Carolyn Murphy on motherhood and her runway comeback

Carolyn Murphy wears a jacket and trousers by Jil Sander and watch by Cartier. Photographed by Alexandra Nataf for Porter. All items can be purchased straight from the magazine pages via NET-A-PORTER.COM.

Model Carolyn Murphy talks to NET-A-PORTER’s digital title, Porter, about learning from her daughter, how she stays centred in turbulent times, and her recent return to the runway in her forties: “I hadn’t planned on doing shows. I’m 46, I thought I had retired from that!”

At this point in her career, Murphy can cherry pick her jobs, and walking for Virgil Abloh in the Off-White show in Paris was an easy decision: “He’s so intelligent and kind, and interesting. I was chatting with Gigi [Hadid] in the fitting, who I adore, and they brought out the dress!” Referring to the skin-tight white knit dress with a cutaway midriff that revealed her perfectly toned abs: “There was such collective energy in the fitting – I felt empowered actually.”

She closed The Row because: “Mary-Kate and Ashley [Olsen] are friends of mine; there’s such a sisterhood with the two of them. I really admire their intellect and design sense.”

Murphy enjoyed the liberation that came from her recent runway stint: “There was this sense of ‘What have I got to lose?’ It was all about having fun. I think the beauty of the industry and the world right now is the inclusivity. I think many years ago they wouldn’t have accepted a 46-year-old on the runway, and now it’s open to all age ranges, which is so nice.”

Murphy seems assuredly comfortable in her own skin as she enters life’s midway point: “In your forties, there is this wisdom that comes. My health is intact, knock on wood, and everything is kind of settled. On the flip side, what is the next 50 years going to bring? It’s an interesting crossroads.”

For Murphy, health and wellness is a way of life, rather than a regime: “I have to do something physical to clear my head, but I’m not a gym rat. I’m much more outdoorsy; I like hiking. I don’t surf much anymore, but I do a lot of yoga – Iyengar and Vinyasa.”

Even before quarantine restrictions shut down much of normal life across the globe, there was an underlying sense of turbulence in the political landscape. Murphy explains how she keeps centered in times of uncertainty: “I’m human. Even though I meditate and do yoga, the mind is always going. I think about the polarity in our world right now and I don’t think the messaging is healthy. It’s what’s going on around us with the weather, with politics. The best thing you can do is try to stay centered and healed in our own way, because if we are not centered in ourselves then how can we expect the rest of the world to be?”

Carolyn Murphy wears a blazer and trousers by Balenciaga, tank by Off-White, ring by Delfina Delettrez and ring by Saskia Diez. Photographed by Alexandra Nataf for Porter, All items can be purchased straight from the magazine pages via NET-A-PORTER.COM.

A self-confessed homebody, she prefers to cook than dine out and grows a lot of her own food. Her approach is more nourishing rather than one of abstinence: “I’m not into anything bonkers like fasting or cleansing. I’m all about food. I recently spent a month with my dear friend Shalom Harlow in Hawaii, connecting with these agroforestry, biodynamic organic farmers and visiting their different farms.”

Her next project will be the launch of her website called Mama Murphy’s, an idea for practical advice and guidance that came to her a decade ago, inspired by the simple concept of going back to basics and living simply, which feels more necessary than ever: “It’s interesting how foreign the idea of simplicity can be to some people. It’s a lifestyle brand for modern folk.”

Murphy acknowledges how she’s learnt a lot from her own daughter Dylan, 19: “Dylan is much more together than I was. She’s not on social media. She toiled with it for years then got off. She appreciates fashion like any other young woman, but she has no interest in the industry itself. She’s just very wise. She came into the world like that. I had a home birth on the farm I had in upstate New York and I remember looking at her and thinking, ‘Wow, she’s going to teach me’.”

Murphy will soon be entering a new chapter of motherhood, as Dylan prepares to head off to college. Looking back at how she juggled being a single mother and a successful career, Murphy explains: “It wasn’t always easy to juggle my career and being a single mother, but I had support from my family and community, and the luxury of a career that didn’t demand me full time. I tailored my career around motherhood, even if it meant taking less jobs which meant less money.”

In her personal life, Murphy wants to continue her quest for learning and newness: “To have a really good time, to laugh a lot, to open myself up to new possibilities and new things. I don’t ever want to stop learning because that’s where I thrive. There’s that great quote, ‘Stay hungry, stay foolish’.”

Interview highlights:

Carolyn Murphy on returning to the runway in her forties: “I hadn’t planned on doing shows. I’m 46, I thought I had retired from that!”

Carolyn Murphy on how walking for Virgil Abloh in the Off-White show in Paris was an easy decision:“He’s so intelligent and kind, and interesting.”

Carolyn Murphy on the skin-tight white knit dress with a cutaway midriff that revealed her perfectly toned abs: I was chatting with Gigi in the fitting, who I adore, and they brought out <the dress>!” There was such collective energy in the fitting – I felt empowered actually.”

Carolyn Murphy on Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen of The Row: “Mary-Kate and Ashley are friends of mine; there’s such a sisterhood with the two of them. I really admire their intellect and design sense.”

Carolyn Murphy on the increased inclusivity in the fashion industry: “There was this sense of ‘What have I got to lose?’ It was all about having fun. I think the beauty of the industry, and the world, right now is the inclusivity. I think many years ago they wouldn’t have accepted a 46-year-old on the runway, and now it’s open to all age ranges, which is so nice.”

Carolyn Murphy on the wisdom that comes in your forties and looking forward: “In your forties, there is this wisdom that comes. My health is intact, knock on wood, and everything is kind of settled. On the flip side, what is the next 50 years going to bring? It’s an interesting crossroads.”

Carolyn Murphy wears a shirt by Totême, blazer and trousers by Michael Lo Sordo, necklace by Loren Stewart, necklace by Laura Lombardi, earrings by Sophie Buhai, earrings by Jennifer Fisher, ring by Delfina Delettrez and ring by Saskia Diez. Photographed by Alexandra Nataf for Porter. All items can be purchased straight from the magazine pages via NET-A-PORTER.COM.

Carolyn Murphy on how she stays centred in turbulent times: “I’m human. Even though I meditate and do yoga, the mind is always going. I think about the polarity in our world right now and I don’t think the messaging is healthy. It’s what’s going on around us with the weather, with politics. The best thing you can do is try to stay centered and healed in our own way, because if we are not centered in ourselves then how can we expect the rest of the world to be?”

Carolyn Murphy on her fitness regime: “I have to do something physical to clear my head, but I’m not a gym rat. I’m much more outdoorsy; I like hiking. I don’t surf much anymore, but I do a lot of yoga – Iyengar and Vinyasa.”

Carolyn Murphy on her approach to food: “I’m not into anything bonkers like fasting or cleansing. I’m all about food. I recently spent a month with my dear friend Shalom Harlow in Hawaii, connecting with these agroforestry, biodynamic organic farmers and visiting their different farms.”

Carolyn Murphy on her next project, Mama Murphy’s, inspired by the simple concept of going back to basics and living simply: “It’s interesting how foreign the idea of simplicity can be to some people. It’s a lifestyle brand for modern folk.”

Carolyn Murphy on her daughter Dylan, 19, and how much she’s learned from her: “Dylan is much more together than I was. She’s not on social media. She toiled with it for years then got off. She appreciates fashion like any other young woman, but she has no interest in the industry itself. She’s just very wise. She came into the world like that. I had a home birth on the farm I had in upstate New York and I remember looking at her and thinking, ‘Wow, she’s going to teach me’.”

Carolyn Murphy on juggling being a single mother and a successful career: “It wasn’t always easy to juggle my career and being a single mother, but I had support from my family and community, and the luxury of a career that didn’t demand me full time. I tailored my career around motherhood, even if it meant taking less jobs which meant less money.”

Carolyn Murphy on what’s next for her personally: “To have a really good time, to laugh a lot, to open myself up to new possibilities and new things. I don’t ever want to stop learning because that’s where I thrive. There’s that great quote, ‘Stay hungry, stay foolish’.”

To see the full interview, head to PORTER or download the NET-A-PORTER app for iPhone, iPad and Android

In this Story: #style / fashion