[“][O]h shit sorry! Can you hang on one second…” Jess Morris apologizes, from her North London pad. The co-founder of cool-girl label Rockins warns me she’s “not great” in the morning so is hunting around for some notes she made the night before in preparation for our interview. A brief history into the life of the former fashion PR guru-turned-entrepreneur and you’ll understand why. There’s the obvious: she’s often sighted as a member of the party-loving Britpack…being best mates with Kate Moss maketh the night owl, perhaps? But, ultimately, she doesn’t miss a trick. Detail is everything to her. And she’ll be damned if she skips over anything important. So let’s start from the beginning…
“I guess it all started when I worked for Vivienne Westwood 28 years ago,” Jess says. “I was working on the shop floor – it was tiny then – and I said to Vivienne ‘oh I quite fancy being in the press office’ and she was like ‘oh alright then give it a go!”
"I was on a bus in Camden in the early ‘80s with my mum and she was like ‘that’s Vivienne Westwood!’ I had know idea who she was at the time - I was only 15-years-old."
While Morris is in with the Primrose Hill set, her love of all-things retro stemmed from growing up in Portsmouth, where her mum owned a vintage shop. “We would go up to London to buy the odd bit though,” Jess says. “We were on a bus in Camden in the early ‘80s and my mum was like ‘that’s Vivienne Westwood!’ I had know idea who she was at the time – I was only 15-years-old,” she laughs, that distinct raspy giggle. “But I remember she wore a brown tweed suit, her white hair was in pin curls and she had on these really ridiculously high green shoes. I was blown away.”
She may have worked for the Queen of Punk before moving on to Agent Provocateur, but Morris is more louche and effortless when it comes to her signature style. “Today I’m wearing my Rockins Grebo jeans – I love them, they’re mid-rise with a lot of flare and patches – an open silk shirt, men’s belt and a little skinny scarf.”
Ah yes! The scarves! Where it all began three years ago. Jess remembers how her and long-term partner Tim [Rockins] – co-founder of Rockins and artist who’s created visuals for the Gorillaz – were “absolutely skint” at the time. The duo have two sons – Vincent, 10, and eight-year-old Lenny – and took on various freelancing gigs to make ends meet back then. “I did all sorts of things like work on Lily Allen’s cheesy [vintage shop] launch which was an absolute disaster.” Then, one night, over a bottle of wine her and Tim had a brainwave. “We were like ‘why are we working for other people? We have so many ideas!’”
“We were making very elaborate gifts for friends birthdays and at Christmas; hand drawn album covers and board games” Jess says. “One year we did 40-50 skinny scarves with rock ‘n’ roll motifs and suddenly stylists were asking us to make more for shoots.” That was 2014. Since then the brand has expanded into producing exquisite printed silk shirts, patchwork jeans, luxe velvet suits (the Classic Blazer in Emerald Green is a personal favourite) and more. Next up? Dreamy silk PJ sets in a plethora of prints will be launching in November as part of the pre-Fall ’18 collection.
“Rockins represents freedom,” Jess tells me in a follow-up email. “Rock n’ roll style in the 1970s was yet to be defined as we know it now. It had a combination of ease and flamboyance.” The designs are unapologetic, fun and fiercely androgynous – a new femininity in an age when designating collections ‘for women’ and ‘for men’ mean less and less. “For me, you look at any outfit Jimmy Page wore [in the ‘70s] and it’s absolute perfection,” Jess gushes. “Put that on a girl and it’s just amazing – That’s who the Rockins girl is: she’s Jimmy Page!”
Ever the modern-day wonder woman, Jess, along with Tim, also produces a bi-annual Zine entitled ‘Riz’ (which every customer gets a copy of). “Tim really likes doing the game page. He spends ages doing his own crossword!” Jess cackles. So, one of London’s coolest bohemian couples enjoy a crossword too? “Oh we love a crossword – not very high-brow though, just the ones you get off the tube. Keeps the brain ticking over!”
"You look at any outfit Jimmy Page wore [in the ‘70s] and it’s absolute perfection - put that on a girl and it’s just amazing. That’s who the Rockins girl is: she’s Jimmy Page!”
A Rockins store is in sight too, set to open this Fall. “We’ve got the shop – it’s in Kensington and Chelsea – we’re just waiting for that to happen,” says Jess. “The accessories area will look like a record shop – I cannot wait to get stuck in. It will be fantastic…”
A quick stalk on Rockins’ Instagram and you’ll find everyone from Kate Moss, Sienna Miller to Liv Tyler are firm fans of label. Who is next on the hit-list? “Jeremy Corbyn! The people’s hero,” she giggles. “I saw him at Glasto and I was like ‘damn, why didn’t I get Corbyn in a scarf – that would have been great.” Jezza, are you listening?
You can shop Rockins on their website and follow the brand on Instagram here.