Launched in Melbourne, 2003, KEVIN.MURPHY captivated the market with a fresh aesthetic and arsenal of eco-friendly claims, that at the time, were almost unheard of. Many assumed the product simply wouldn’t work (minus sulfates, animal testing and parabens), but Kevin Murphy (the man) knew otherwise. The brand has since gone from strength-to-strength, unstoppable in its innovation and penchant for the planet. Conscious, creative and super cool, it’s the minimal haircare every woman wants in her bathroom, packaging that as of 2018, is curated from Ocean Waste Plastic. So good! So, with a focus on sustainability for the month of December, we Q&A Mr. Murphy himself, chatting surfactants, statistics and new scalp care.

M+E: You mention that it wasn’t until you created your first line of products, that you really became aware of ‘just how much harm the production process has on the environment.’ Was there a particular statistic, fact or part of the process, that really drove this home for you? 

KM: I have always been passionate about environmental issues, but it wasn’t until I created my first line of products that I really became aware of just how much harm the production processes, of any product, can have on the environment. The more I researched, the more I began to hear of scary stats like, only 9 percent of plastic actually gets recycled, and 79 percent of that waste (sitting in landfills or littering the planet) eventually ends up in our oceans and ultimately, our food chain (the fish we consume). So, I feel sustainability is an important industry focus for me – not to mention the bottles actually have my name on them – I’d be heartbroken to see them floating around the ocean.

I want to be a part of the solution, not the problem, so we were one of the first beauty brands to reinvent our packaging with recycled ocean waste plastics in an effort to eliminate the plastic waste polluting our oceans. We’re calculated to save the planet over 360 tons of new plastic each year, and will continue to prioritise the planet as a key focus – from our organic growing practices to micro-cultivation and ecological harvesting techniques.

M+E: KEVIN.MURPHY was launched in 2003, and we remember it quite vividly. It looked, smelt and read so uniquely to anything before it. Also pioneering, of course, was the choice to go sulfate, paraben and cruelty free. How was this met/received by fellow manufacturers and the broader industry, at the time? Was there some who believed such choices would effect performance, and if so, how did you respond to that?

KM: Going sulfate, paraben and cruelty free was a non-negotiable for me. It was in our brand DNA and you’re absolutely right, a lot of people didn’t get it! This is why the brand initially took off in Scandinavia. They were already huge adopters of the natural, ethical trend and had the same values as we did, so really resonated with the brand. I had a lot of push back in other markets initially as people didn’t think the product would work as well as it should. Thankfully, the rest of the world caught up with Scandinavia, but also, once people started using the product, they quickly converted to KEVIN.MURPHY. The formulas stood up against premium competitors, and had the added benefit of no nasties.

M+E: What have been some of your greatest business challenges?

KM: Staying true to what you’ve set out to do and create. It becomes personal the second you put your name on a bottle, because there is actually a person behind the brand. So, it’s not only your reputation you need to uphold, but it’s about the opportunity to create a brand that’s truly inline with your values. Not only that, but it’s a motivator to stay true to who you are and what you want to achieve.

“As an industry, we’ve got a long way to go and it’s expensive, so it takes commitment. New production costs are five times more than bottles made from virgin plastic. We have swallowed most costs to make this happen, as we feel the issue is so important to the future.”

M+E: Talk to us about your hero ingredients, and how these are sustainably harvested?

KM: We create products with a conscience that don’t harm our environment. We use only sulphate free surfactants that effectively cleanse and remove surface oil and dirt, without stripping or depleting the hair of its colour. We use AHAs, or fruit acids, derived from Papaya, Citrus, and Sugar Cane that gently exfoliate the hair surface without drying or depleting. Natural surfactants from the Soap Bark Tree, Quillaja, and other plant-derived sources create rich luxurious lathers that moisturise and nourish.

I look to ingredients that not only protect, condition, and smooth the hair, but are sustainably harvested, and support community-led change. For our recent product launch, EVER.SMOOTH, our Wood Bark Complex was derived from Indigenous Australian plants as were Blue Cypress, White Cypress and Lemon Aspen. All of these ingredients were specifically chosen due to their high content of antioxidants (that actually behave like an Alpha Hydroxyl Acid for skin and hair conditioning). The unique ingredient trio of Blue Cypress, White Cypress and Lemon Aspen was hand selected for the combined resilience and strength, which is derived from trees that survive the harsh Australian landscape.

M+E: KEVIN.MURPHY has a special connection with our oceans, evident no more so than the Ocean Waste Plastic (OWP) initiative. Tell us a little bit about how this amazing program came to fruition – how many years’ in the making, and what is the screening process to ensure plastic is sourced from the ocean, and so on?

KM: When we learnt about the opportunity to change our packaging to OWP, it was an easy decision to make, and one that was enthusiastically supported by everyone in the company. But, it hasn’t come without its challenges. It’s been years and years in the making and it’s still a journey. As an industry, we’ve got a long way to go and it’s expensive, so it takes commitment. New production costs are five times more than bottles made from virgin plastic. We have swallowed most costs to make this happen, as we feel the issue is so important to our future, the sacrifice is needed. We aim to change the industry standard and will transparently share our eco-friendly processes so other brands (or persons interested)can take a stand alongside us.

We work closely with local fisherman to collect plastic via trawler boats. From here, it is transported to a sorting facility, shredded and separated by plastic-type (to make sure all the contaminants are removed), washed, melted and processed into granulates. Finally, the shampoo bottles are formed.


M+E: In your opinion, can haircare and/or fashion ever be 100% sustainable?

KM: Absolutely, and I think we can all continue to look for ways to be more sustainable, even if you can’t get there overnight. One of the values that are ingrained in everyone at KEVIN.MURPHY is “THE CHOICES WE MAKE” – which is simply our commitment to creating exceptional products and operating with social and environmental integrity. To ensure that global stewardship is always at the forefront of our mind, a group of eco-minded KEVIN.MURPHY staff have come together to ensure we continually explore new ways to uphold our commitment to the environment. This task force works on anything from big picture initiatives to the everyday details that make a tremendous impact on our Mother Earth.

M+E: In your opinion, what further efforts can the hair and fashion industry make to enhance their sustainable practices?

KM: Don’t get overwhelmed by thinking you have to make the switch overnight. Start small! Some people get deterred by what they should and shouldn’t do, but if you make the right choices and chip away at it – you’ll get there.

M+E: What is next for the brand – both from a creative and sustainable viewpoint? Any new products on the horizon?

KM: This is my favourite part of the job! I’m always creating new products and the latest one to launch is a new SCALP.SPA regimen available in December! A clean, healthy scalp is important to ensuring the health and growth of your future hair. With this new SCALP regimen (scrub and wash), I sought to create products that address many of our scalp needs. These star products are packed with a range of skin loving ingredients that nurture the scalp back to health, thus giving your hair the radiant results it deserves.

M+E: Your can’t live without KEVIN.MURPHY product – at home, and when working on set?

KM: I can’t live without SESSION.SPRAY, it’s every session stylists’ secret weapon as it will hold every strand of hair in its rightful place. I spray it over any finished look for firm, weightless, long-lasting hold. It also has excellent humidity resistance (great for our Aussie climate), and brushes out easily and effectively without a trace of flakiness.

M+E: Album on repeat?

KM: ‘Confessions on the Dance Floor’ by Madonna

M+E: If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and where would you dine?

KM: David Bowie in the dining room of the Sunset Tower, Hollywood CA.

Follow @kevin.murphy.australia | @maurieandeve