(Designers)

Meet Sami Miró, The Designer Repurposing Vintage For Olivia Rodrigo & Selena Gomez

Sustainable and *so* cool.

@samimiro

A vintage style revolution is brewing: A-list celebrities are pulling archival looks for major events, reseller marketplaces like Poshmark and TheRealReal are booming, and Y2K-era fashion is back in a big way. So it makes sense that most cutting-edge designers of today are turning to fashion’s past to craft the looks of the future. Enter, Sami Miró.

Whether or not you know her name, you’ve likely seen her work. Miró’s powerhouse eponymous label has been dominating Instagram feeds with the sustainably made elevated basics that are fast becoming street style staples among celebrities like Bella Hadid and Dua Lipa. The versatile pieces work perfectly for breezing around town, but lately they’ve been getting on-stage spotlight moments — most recently with Halsey at their concert this June as well as via Christina Aguilera, who debuted a custom Sami Miró skirt and corset ensemble during the LA Pride celebrations.

But unlike most fashion-obsessed millennials, Miró’s sartorial fanaticism was not fueled by season-long ANTM and Project Runway marathons or inspired by glossy magazine editorial spreads. Instead, the designer’s earliest fashion memories — the foundation for what would one day lead to the creation of her namesake label beloved by the likes of Selena Gomez and Olivia Rodrigo — are of playing in her dad’s closet and styling her older brother’s hand-me-downs to fit her much smaller figure. Raised by her father in San Francisco, creating looks with pieces originally from somebody else’s wardrobe gave her a sense for how to make do with whatever she had at her disposal.

The skill would come in handy when she reached high school and didn’t have access to the same luxury fashion as many of her peers. Miró’s father emphasized the importance of an education to his children, who both attended the school on scholarship. Buying the hottest Juicy Couture for his teenage daughter was simply not a priority.

“All of these kids were very trendy and had a lot of disposable income and they were wearing Juicy and all the cool kind of stuff,” recounts Miró on a call from her Los Angeles apartment. “My dad was like, ‘We cannot afford that — sorry!’” Compounding that sense of otherness was the fact that Miró was one of the only Black students in her Bay Area school.

“Being a Black woman, being a Black person, affects your experience in every single thing that you do every day of your life,” she says. “Whether it’s going to the grocery store, working in tech, working in fashion, going to an event, going to the movies — whatever it is, we have a different experience.”

She was used to sticking out and felt extra pressure to try and conform somehow, and with the designer label digs of her classmates out of reach, she turned to vintage shopping. One day while scanning through a local shop, she happened upon a shirt that reframed her thinking around the value in being different.

“I was walking around in San Francisco and I went into this store, the back half was all vintage clothing,” she remembers. “I was able to find some of the brands — not Juicy, of course — but I found a Lacoste polo for $5 that was once purple and was now kind of like a mauve color, with sun damage and holes.”

Nowadays, Miró speculates, a fashionably distressed shirt like that might be worth a lot more than five bucks. But at the time? “It was all about new-with-tags, back then,” she explains. “And so I wore that to school as much as I possibly could. I was doing it out of insecurity to fit in, but then I realized that my damaged Lacoste polo was the only one in the entire world that was like that. Everybody else was walking in with their exact same identical polos and Juicy and UGGs and I found the beauty in feeling unique in what I was wearing.”

The source of her insecurity and discomfort became a strength. She was beyond just finding peace with standing out; now, it was her preference. With her mindset shifting, Miró started hunting for vintage pieces to intentionally distinguish herself from the rest of the class.

“It turned into a whole thing where all I was doing was thrifting and wearing vintage,” she says. Her wardrobe evolved, eventually consisting of pre-loved, super tattered pieces that would become a signature for her style and the main through-line for her SMV label. “It actually gave me a tremendous amount of confidence to be able to walk into a room like, ‘I’m the only one with this, you can’t get this.’ I had no idea that it would turn into my livelihood now, but it made a very big impression on me throughout my entire life.”

Of course, the path from thrifting in high school to running her own secondhand business wasn’t exactly a straight line. Miró found her rhythm upcycling thrifted clothing and became more and more familiar with which shapes she liked on her body, cutting pieces up as she saw fit to align with her personal style. But even as she continued to explore fashion, Miró didn’t consider designing or styling as career options (“At that point I really didn’t even know that styling was a job!”) and went on to pursue her master’s in a global entrepreneurship and management program.

She worked at a San Francisco-based startup for several years after graduation and eventually relocated to LA. Working for the same company but just a few hours away from HQ, she started meeting people in creative industries who encouraged her to take odd jobs that would equip her with an understanding of the city’s fashion business.

“I would intern on the weekends and be the coffee runner, bottom-of-the-totem-pole person at a photo shoot, like the stylist’s fourth assistant,” she says with a laugh. “Just to kind of understand fashion because I literally knew nothing — I just knew what I liked. And then I realized that there was something creative that had been dormant and that I wanted to take some time to explore different options.”

In 2016, she took the leap to quit her corporate job and focus full-time on establishing herself in fashion. She was assured by the knowledge that if she wanted to go back to tech or marketing the options would remain, but there wouldn’t be infinite time to venture out and pursue her dreams.

Miró knew that vintage clothing was her fashion North Star; any company she would go on to develop would make it a central point of focus. Upon experimenting with some patchwork pieces, she realized SMV could feasibly be built around reconstructing her beloved vintage finds. Ten days later, she had figured out how to base her manufacturing process locally, build her website, and shoot her first campaign.

While it was a long and winding journey via a nontraditional route to establish her line, it took just one mega-moment to get it off the ground: a vote of confidence from Selena Gomez (Miró had a friend who worked for the pop star that showed her some pieces). Gomez shot a full campaign with SMV’s bodysuits before requesting Miró join her and design for an upcoming leg of her Revival tour in Asia. Miró created new looks for each concert as well as ensembles for the airport, the singer’s nightlife, and her backup dancers.

Miró’s Silicon Valley mentality carried right over from the startup environment of San Francisco to the chaotic days on tour as a new business owner, outfitting a beloved entertainer who was constantly being photographed.

“I was like two months into fashion,” Miró laughs. “So I get a call from [Gomez] to just actually come out and bring everything, I was like, what does that even mean?!” The brand-new brand owner had to fire on all cylinders to prep and pack up hundreds of items in 48 hours. “I think the fact that I have that experience in a startup, knowing my vision will work out in the end as long as I have that ‘just get it done’ mentality kicked things off for me very big.”

Cut to today, and those edgy bodysuits she constructed for Gomez’s tour are still central to the label’s aesthetic. The line is known for its figure-hugging silhouettes in breathable fabrics like the eucalyptus rib. SMV pieces are easily identified by Miró’s signature open seams and the incorporation of bits of hardware — like the recurring safety pin details — as well as asymmetric hemlines. The lingo of the Valley still remains a part of the designer’s vocabulary: She describes the average Sami Miró consumer as “an early adopter.”

“It’s highly focused on elevating normal staples,” she says of the brand’s ethos. “And just really rethinking how to make something that everybody needs in their closet sustainably, and with the angle of a weird vintage tech girl.”

Manufacturing with largely secondhand materials certainly provides a boost for any company trying to stay eco-conscious, but for Miró it’s more of a way of life than a winning business strategy. The label’s focus on sustainability is an extension of the designer’s intrinsic Californian environmental awareness.

“In San Francisco, being born and raised in the city, [eco-consciousness] is not even something that we think about — it’s just how we are,” she says. Eco-friendliness is a major factor in all three parts of SMV’s business model, the first being the brand’s vintage clothing, personally sourced by Miró who “cuts it up” and reworks it to create what she calls its one-of-one pieces. The second part is collections made with locally sourced-deadstock fabric, which is by necessity limited to the amount of whichever fabrics were pulled for them, and more “design-forward,” according to Miró. She started off using all deadstock fabric, but as the business scaled, she needed to secure an eco-conscious solution that would allow her to meet growing consumer demand.

“In our two most successful fabrications, I was able back then to buy so many rolls, but inevitably that ran out,” she says. “We had to then learn how to develop our own fabrics that were sustainable and I think something that’s really exciting for us is that we have been eco-conscious since day one. And so as we grow, we have that mindset of this being the only way, whereas all of these other brands are trying to play catchup, and it’s not part of their business model.” Miró explains that any eco-conscious decision is very often the more expensive option for a business, but with those costs already figured in, there’s less time spent trying to discern where to put that money — she knows where her priorities lie. While other retailers have been known to participate in greenwashing to pander to a customer base demanding more sustainable options, Miró’s SMV has had green practices figured into its mission since the outset.

“For me that’s built into my business model, and for them they might end up losing money,” she says. “It has to be really from the heart, because if I have an eco fabric and a non-eco fabric and the eco one is 10 times more expensive, I don’t care about the other one. It’s not even an option for me.”

The business’ sustainability commitments and Miró’s own description of her personal style as “scraps” might invite assumptions about SMV’s look for those who aren’t familiar, but Miró has proven she can make anything from the cutting room floor look just as chic paired with jeans as it does on the red carpet. She more than proved that this past May with her first foray into couture work: supermodel Duckie Thot’s amfAR Gala gown.

“I've been designing a lot more elevated collections for the back half of the year, which you guys will end up seeing,” she tells TZR. “Couture was something that was on my radar but I didn't know where to fit it in, so [the amfAR Gala gown] was a really incredible opportunity. I had five days from when I was asked to do this project to the day that I left town, so it went from design ideation day one, to sourcing vintage, reworking gowns, then creating a pattern, finding the deadstock fabrics for it, creating multiple samples, and then leaving town. I'm super proud of the outcome.”

Another milestone? Miró recently joined the CFDA — a not-for-profit organization and the official owner of the Fashion Calendar, which counts hundreds of the world’s most influential designers as members — in 2021. As the owner of a label with what she describes as a “unique perspective,” and one that doesn’t really follow the Fashion Calendar, she was surprised and beyond grateful to be added to such an exclusive club. And with the world of possibilities for SMV expanding further and further, Miró has high ambitions for another nod from the prestigious council.

“I would love to be nominated emerging designer of the year for CFDA,” she says. “That would be everything for me.”

While membership with such an elite institution is an incredible honor, fitting in is basically the antithesis of Miró’s approach to style — after all, going against the grain is what’s made her great. For now, she’s content with the fact that the pressures she felt to blend in somehow had the complete opposite effect of pushing her in a different direction than the masses. She acknowledges the pressures she’s faced as a Black woman are ever-present, but she wouldn’t be where she is today without her personal experiences. And regardless of what she’s up against, Miró is confident the fire she’s built up will be enough to push her through.

“[Being Black] has essentially made us work 10 times harder than everybody else, to make the same amount of money, or to get the job, but that work ethic is now ingrained in us,” she says. “I like to acknowledge hardships, but I also want to learn from every single difficult thing that I've had to encounter and deal with. For me it’s like, ‘Oh ok, you don’t accept me? You think I have to work 10 times harder? Well, look at the person that’s made me.’”

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