Panda almost drowned today. She was fearlessly following Oleema into the surf at Pupukea, when the ocean overtook her. Luckily, Oleema and Kalani Miller have a couple lifetimes of ocean experience between them and were able to recover their very fluffy, black-and-white-spotted Pomeranian without too much drama. Resting with her tongue out on the arm of the couch later in the day, Panda seemed content. Her best friend, Action, was snoozing one cushion away and the Miller gals were sorting through samples of their new collection for their bikini brand, MIKOH, on the kitchen table. All was well.
Born and raised in San Clemente, Kalani and Oleema Miller started MIKOH in an Orange County bedroom in 2010, and they’ve built their enterprise into an acclaimed global swimwear brand. It’s been featured in Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue, elite fashion shows worldwide, and most recently on the hoods of special edition Audis. And it all started with surfing. Their dad was a self-described “surf hippy” from LA.”
“Surfing and going to the beach was something that we just did,” says Oleema. “That was like our soccer practice, if you will. Every day involved going to the beach with our dad. I remember scaling the cliff with him. I don’t know how our mom let our dad do it, but we literally scaled the cliff when we were four.”
The surf vibe has been all-encompassing. As groms, their family made cameos in Step into Liquid. Their brother Jason was a pro surfer. Kalani and Oleema repped Roxy for a few years as ambassadors themselves, and Kalani shares these escapades with her guy Kelly Slater.
“Growing up in that really small tight-knit community definitely shaped how we approach things now,” says Oleema. “We didn’t grow up in this big city with the world at our fingertips. We grew up a little bit smaller, and it almost forced us to dream a little more of what else is out there.”
Keeping the bikini brand’s evolution in the family has been a winning formula. MIKOH is actually an acronym: MI comes from Miller, followed by the first letter of each sister’s name: Kalani, Oleema, and their youngest sister Hana. And their brother Jason is a pretty badass web developer. (Have a gander at MIKOH.com to check out some of his handiwork.) Currently, they’re gearing up for spring and summer releases, living out of suitcases, and doing their best to keep their little pups, Panda and Action, safe in the process.
“We’ve expanded so much since day one,” says Oleema. “That’s where the fun is – to continue to grow and learn about what the hell we’re doing every single day…What makes MIKOH so special is the fact that we’ve been able to do it together.”