As London's renowned scarf brand launches its inaugural denim collection, AnOther sits down with co-founder Jess Morris to discuss icons, indigo, and why stretch denim is the scourge of the earth
Brand stories don’t come much more satisfying than that of Rockins. Co-founded by partners (in both life and business) Jess Morris and Tim Watkins in November 2014, the initial collection was limited to vintage-inspired bias-cut silk scarves, and was only really intended to distribute as gifts to the couple’s friends – Kate Moss, Katy England, Bobby Gillespie among them. “We never had any money,” Morris explains over the phone from New York, where she’s perched on a fire escape outside one of the brand’s stores, shielding her phone from the sirens of passing fire engines. “But our friends all had all this money, and when it came to Christmas we couldn’t compete.” Instead, they decide to create their own gifts: the first year, they created a tailor-made Monopoly board, each of its cards handwritten; the next, they bulk-bought 50 copies of the Rolling Stones’ seminal album Some Girls and replaced each of the faces in the sleeve with those of their friends. When they decided to create a small collection of bias-cut silk scarves, however – they were all wearing them, and good ones were difficult to find at the time, Morris explains – they really hit on something. Before long, the collection was being sold in Liberty. “Once the ball started rolling it just kept rolling, really,” says Morris. As Watkins told Another Man, the brand's name was inspired by one of the pair’s sons, who couldn’t pronounce his surname.
In spite of its success, Rockins is nothing if not true to its foundations: the brand is built on authenticity, inspired by the pair’s icons (mostly rock and roll stars – Patti Smith, Jimmy Page and Keith Richards and the like) and an innate love of vintage. Morris grew up on the south coast, where she spent weekends either rummaging through jumble sales for clothes to sell at her mum’s vintage shop, or working in it. “I had a good eye, so my mum would put me to work,” she explains. “We would go up to Camden at the weekend to get Cyberpunk stuff, and we saw Vivienne Westwood on the train – I must have been about 14.” Some years later Morris would go on to hone her craft running the PR for Westwood, and later Agent Provocateur, while Watkins was working with Gorillaz. Between them, the pair’s transferrable skills have proved invaluable for a new brand; Morris works on developing the shapes and making everything else run smoothly, while musician and artist Watkins designs the prints. “Tim’s really good at customising because he’s an artist but he’s not a designer, so he’ll go really mad and put 300 eyes on a lapel or something. There’s a naivety to it.”
Unsurprisingly, then, the news that the pair were working on their inaugural denim collection, Mainline, was met with excitement and anticipation. it promises authentic shapes in three cuts, three washes, and with absolutely no stretch at all. Stretch, in fact, is the mortal enemy. “Apparently leggings are the most often-purchased item of clothing in the world,” Morris remarks. "How fucking depressing is that?” This is denim that’s designed to be lived in – and as such it has a toughness to it. “You wear them all day and then you take them off at night and leave them in a heap on the floor, and then the next day you put them on again. You don’t look after them – you shouldn’t have to look after them, because it’s all about the wear.”
The collection launches today with a film by Douglas Hart, styled by Tara St Hill and Morris herself – a brilliantly noisy, sexy, chaotic affair which really does feel something like getting ready friends does. “There wasn’t really a storyboard, we just wanted it to be about getting ready to go out,” Morris explains – and it is.