,” Oleema said.

Kalani says no matter where the business takes the Millers, San Clemente will always be with the both of them.

“I think San Clemente is always going to be our home. We always end up coming back,” Kalani said. “That’s where our family is, and there’s definitely no place like home.”

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