Eleven-month-old women's apparel brand Miaou has just about every ingredient required for a successful clothing line in 2017: a strong social media presence, a significant Instagirl fan base, an inclusive, empowering brand ethos and a distinctive signature product that flatters your butt (indisputably Instagram's favorite body part). But when I first found out about the brand — on Instagram, naturally — it was the name that piqued my interest. "Miaou" has always been my Tattoo That I Would Get if I Ever Got a Tattoo (which I never will). The word melds two of my personal obsessions: cats and French things (it's how the French spell "Meow"), and is basically my last name with a couple of extra vowels.
Turns out this was also true of the brand's 26-year-old founder Alexia Elkaim, except she actually got the tattoo, and she's actually French — sort of. Though raised in Los Angeles, she was born in France and jokingly describes her parents as "fresh-off-the-boat French."
"It was the language we spoke at home," she explains. "We're, like, freaks; we meow to each other." Miaou became her nickname early on, and she eventually got it tattooed on her arm. Her fashion career began close to home as well. In high school, she worked for her stepfather Serge Azria, the owner of Joie and Current/Elliott, and helped pull vintage pieces for inspiration, which would ultimately become the basis for her own line. She then moved to New York and attended Parsons, where she studied business while interning at both V and CR Fashion Book. While working her first full-time job in casting at Starworks, she designed a pair of high-waisted jeans with a cinching rope tie woven through large grommets. The piece was inspired by a vintage pair she found, as well as her own difficulty finding stylish, feminine, flattering pants for her body type. "It's filling the void of pants that fit curvy girls like me with a big butt," she says. What started as a passion project that she sold to a few friends has since become a full-fledged clothing line. Miaou is built on empowerment and inclusivity, with pants available from a size 23 to a 32.
Buzz built quickly on social media, where girls like Bella and Gigi Hadid, Kylie Jenner, Jordyn Woods, Hailey Baldwin, Kaia Gerber, Selena Gomez, Laura Love and many more have worn the signature pant style. She says many of them are either friends or friends of friends, and it happens organically. "I'm like, hey, do you want a pair of these jeans?" she says. A new floral corset style started popping up on the 'gram even before she gifted any. "A lot of them just bought them." She says it's been gratifying to see "these influential girls supporting the brand just 'cause."
Miaou produces everything in LA and sells product through its own e-commerce, as well as at three of the most influential retailers in the country: Opening Ceremony, Just One Eye and Kirna Zabete — all of whom reached out to her about carrying the line, many of them by sliding into her Instagram DMs. Opening Ceremony was the first big supporter and, like me, Carol Lim was drawn in by the cat reference. "She was like, 'I love cats!' and I was like, 'I love cats!'" explains Elkaim, who doesn't even have a sales team. "You're in one door and it domino effects into others," she adds. "People reach out from Instagram: influencers, stylists, buyers, big distribution companies..."
Opening Ceremony recently gave Miaou a full window installation at its LA location. Kirna Zabete will be hosting a Miaou pop-up in the Hamptons this weekend.
Elkaim still wants to keep tight control over how her products are released and sold, and on that front she's chosen the increasingly popular "drop" method. To expand beyond her popular pant style, she's planned five drops for this summer; a floral corset and matching pant with an unfinished waistband have already launched. "If I was interested in a new brand, I would need to be stimulated every week, every day with new imagery, content and product," she says. "It's almost like a streetwear structure; you show the whole collection once, then go to market once, then internally drop it." She has no interest in revealing products six months ahead of time or putting items up for sale that can't be worn at that moment.
As the line expands, Elkaim intends to remain a pants-focused brand while releasing additional wardrobe staples as she sees fit, whether it's another corset or a dress that "checks off the same boxes" as the little black dress she'll be releasing soon. Collaborations with other brands are also on the horizon.
In so many ways, Miaou is a perfect example of what does work when it comes to launching a fashion brand in a remarkably fickle landscape. At 26 years old, Elkaim has managed to get influencers, retailers and consumers alike excited with little more than a good pair of pants and a cute name. Granted, her family's background in fashion and relationships with stylish, influential girls didn't hurt. It will be interesting to see if and how she continues to build on this momentum going forward.
See all of the Miaou resort 2018 collection in the gallery below.