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 • Opinion  • Exclusive Interviews  • Kevin Murphy: We Sit Down with the Man Behind One of Your Favourite Hair Brands

Kevin Murphy: We Sit Down with the Man Behind One of Your Favourite Hair Brands

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Main image – Kevin Murphy

You may know Kevin Murphy as a renowned Australian session stylist, whose work has regularly adorned the pages of magazines like Vogue Australia. You may also recognise his name from one of your favourite haircare brands, Kevin.Murphy

From hair legend to legendary hair brand in one clever full stop.

The formulas (and gorgeous scents) of iconic Kevin.Murphy products like Hair.Resort (originally Beach.Hair), Motion.Lotion and a personal favourite of mine, Touchable, are testament to Murphy’s expertise, as well as his awareness of what the consumer needs and how they want to feel about their hair.

 

Image – Kevin Murphy

 

Here, the king of undone, lived-in hair tells us just how young he was when his career began before training at the iconic Vidal Sassoon in London, where he thinks hair brands were going wrong with the marketing of their products and how one cynical comment encouraged him to create Kevin.Murphy.

 


Starting out young

It’s not often you hear of people starting a lifelong career in their teens, but for Murphy, his began at the tender age of 15. “Knowing I did not want to remain in school and preferring to work, opportunities were scarce for a 15-year-old,” he says. 

“I had always been interested in hair, and working in a hair salon was a dream of mine. One day, while getting a haircut, I asked them for a job, and they said yes.” If you don’t ask, you don’t get! 

Murphy was clearly gifted and soon went on to train at the iconic Vidal Sassoon in London which at first, he didn’t feel he deserved. “I was so nervous to go there,” he says. “We felt very unworthy at the time, coming all the way from Australia. It was a different time then and the world was very big. 

 

Image – Kevin Murphy

 

It took at least six months for any European trends to be recognised. There was no internet, and no one had a camera unless they were a photographer. We thought they must be so good, so well-trained.” But it didn’t take long for him to understand why he’d been chosen.

“Once I got there, I realized I was just as good as them, and it gave me the confidence to shine and experiment,” he explains. The experience also gave him role models to aspire to.

“My role model was Ray Allington; he was a session hairdresser,” he says. “That sort of thing was unheard of in the Vidal Sassoon world. I was fascinated that you could style the hair and change the hair without having to cut it short.”

 


Putting himself on the map

As with any career progression, Murphy experienced highs and lows. “Career paths are never linear,” he says. “That time was when I first realized anything was possible, and in fashion you are always starting out. 

You have a hundred starts, and you are only as good as your last job. I traveled to London, New York, and Paris doing what I could in search of success, but it wasn’t all in a straight line. Sometimes you have to move backward to go forward.”

 

Image – Kevin Murphy

 

But despite a few setbacks, Murphy has had many career highs. So which one made the greatest impact? “One of the biggest turning points of my career was getting the cover of Sports Illustrated with Daniella Pestova in 1999,” he explains. 

“We were in Malaysia, and there were so many famous models like Heidi Klum, Estella Warren, among others, all wanting to get the cover. The photographer was really stressed out with all the models trying to get his attention, and he said to me, ‘all these models will go home and make $50K a day, and you will go home and get nothing. Your life will stay the same.’”

This spurred Murphy on to go against the grain. “I remember it vividly, like it was yesterday,” he says. “I thought to myself, ‘no, that’s not going to happen.’” And so, Kevin Murphy decided to create Kevin.Murphy.

 

Image – Kevin Murphy

 

“At the time, I was popular in New York for doing surfer hair, and I had it down to a formula,” he says. “I was working with products, and I thought, I need to bottle what I created on the shoot, and I called it Beach Hair (now known as Hair.Resort). It put me on the map and changed my life forever.”

 


Kevin.Murphy is born

Murphy says Kevin.Murphy came about for many reasons. “But mainly because my industry was putting out useless products that were no different from what you could purchase in a supermarket,” he explains.

“They were all screaming at you with negative connotations like ‘damaged, dry, fragile, lifeless and limp.’ These were the messages my industry was putting out every day, and everyone felt bad about themselves.”

And he was further frustrated by who these products were supposedly for. “The most untrue and misleading statement was “for all hair types.” How can we all use the same product when no two heads of hair are alike?”

The Kevin.Murphy range treats everyone as an individual. “It’s important to ensure you have the correct product for your hair type and your hair concern,” Murphy explains. 

 

Image – Kevin Murphy

 

“For instance, shampoo is for the hair that you have, and conditioner is for the hair that you want. That may sound confusing, but if you have thick or coarse hair, you would use shampoo formulated for thick or coarse hair. If you want that thick, coarse hair to be smooth, you would use a smoothing conditioner.”

And using natural and antioxidant ingredients across the brand are key too. “This first came about because of our sustainability values,” he explains. “Natural products use ingredients that are grown, and to keep using them is sustainable because they can be regrown, just like our food.”

And antioxidants?  “These are important because every process that a hairdresser does is an oxidizing process,” says Murphy. “Every time you dry your hair, you are oxidizing it. Every time you step outside, the sun is oxidizing your hair with sunlight. An antioxidant placed on the hair can reverse that process. We need it because our hair can’t produce anything – it’s essentially dead – but it can absorb things that keep it healthier.”

Anyone who’s a fan of Kevin.Murphy products will know their iconic fragrances well. So how did Murphy choose them? “A lot of the scents are based on the natural ingredients in the products, and I use fragrance to enhance their beauty,” he says. 

 

Image – Kevin Murphy

 

“I’m obsessed with fragrance because I believe we have an emotional connection to smell; it triggers our memories and makes us feel good. All I ever wanted was to make people feel good about their hair. It may sound superficial, but there’s something about having good hair or feeling good about your hair that actually makes your day.” I can 100% relate. 

So what’s next for the brand? “I’m focusing on multitasking products or products that can do more than one thing,” he explains. Watch this space. 

 


The takeaway

Not only is Kevin Murphy a true expert in his field, but you can tell he also cares deeply for his clients and wants to bring out the best in them. “I love natural, lived-in looks,” he says. 

“I try to incorporate the environment I’m in and the wearer’s personality into the look, so it appears as though they were born with it. Every look is bespoke because no two people are alike.”

These values are clearly reflected in all Kevin.Murphy products which focus on the results rather than the problem. So, whether you’re a client or consumer, Kevin Murphy has you in safe hands.

 

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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University
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