Into the Spotlight, sponsored by Huddersfield-based Scriba PR, is a regular feature which highlights some great businesses. Here we profile Lottie Elson, founder of Huddersfield-based sustainable wedding dress hire business Rose & Tonka.

A student with a passion for fashion has launched her own vintage wedding dress hire business for brides who care about sustainability and reuse.

Lottie Elson, 20, who is in the third year of a Fashion Design with Textiles course at the University of Huddersfield, launched Rose & Tonka at her own wedding fair at Revolution bar in Huddersfield on Sunday.

Growing up, Lottie always had a passion for dresses and was designing her own from the age of four.

But rather than find her designs on the pages of glossy magazines, Lottie wants to make a difference when it comes to sustainable fashion and to reduce waste.

And she believes there’s nothing more wasteful than a wedding dress which could cost hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds – only to be worn once.

“All these wedding dresses are beautiful and often handmade but they are worn once and become relics,” said Lottie. “I believe clothes are meant to be worn and people’s attitudes are changing.”

Lottie Elson

Lottie says brides in the UK spend an average of £1,300 on a wedding dress but hiring a special vintage dress from Rose & Tonka will cost no more than £50 a day.

“Since the pandemic, brides are thinking differently about their weddings and they don’t have to spend a fortune,” she said.

“There’s still a stigma about hiring wedding dresses and brides can feel pressure to splash out on the ‘best dress they will ever buy’ or they are told it’s bad luck to wear a dress that someone else has worn – but all that is changing.

“Brides can still look beautiful and have the best day they could imagine by doing things another way.”

Lottie has 65 dresses on her website for brides to browse, most are unique and handmade. All are secondhand and 15-20 are described as ‘vintage’ and date back to the 50s, 60s and 70s.

The vintage dress Stevie modelled by Amber Farrell-Aeria. Image by: Laura Watson

Lottie buys them from the likes of Vinted or Facebook Marketplace and has given them all special names.

Her favourite purchase is a simple yet elegant 1970s dress, described by Lottie as “angelic.” She’s called it Stevie, after Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac fame as the dress looks like it’s come out of a video for ‘Rumours.’

A friend saw the dress in the window of The Kirkwood charity shop in Huddersfield town centre and Lottie loved it so much she was on the phone to the shop within a minute of it opening to reserve it!

Lottie has also saved some wedding dresses from a terrible fate – being cut up and smeared with fake blood and dirt to become Halloween costumes.

“I bought three on the same day as I couldn’t let that happen,” said Lottie.

Lottie’s friend and photographer Laura Watson has taken pictures of all the dresses and brides can view them all on the website.

When they see the ones they like, customers get in touch with Lottie and book an ‘at home try on.’

The dresses are sent by courier in recycled and sustainable packaging and if they like it they can book it for their big day. The dress goes back in the same box and is collected by a courier.

The dress is then sent out the same way – dry-cleaned, repaired if necessary and ready to wear – in time for the big day.

It’s then returned the same way but it can be collected from a ‘designated person’ if the bride is going straight on honeymoon.

The delivery cost is all included and while prices vary for different dresses, none is more than £50 a day.

“Sustainability and ethics is at the forefront of the business and I want to provide that for people,” said Lottie.

Lottie (above) held her own wedding fair at Revolution and had stalls from the following businesses which can be found on Instagram:

  • Baker: Anna Luckow – @beyou_bakes 
  • Illustrator: Harriett Brooke – @paper_pens_pencils
  • Made to Measure Lingerie: Eve – @byevepoppy
  • Hair stylist: Gareth Brook – @gbrookhair_halo 
  • Makeup Artist: Daniel Bolt @makeupbydanielbolt

“The response we’ve had has been great and I am talking to brides already,” said Lottie. “I’m excited to get started.”

Find out more about Rose & Tonka HERE or search for Rose & Tonka on Facebook or Instagram.