HLN Meets: Rock n Rose
The Lathan sisters are every bit as chic as their lust-worthy jewellery brand
By Jenny Brownlees
Super-stylish sister duo Emily and Jess Lathan began their Yarm-based jewellery business, Rock n Rose, in 2006 – selling a curated selection of their pieces via MySpace. Now, the brand is the fashion-conscious woman’s go-to destination for unique jewellery, vintage gems, headwear and accessories.
With a celeb following and ever-expanding customer base, this North East company is going from strength to strength. Rock n Rose has even introduced a beautiful collection of pre-loved vintage rings, offering a sustainable option for the conscious jewellery lover, in line with the eco-friendly ethos that runs through the entire brand. Rock n Rose is the place to shop trendy yet classic pieces you’ll wear for years to come.
We spoke to Emily and Jess about their must-have jewellery pieces, career highlights and how to unwind when you run your own business…
If you had to describe Rock n Rose in three words, what would they be?
Timeless, vintage and romantic.
Tell us about taking Rock n Rose from an idea to a successful business.
Emily: We started selling jewellery online back in 2006, when I was 15 and Jess was 18. She’d just moved to Newcastle for university and I was still at school. We actually used Jess’ student loan to buy our first bits of stock! We started buying a couple of vintage chains and charms, turning them into really cute pieces and selling them to followers on MySpace. It really was something we fell into! We kept it part-time for a few years as I was heading to uni to study Dentistry, but it was then we had our first few magazine features and celebrities wearing our pieces, so I deferred my place for a year. I never ended up going to uni in the end!
Jess: I studied Town Planning at Newcastle University and hated every minute of it! I’d come home to my Mam’s every weekend to photograph products and pack orders with Em. I finished my degree and then we started full-time with Rock n Rose. I feel like the concept of building a brand was a bit unheard of back in 2006. Even to us – it wasn’t a conscious decision to build a brand, it was just really natural. As Em said, it grew as we grew.
What is it like working with your sister?
Emily: Working with Jess is the best. We’re absolutely best mates and have each other’s backs 100% of the time. We also have really different strengths and weaknesses so, combined, we’re an unstoppable force!
What have been your career highlights?
Jess: There have been so many amazing moments over the years. Releasing a collection with Pixie Lott, seeing our products in ASOS, Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie and having the Kardashians wear our designs – all when we were in our early 20s, which was incredible! But ultimately creating a stable income for our family and a flexible and family-orientated lifestyle is probably what I’m most proud of.
Rock n Rose is so unique. What do you think makes it different from other brands?
Jess: The brand is really an extension of us as people. We continue to strive for quality within our product, packaging, photography – everything! Our customer is ourselves. We’ve always trusted our own tastes and created around that because that’s all we know. In this sense, the brand has absolutely grown with us through all our life stages, and I think that’s what makes it unique.
As the queens of jewellery and accessories, what would you say are three essential pieces everyone should own?
Emily: Personally, I couldn’t live without a staple pair of gold hoops, a few delicate gold chains to layer, and a multi-way silky scarf – perfect for bad hair days, to tie as a cute little top and even to wrap a last-minute pressie in, as it doubles as an extra gift so it’s super sustainable!
How do you keep your work/life balance?
Jess: Running your own business is both a blessing and a curse. As a mum, the flexibility it allows me is something that wouldn’t be available in any other job. But that does mean I’m working until 2 am and then getting up with the kids at 7 am. So there’s a real blur between work and life for me!
Emily: I’m not sure we do! There’s such a crossover between the two, especially as the business is family-run. My boyfriend Dani also works for the brand (he’s our web and graphics guy), so that line between life and business really does get a bit blurry!
What do you do to unwind?
Emily: We actually both ran a book club for a couple of years before COVID. We’re desperately hoping we can start that back up in summer. The last book we read was Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and I’ve read it again during lockdown –it’s so magical! I’ve finally binge-watched The Crown and we’re now working our way through all episodes of Escape to the Chateau. I have the taste of an 80-year-old lady if you haven’t noticed already!
Jess: I’ve really gotten into podcasts! I absolutely wish I was best mates with Katherine Ryan. She’s been keeping me company on my lockdown walks and order packing sessions!
You’re both seriously stylish – which 2021 trends are you looking forward to wearing?
Emily: I think I’m just looking forward to wearing some *actual* clothes! I’m forever a maxi dress girl. I’m not great at putting outfits together, so a throw-it-on maxi is my idea of heaven
Jess: Same as above. We are the same person! In terms of jewellery, we’re working on an heirloom-inspired collection. Think lockets, signets and personalisation.
What have you been eating and drinking at home, when you haven’t been able to get to your fave NE restaurants?
Jess: We’ve truly loved supporting small, local food businesses throughout the pandemic. We’ve had beautiful cheese boards from Two Little Birds, DIY pizza kits from Barbarossa, cakeaways from That Cake, and the most incredible blondie pies from The Blondie Baker for *every* lockdown birthday! Post-lockdown I’ll be heading straight to our favourite coffee shop, The Mockingbird Deli in Yarm. This is where we host the Girls Like Books book club, too!
Tell us something most people don’t know about you?
Emily: I play drums! We were both in a girl band for a few years before we started Rock n Rose.
Jess: I was the singer! I still look forward to a good karaoke session.
What are three things you can’t live without?
Emily: A lip balm (I need one on my person at all times), my two baby dogs and a nightly bubble bath.
Jess: I feel like I’m supposed to mention my kids here, but that goes without saying! My camera, a trusty pair of converse and a good coffee.
If you had to wear one piece of jewellery for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Emily: A pair of small, twisted gold hoops. I feel absolutely naked without them!
Jess: I have to admit that I’ve worn a few of our Exclusive Vintage rings from the last couple of collections. I find it SO hard to part with them. I love that they’re sustainable, they’ve each got a story and a life behind them – I’m a total magpie for vintage!
What’s on your dream board for the business in the future?
Emily: I feel like every brand says this, but sustainability is really top of our agenda. Our postal and jewellery packaging is already 100% plastic-free, recyclable, biodegradable and/or compostable. And all of our products are manufactured in very small batches, which means we produce very little waste or unsaleable product.
We’re currently in the process of moving all of our production to use 100% recycled sterling silver by the end of the year. This means no new sterling silver is mined to create our pieces. We use carbon-neutral delivery services and entirely plastic-free and compostable packaging. We still have a long way to go, but it’s something we’re truly passionate about.