Designing Baltimore: Michelle Li Murphy


Michelle Li Murphy

Michelle Li Murphy grew up with what she calls the “maker mentality.” She was raised in a rather bohemian lifestyle—her father lived in a commune and solid handmade brass jewelry and belt buckles at craft shows while she and her mother lived on a sailboat and her mother made hand-stitched bikinis to sell while they traveled. So, it’s no wonder she was drawn to life as an artist and designer. She is known for her beautiful, flowing handcrafted silk designs and, in particular, her kimono capes.

Just wait until you see her design in our April issue’s fashion spread! But, for now, we caught up with her about her inspirations and journey as a designer.

Baltimore STYLE: What about Baltimore inspires you?

Michelle Li Murphy: I used to live on Preston Street and would roller skate to work at Eddie’s Market. Inspired by the drag queens at The Hippo, I wore my wigs daily with go-go boots and glitter tights. This town has always had a funky vibe that is hard to describe to anyone who has not lived here. There is a freedom to be as peculiar and unique as the city itself. I love the diversity, the characters, the history and the grit that Baltimore has.

STYLE: What has your journey as a designer been like?

MLM: It’s been a lifelong adventure. I started out drawing fashion illustrations and wrapping ribbons around myself as a child. My dad and I just kept doing larger and larger shows until I graduated college. We then started working as independent designers for a large multi-national menswear company for many years. Eventually, we built up our own hand dyed silk necktie company and had over 200 wholesale accounts nationwide. After many years, we split the company and I went back to school to learn how to create patterns and sew garments from my own silk textiles.

STYLE: Who are some of your favorite designers?

MLM:  I love Madeline Vionnet (the queen of the bias cut) and Halston during the 70’s.

STYLE: What is your favorite piece you’ve designed?

MLM: I have a blue silk cocktail dress with a painted coy fish on the hip. The back is open with a sterling silver chain that cross crosses and has an amethyst gemstone that dangles right at the top of the butt cleavage. It’s so sexy and fun to wear. That dress got me a lot of new clients when I was making dresses in NY.

STYLE: If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you be doing?

MLM: Well, I’ve noticed that people tend to confide in me and call me when they need advice. Maybe I could have been a good therapist?

STYLE: How would you describe your own personal style/how you dress on a day-to-day basis?

MLM: It must be comfortable and I only wear natural fibers as a rule. When I put an outfit together I do like it to tell a little story or have a theme. I like to wear silk above all. It’s the best.

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