“I think my first trip to Hawaii was a vacation in Kauai,” contemplates Carolyn Murphy. “I was immediately captivated by the greenery and the lush tropical land—like I could see and feel the earth breathing.” This is a sentiment shared by her design partners. Today, just in time for International Surfing Day, the eco-minded and surf-loving supermodel launches Surf’s Up, her second upcycled collection with Lela Becker and Tim Kaeding of Los Angeles-based denim brand Mother. It’s also the third release of 60% Mother, which denotes the brand’s collections that are primarily made of repurposed vintage and dead-stock garments and textiles.
For the 12-piece capsule, which features patchwork tapestry ponchos, Hawaiian shirts, snug ribbed knits, and a beach tote, Murphy found the ideal muses in her three uncles, who shuttled between Hawaii and California in the 1970s chasing waves. One, Bob, designed logos for Op and Hang Ten, which kept Murphy, who grew up on the beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast, in surf gear. “It was only a matter of time,” says Murphy, before she grabbed a board of her own. “I always craved that freedom.”
“Everything is so seamless with Carolyn,” says Kaeding, a Honolulu regular whose wife’s Hawaiian roots go back to the 18th century. “She has a very clear aesthetic, and we also see eye to eye on the ’70s and California-inspired direction, which is the essence of Mother.” The laid-back vibe inspired by the surf cultures that Hawaii and California share also made the theme of this collection a no-brainer, according to Becker, who first traveled to Maui at the ripe age of 8 and visits Hanalei annually with her family. “I think Californians are naturally drawn by that spirit coupled with the epic beauty, vegetation, and landscapes the islands offer,” she says. “What’s not to love?”
The best part: $50,000 of the proceeds from the collaboration will be donated to the Save The Waves Coalition. “Surfing has been a part of Carolyn’s life since she was a young girl, and it was important to her and us that the collection supports an organization that protects surf ecosystems,” says Becker. “After all, summer wouldn’t be the same without the beach,” adds Kaeding. With that in mind, we asked Murphy, who has emerged as a champion of sustainability, to share some of her inspirations, design philosophies—and, of course, a few of her favorite looks from the Surf’s Up collection.
You’ve collaborated with a wide range of brands, from Shinola to Adeam. What lessons have you taken away from each? How have you approached your work with Mother differently—or not?
What I’ve learned from the various collaborations I’ve done is that a lot of work goes into a single item. The design process has many layers, but the ultimate goal is to create something people want and that you’re proud to put your name on. It’s all about teamwork, and that goes for any brand. This second collection with Mother was as heartfelt as the first one in the sense that we were excited by the process of collaborating and using upcycled garments. It feels like a responsible and fun challenge that we owe to ourselves and the fashion community: to lead by example. I like the ease and playfulness of what we’ve created both times, and the nod to laid-back American style.
You seem to have such an eye for design, whether it’s fashion or interiors. Where do you think that comes from?
I’m going to credit my nana for my eye in design and interiors—she was very chic and an artist. I was also traveling abroad from a young age, and in my career, was exposed to different people, cultures, and destinations, which helped influence and develop my personal style. It all comes down to the fact that I thrive on inspiration and creativity.
“Sustainability” is an intimidating word to some, who may not quite know how or where to begin. What does sustainability mean to you, and what are some of your sustainable practices?
I find that being labeled by or claiming anything around sustainability is intimidating. We live in a world where walking the talk entirely is unrealistic for most, but adapting simple lifestyle choices is a way to start. Buying used—whether it’s cars, clothes, or furniture—is a great starting point of recycling. Reusing items like bags and glass jars. Reducing waste by shopping at farmers markets, composting kitchen scraps, and skipping single-use plastic items.
Many of the items in the collection are upcycled. Aside from sustainability, what about vintage appeals to you?
Vintage is appealing because the hunt for pieces can be surprising; there is history around most of the garments, and the challenge in reworking them is so much fun.
When did you begin surfing, and what is the importance of surfing in your life?
I began surfing consistently in my twenties, but since I come from a family of surfers and grew up around the water, it was just a matter of time. I always loved the surf and skate culture (the boys too). My three uncles lived in California and surfed Rincon, and it dictated their lifestyle, which I always wanted. My uncle Bob designed the logos for OP, Hang Ten, Lightning Bolt, and other big brands. He unfortunately passed a few years ago, but was such a legend. His best friend was Mark Richards, and he hung with the Duke. He would show me pictures and tell stories about their trips. I always craved that freedom, and once I had a taste of it in Costa Rica in 1998, that was it!
Describe your perfect Hawaiian day and which Mother items would carry you through it.
My perfect Hawaiian day starts with a golden sunrise, plates of fruit, rooster crows, yoga, surf check, and surf—specifically, longboarding with my girlfriends in Oahu. An afternoon beach day either in the Waipio Valley of Kona or Hanalei on Kauai, followed by some exploring—I love hiking the Nepali Coast or taking the boat along the coastline, stopping to swim in the middle of the ocean—and a gathering with friends and family at night, perhaps over fish tacos or fish burritos from the Mermaids Cafe. I would have every Mother item from the collection, starting with my striped romper set. I’d probably throw on the tank dress at some point in the day at the beach, cover up in my mini caftan as the day cools off, and put on my Hawaiian shorts or mini at night.
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