Introducing Express x Rocky Barnes

Introducing Express x Rocky BarnesRocky Barnes isn’t afraid.

Of color that, is. “Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not afraid of color or prints. I say bring it on,” she told Express on location in Venice Beach as we shot the campaign for her Express x Rocky Barnes collection. And it’s exactly that fearlessness—with her style, with her brand, with her life—that 1.6 million Instagram followers connect to, and that made her the ideal partner for this collaboration.

Barnes was born and raised in Manhattan Beach, California, a seaside town with a certain laid-back, toes-in-the-sand aesthetic that has since become her signature. She started modeling when she was 20 years old, finished college, and in 2012 was cast in Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend” music video. For some people, that would have been a career zenith. A mic drop. But not for Barnes. Barnes has always wanted more.

“I started out as a model and was super-grateful to get into that industry and see the business side of fashion. But I’d always wanted to be a designer,” she says. Barnes’ mother was a hairdresser; on weekdays after school, she’d linger in the salon, paging through magazines and memorizing the names of designers. On weekends, they’d hit flea markets and vintage stores. “I’d cut and sew my own pieces together,” she recalls. “My style has been a progression ever since.”

Barnes could be credited for creating the gypset style—a portmanteau of gypsy and jetset. Some call her style boho luxe. Others ascribe her with being one of the first of a generation of digital nomads—people who travel the world, share their experiences, all the while staying deeply connected to their social media communities. To Barnes, those are all just labels. And the only label she’s truly comfortable with is, well, her own. “When I was younger I was more trend-driven. I wanted to wear what everyone else was wearing. But I always had this core sense of style. I loved feminine looks, bright colors and cool patterns,” she says. “I’ve come to appreciate my own style. I like to stay true to myself.”

It’s staying true to herself that has allowed her to build a powerful and authentic global brand. And while her Instagram looks effortless—that’s the whole point!—she’ll assure you that it is not. “They say every overnight success is ten years in the making and it’s so true,” she says. “I’ve worked my butt of to get here. But I love what I do and I love who I do it with. And that part makes it easy.” (Her husband Matt took the photos on this page and often photographs his wife.) Other keys to her success? Making face-to-face connections—“You have no idea how far that will go in this industry!”—not taking things too personally, and being mindful about collaborators: “Don’t be afraid to say no and find the right match,” she says. “It’s like finding a boyfriend.”

It’s that wisdom that makes Express so happy to be Barnes’ latest…boyfriend partner. The 25 pieces she’s designed are classic, cheerful, and designed to be mixed and matched. They’re versatile enough to work into a range of wardrobes, and there’s also special, statement-making pieces to amp up any closet. As much as they are Rocky Barnes pieces, they are also your pieces. “The idea was to make other women feel confident,” says Barnes. “That’s what I hope this collection can do.”

For a closer look behind the scenes of the Express x Rocky Barnes, watch the video below.

Express x Rocky Barnes is available online and in most stores.