“It’s the uniform of the rebel,” says Jess Morris, “True denim without stretch is cool, hard wearing, versatile and needs little to no care.” And it’s at the core of the brand she co-founded with partner Tim Rockins in 2014.
“Scarves were a way in!” she continues, an observation of the pair’s starting point (they made a series of silk scarves for well known pals as Christmas presents, which led to media attention and in turn, birthed the label Rockins), “we never put together a business plan or anything like that, but Tim and I were always a denim brand at heart.”
Two years in and Rockins, presumably, now reads as was always intended: for AW16 a full apparel line-up of jeans, denim hot pants and silk shirts have joined the bespoke scarves, while the brand’s Instagram feed hosts a sketchbook’s worth of inspiration, fiercely dominated by rock ‘n’ roll’s finest (Bowie, Jagger and The Runaways all make appearances, likewise Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry and Brian Eno); snaps of friends and family fill in the gaps.
A marketing director for 20 years, Morris’s CV boasts stints with the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Agent Provocateur, and she’s forthcoming about how the experiences have helped shape her own venture: “Oh immensely, working with maverick brands allowed me to grow and learn on the rebellious side of the fashion tracks.”
Like those brands, Rockins clearly knows itself well: the reference pool is tight and the silhouette highly specific. Far from a fad it caters for purists, for the customer whose wardrobe is 90% vintage: for its founders. Stiff denim is king – ‘Gone is the stretchy jegging look!’ cries the accompanying press notes, advice being to wash jeans rarely and store in the freezer overnight – and the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s all get sartorial shoutouts (the 70’s influence is perhaps the most transparent across the line).
“We’re excited and inspired by all manner of creative endeavours old and new, but in particular the design, music and clothes of the 60’s and 70’s,” clarify the duo. “Not in some pastiche-retro way but an appreciation of the future-forward thinking spirit: smashing down barriers and forging progress – in all walks of life! – by pushing culture forward. The hip-hop kids of the 80’s had the most amazing DIY street style before all the sportswear brands waded in. Nowadays things are a lot more sussed by the corporates so you have to be wary of being played. That said, we’re all so much more equipped these days to really stick it to the man, if only we could stop watching videos of funny cats for long enough.”
“But really,” they continue, “the thing is (we reckon), the best rave music comes from a time when the definitions weren’t really in place – so music could glide around from style to style – before the genre terms made everything more rigid. And the hippy vs. punk thing, bands like the Pink Fairies – who were face painted, long haired, tripped out, free festival commune dudes essentially – played punk rock before they called it punk. Now we’re at a point where grassroots culture is being squeezed out by the general voters, but this only provides the conditions for real art to flourish. Given the digital tools that achieve truly high-definition standards at our disposal, we are clearly in a golden age of creativity.”
A rejection of the basic, average Joe pleasing output commonly touted by the industry’s mainstream then, the Rockins story is as much heart and soul as it is aesthetically pleasing. With a small but dedicated stockist list that boasts high end stores like Liberty, Matchesfashion and Harrods (at which the brand is currently hosting a pop-up on the fourth floor Fashion Lab), how easy is it to merge luxury with the anti-establishment nature of rock ‘n’ roll?
“Luxury doesn’t necessarily mean material belongings,” asserts Tim, “the luxury of good music for example – though not to mention beautiful clothes, fast cars (or horses), fine wine, beautiful jewels (and women) and good times – have all been staples of what makes the good life since the dawn of man, no?”
Indeed. So what about Instagram then? A strong tool for curating brand image, and one that Rockins appears to have taken to with relish. “I love Instagram and sharing our aesthetic with our followers but I am a late developer social media wise, and I still don’t really understand how to maximise retail potential and all that,” is the sincere reply. “I don’t follow anyone I don’t genuinely love and I don’t post every person who wears one of our scarves. I see it more as a peek through the keyhole to the Rockins world.” Which, to a visual crowd at least, is exactly how the platform should be employed.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Patti Smith is named the dream Rockins customer (Joan Jett, Keith Richards and Rod Stewart have already got theirs), while in the more immediate future the pair have their sights set on Lux interior, more denim, a menswear line, “candles, hard work, holidays and diving into the mosh pit at a King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard gig in 14 oz denim.” Which sounds about right.
Words: Zoe Whitfield
Photography: Siobhan Bailey Turner (b/w) / Laura Allard-Fleischl (Green back drop).