This Gorgeous Collection Shows You Exactly How a Supermodel Packs on Vacation

Carolyn Murphy's collab with Mother Denim is inspired by '60s and '70s surf style.

Carolyn Murphy in Hawaii, on water and in Mother Denim
Photo: Courtesy of Nate Hoffman

Never let someone tell you that a good vacation can't change your life.

"The first vacation I ever took while modeling, I was about 25 or 26, I went to Costa Rica with my girlfriends, and I never left," supermodel Carolyn Murphy says. "I was hooked on the country itself, and their dedication to preserving their biodiversity, their education system and health system, and I was like, 'Oh, I could live here and do all of these wonderful things, continue my education and surf, marry a surfer, and have babies. This is perfect. And that was it."

Murphy may be best known for her many high-fashion campaigns or her multiple decades as the face of beauty giant Estée Lauder, but you're far more likely to find her on the beach than fronting any sort of diva behavior. In Hawaii's Waimea, at Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection, to launch a new upcycled collection of covetable beach break-ready pieces she designed with Mother Denim, the supermodel proves to be approachable, affable, and perfectly attired for every occasion.

The designs she made are, naturally, surf-inspired. "Surf culture kind of dictated my life, it's why I eventually moved to California, because of that lifestyle," Murphy says. In the peripatetic tradition of many a devoted wave-chaser, she has often let the sport dictate her travel destinations. (Lest you doubt her surfing bonafides, her favorite breaks are Rincon, famous for its huge swells, "and then Surfrider, which is what we call First Point in Malibu. Those are two really epic California waves that I try to get to.")

Carolyn Murphy in Hawaii, on water and in Mother Denim
Courtesy of Nate Hoffman

She had gotten a taste of it growing up in Florida, where she swam competitively for 11 years, and she had uncles who were big on the surf scene: "My uncle Bobby in particular was the designer for Hang 10, Lightning Bolt, OP, so we grew up getting all that paraphernalia and hearing stories from him." In a sense this collection is following in his footsteps; $50,000 of the proceeds will be donated to the Save the Waves Coalition to support the protection of 1,000 surf ecosystems worldwide by 2030.

The Surf's Up collection is Murphy's second go-round with Mother. Her first, Homegrown, also utilized deadstock fabrics and excess denim from previous collections, and donated $50,000 to the Sierra Club. These projects (and their charitable bends) are important to the brand, who use the moniker "60% Mother" to identify their products that are made of 60% upcycled fabrics. They're also important to the supermodel.

"I'm not a poster child for sustainability," Murphy says. "We said from the beginning, it's not about sustainability. It's about responsibility." The new collection evolved from the fabrics they found on sourcing trips ("the Hawaiian shirts were a no-brainer because there's just so much in the rag houses," Murphy says), as well as a shared appreciation with Mother founders Tim Kaeding and Lela Becker for Hawaii and Hawaiian style. When she heard about Save the Waves, it all clicked into place. "Everything with the Mother family seems to be synchronistic, and it somehow just unfolds and evolves in a way that is just so — I hate to use the word organic, but it's true," Murphy says.

For Murphy, environmentalism started early. "I wanted to be a marine biologist at one point in life, and my stepfather worked at the Gulfarium. With the ocean, we're just with such an urgency right now. There's all these little things that we can do, like using reef safe sunscreen to protect the coral, for example. And I love Boyan Slat, who created the Ocean Cleanup project."

As a teenager, the Dutch Slat invented technology to prevent discarded plastic from entering the ocean and to remove the plastic that's already there. "There's so much to do and be done," Murphy says. Surfers, who spend all of the time that they can in the ocean, and prefer not to be there amongst piles of floating garbage, are often amongst the most vocal environmentalists when it comes to clean oceans. "The surfing community naturally would uphold that, and I know that a lot of the organizations like the World Surf League are really taking initiative to another level. That's what I love about working with Mother: It's not just about creating an upcycled collection, it's about highlighting a foundation like save the waves coalition."

Plus, it's an approachable way to channel your inner California girl, whether or not you've ever caught a wave. "I really wanted to do '60s and '70s-inspired sexy. Sexy surf! I was like, it's about celebrating our bodies: We've all been cooped up. Let's just go for it," Murphy says.

Carolyn Murphy in Hawaii, on water and in Mother Denim
Courtesy of Nate Hoffman

With this collection in particular, "I wanted every woman to feel like she could put on a Hawaiian shirt and wear it with a great little heel and little shorts and feel sexy." It also packs exceptionally well for a tropical vacation. "The whole premise was that you could wear everything with everything," she says. Clashing prints are flatteringly spliced together on pieceworked rayon short shorts and Aloha-style button-ups alike, and soft stretchy separates are in classic striped cottons. There's a itty bitty mini skirt, Daisy Duke denim shorts, an ankle-cropped cotton trouser, and a joyously patterned Baja-style poncho top.

Is this how a supermodel packs for a beach vacation? Basically, yes. "I pack super light when I go on surf trips," Murphy says. "In general, I don't want to have to worry about anything: the sand, the humidity. A rash guard is always really important. Lots of reef-safe sunblock, when you know that you're going to be out on the water. A cute Hawaiian shirt. Bikinis. The key pieces." Now, she has plenty of options — and so do we.

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