The Cat’s Miaou: Alexia Elkaim
The Cat’s Miaou: Alexia Elkaim
WORDS BY : JACK SUNNUCKS | LEAD IMAGE BY : VICTORIA JESIONEK
The Cat's Miaou
When Alexia Elkaim first started making jeans on her lunch break, she wasn’t looking to start her own label. Her driving concern was to create a pair of pants that actually looked good on her, denim being legendarily unflattering on anyone with even the hint of an ass. “Because I have a big butt, I feel like denim is very unforgiving, and kind of one sided,” she laughs. Soon however, she realized her ambitions couldn’t be confined to one pair of jeans (even if they had stretch in them), and so she started MIAOU just over a year ago, a label that embodies her love of both perfect fit and characterful, color drenched fabrics.
“I’m not that Céline girl,” she laughs when we meet, wearing a white poplin sun dress and gold hoops. “I don’t need a pair of pants for two thousand dollars.” We were lucky enough to catch Alexia in between bicoastal business meetings, and the conversation ranged from yellow plaid, to the legacy of Alaia, to why she’d want Oprah to wear her designs. Read below.
When did you start Miaou?
August 2016. Every six weeks I do a new drop. So it takes a lot of planning to workout the next six months.
And why did you start Miaou? It seems like such a herculean task.
I started it as a passion project – I was working a desk job, doing casting in New York, and it was out of a personal need. I was looking for a pair of jeans that fit me. At first it was about fit, because I have a big butt, and I feel like denim is very unforgiving and kind of one sided, in the way that it’s tailored for a certain kind of woman and body. And also coming from LA, denim is such a part of the DNA and the culture here. I just never really connected with it. So aside from fit, I was looking for a pair of jeans that was special. I dress in an embellished way, kind of novelty, and I’ve never found a special kind of jeans. The first pair of jeans I made had grommets and a belt, so I felt like “Here are a pair of jeans I can wear everyday, dressed up or dressed down.” But then it developed into a company. It was a snowball effect, I shot my friends in it, then the images got picked up by Vogue, and it became more than a pair of jeans that I went Midtown to fit during my lunch breaks.
Now you say it, it’s wild there aren’t jeans for anyone who deviates from a stick shaped body.
Yeah! I think denim is having a revolution right now – it’s moving into more novelty. You look at the matrix of denim, and it was predominantly run by the J Brands, and
the Current Elliotts of the world, and the classic five pocket. And now it’s about vintage, and re-done, it’s an interesting space to start in because people are trying to
reinvent the ‘denim-ology’ so to speak, of how people shop for jeans. People are looking for specialness, and not just in jeans, really in anything. It’s an exciting time
to start anything in fashion really.
And LA is having quite the moment – as a native you’re primed to take advantage of that.
It’s funny, because I live in New York, but I’m currently trying to move back. I always thought I’d be absorbed by my environment in New York, but I’m such an LA girl that I kind of brought this fun and playful element to the way that I design, and I find New York fashion doesn’t have that. It’s a lot more serious. I don’t think it has anything to do with the city, because in London for instance I find that fashion is a lot more fun – it’s colorful. So I guess I am very much LA in the way I design and the flare of it all.
Who in fashion inspired you?
I guess Betsey Johnson is the first person I think of. In the ‘90s I remember shopping at Betsey Johnson was I was 14 or 15, and I remember you could get a little poplin,
flow-y corset dress. Kind of like what I’m wearing! I think I guess as a contemporary designer I’m really inspired by her, and how fun she is. I think fashion should be fun.
And I like vintage from the flea market! I think that’s really how I shop, so that’s how I design. I guess by novelty I mean specialty. If it’s denim, I’ll do embroidery or
printing on it.
I think designing in denim makes it more casual. And then the embellishment means maybe you can wear it in a dressier environment.
Vintage is perfect as it’s both heavily embellished and unique.
Yeah! I’m not that Celine girl, I don’t need a pair of pants for 2,000 dollars. I definitely do not relate to that at all. I think fashion should be fun, and playful, and
not so serious. I try and make clothes everyone can wear.
How about the name?
It was my nickname! I have it tattooed on my arm actually – my first tattoo I got as a teenager. My mom, and brother and sister, we meow around the house, and this is
the French spelling of meow.
How wide is the Miaou range now?
It’s a full look! The way I started designing was just bottoms, so I was just like, focus, because I’m all over the place. So it was organic the way it evolved – baseline is
denim, and then I decided to make tops for any bottoms that I make, in the same fabric – because I make sets. People want to buy full looks – think how Alaia would
design a whole collection in one fabric. The iconic leopard in the ‘90s. So I design in that way. It evolved into a denim brand – denim is my only rule. And top and bottom
is the progression.
Setting rules seems to work really well for you.
Because otherwise your message gets diluted. And I’m not going to sit here and say I have any experience in running a business or designing a collection, so I’m learning.
I think having a destination brand for pants has so much more value than doing a full collection, when you get put in a pool of a thousand other designers who are
trying to do it. So it’s been a challenge, I swim across the current every day. Sometimes I’m like, I want to make hats! I don’t know, I just love hats! It helps me
focus – I love breaking rules, but I love having them to break.
I love the yellow plaid in your new drop.
It’s so Clueless! I just dropped that yesterday for the holiday collection. That collection I designed with the fabric in mind. I have them made in stretch, which is
how I design everything. And then I was like, what can I do with yellow plaid! It’s so funny, I found that fabric two years ago, and by the time I put it out people really
liked yellow plaid.
Have you been really excited to see anyone wear Miaou?
Anytime anyone wears it! I would love to see Rihanna wear it, or Ellen Degeneres, or Oprah! A lot of the kind of supermodels have worn it, which is great… but I’m
interested in the Oprahs. Martha Stewart! Any woman that wear Miaou, for me, that’s amazing. Because my mom and her friends in Malibu wear Miaou. Bosses of all
ages. Girl bosses. God, I hate that term.
I’m working on a shoe collaboration with one of my favorite French shoe brands. I’m French! Miaou!