Cult jewellery designer Johnny Rocket is at the pinnacle of Britain’s creative jewellery scene. Famed for his iconic celebrity and designer collaborations, his signature style fuses fashion, individuality and fine craftsmanship to create bespoke, embellished eye-catching pieces.
Johnny has in the past Teamed up with Julien MacDonald, Tom Ford, Kylie, Jamiroquai and The Darkness and has found his niche creating crystallised jewellery, body art, tattooed articles and striking stage costumes.
In 2002, Johnny joined forces with Niall Paisley to launch their first retail outlet in Greenwich, London. Here he answers some of my questions...
How did you get started creating jewellery?
I’ve always loved making things and as a child was obsessed with Airfix. At High School in Oz I had a Saturday job in a jewellery store, where I was lucky enough to be offered a six year apprenticeship making jewellery and I’ve been doing it ever since.
How did the name Johnny Rocket come about?
During my apprenticeship I used to help out my friends and their bands by booking venues for them to play in, before eventually hosting my own club nights. Basically if you didn't turn up on time and play professionally you'd get the equivalent of an Alex Ferguson's hairdryer to the head - a ‘Johnny's Rocket’. It refers to me giving you a hard time if you screwed up. I became well known in the Australian music scene and the name stuck.
What inspires you?
I grew up at the time when the UK was influencing the world of fashion, art and music in a confrontational way with punk and the new wave of culture – I’m an anglophile at heart and this comes through my pieces. British culture still really inspires me. I love the way you Poms look at life, and laugh at it
How did you develop the concept for the interior of your shop?
With the shop, Niall (business partner and fellow creative) sat down and asked ourselves where we would like to spend 10 hours a day and what atmosphere did we want for our clients. We both clipped up mood boards; and ‘boudoir’ and ‘comfort’ kept coming up.
Apart from employing one joiner and a plasterer – we basically built everything in the shop ourselves.
What do you collect?
Memories and friends! Material stuff, including vinyl records, work by young jewellery designers, gig t-shirts, copies of ID, Sounds and NME. My house is three-storeys of unadulterated crap. My wife collects clothing including pieces by Ossie Clarke, and Ruby my daughter Cindy dolls and books. It’s a nightmare.
Do you wear a lot of jewellery yourself? Which piece do you rarely take off?
My wedding ring – I had it remade in Palladium as I kept crushing the old one. I’m also really partial to my Tomasz Donocik leather and silver bracelet; Will Cheshire Earthquake Ring, and my black raw diamond earrings.
Which celebrity would you love to wear your jewellery and why?
Well, some of my favourites have already bought our stuff. They include Jack White – bluesman of his generation; Marilyn Manson – freak and visionary; and Kylie – I’m not a fan of her music but she is a platinum-plated star in the old school vein: style, talent and above all manners and heart.
What is your best tip for people buying jewellery as gifts or those buying engagement rings?
Buy for sentiment or instinct, you know when it's a cracking piece by your gut feeling. Don't be swayed by the fact someone is wearing in the press, it's probably been selected for them by a stylist – use your own taste. If you’re buying an engagement ring – set an affordable budget. Don't buy off-the-shelf and go to a good jeweller where they make the jewellery. And buy the best quality stone you can afford and don’t forget to check her size.
What has been the most exciting collaboration you've worked on so far?
So many good ones, but the most recent was Manusuna, the Elephant Parade Swarovski elephant. It raised tens of thousands pounds for the charity. Others include the solid silver guitar for Fenders 60th and the Kyborg robot for Kylie’s Fever tour.
Which of your pieces has taken the most time to produce?
The ‘million’ pound dress we did years ago for Julian Macdonald. The shoulder piece was assembled with 18-carat gold and 10-carat old briolette cut diamonds and the whole thing took months.
What can we expect from the partnership with diet Coke?
Crystal magic, the chance to put your own Swarovski-inspired stamp onto the iconic diet Coke bottle and take home a piece of sparkling fashion history.
diet Coke has joined forces with cult celebrity jewellery designer Johnny Rocket to launch the exclusive ‘diet Coke Crystal Collection’ and pop-up ‘Customisation Boudoir’ in Selfridges, for two weeks from the 14th October 2010. I'm planning on going along and being bedazzled. It's two of my favourite things in one place, diet Coke and sparkles, hurrah!