A Filmed Conversation with Rolling in Roses founder + Ethical Wedding Dress Designer, Hayley Neil

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As we enter a new decade, and I brace myself for another 10 years of self employment through what feels like more tumultuous times than ever, there is one major theme guiding my team and I in everything that we do; sustainability.

My husband has always encouraged me to live as ethical a life as possible when it comes to consumption of things like food and fashion. He was a good 20 years ahead of the global climate strikes. But if I’m brutally honest, it isn’t truly until last year, when I found myself feeling overwhelmed with devastating daily climate change impact headlines, and witnessing the awesome impact of Greta Thunberg’s climate strikes, that the issue lodged itself firmly and most uncomfortably under my skin. I knew I had to step up and do more.

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I made a conscious decision at this time to do as much as I could to promote businesses doing their best to embrace more ethical and sustainable business models – businesses like ethical wedding dress design brand, Rolling in Roses.

York based Rolling in Roses was founded by designer Hayley Neal, who we first interviewed in August last year – in an article through which we introduced you to Hayley’s sublime new ‘Sappho Collection’ (an absolute MUST see). The gowns you seen in these images are from the Sappho Collection and they represent a new era of modern, contemporary, free spirited but most importantly, ethical bridal fashion.

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Hayley’s efforts to pivot to a more ethical and sustainable business model sets a fantastic example for other bridal businesses.  She’s really done her homework, investing a great deal of time in sourcing the best quality, chemical-free ‘peace silk’ that she could find (peace-silk, in case your wondering, is produced using a process that doesn’t harm or cause any suffering for the silk worms).

I think everybody nowadays is more and more aware of the fashion industry and what the effects of it are. I just don’t want to be a part of that.

She also uses fabrics created from organic rose fibre petals and a super-soft lightweight crepe made entirely from recycled bottles (which might not sound particularly attractive, but trust me when I say the end result is the most sublime, silk-like and weightless fabric that moves with absolute grace and elegance).

In October last year, we joined Hayley and her assistant Ellis, at her absolutely beautiful atelier in York to film a laid back conversation with the designer herself. Our incredibly talented friends, Zach & Grace, documented the day in film and photography.

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The medium of film and using it to convey the essence, vibe and whole message of a business as well as the passion of its founder, is something I’ve been obsessed with for quite some time now.

Briefly, because I’ll share more in a separate article soon – LMD Collective is the creative arm of Love My Dress,  established primarily to explore the use of film to help businesses market themselves.

Through LMD Collective, we are really keen to reveal more about the people and processes behind the brands that inspire us;  I’ve been running Love My Dress for a whole decade now and the next phase for me is to align myself solidly with those businesses I believe are the future of this industry; the talented artisans, those keeping their head down and working hard to create sublime pieces whilst embracing sustainability, inclusivity and delivering exceptional client experiences.

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Our team comprises myself, my husband/business partner Philip and our talented friends Zach & Grace – two sought after creatives in their own right who burst into the British wedding scene last year with their exquisite photography and films.

With the new collection, we’re really concentrating on finding as many eco friendly and ethical fabrics as we can – it’s been such a mission.

We were joined on the day by makeup expert, Jenn Edwards.

It was an absolute joy to spend time getting to know Hayley and Ellis, and we all had a cracking day locating iconic backdrops by wandering the streets of York – a city that plays such an important role in the DNA of Hayley’s brand and business.  Take 5 minutes out of your day to enjoy the film at the top of this article.

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Hayley, please introduce yourself and tell us how you started out in bridal fashion

“I’m Hayley Claire Neil, 36 years old, living in York with my wee boy Luca Thor and husband Matthew. We both run independent shops in the city (Hayley’s husband runs a fantastic ethical household goods and gift shop called Heima in York).

I came into it from an unconventional route as I studied costume design rather than fashion, and had no business experience whatsoever!”

You spend your hard earned money on a really important and magical dress- you wan to know it’s not contributing to that.

“The businesses (both Glory Days and Rolling In Roses) have been slow-burners, with big learning curves to navigate, but I’m so pleased that I’ve had the time to develop my brand steadily and carefully at my own pace.

I love that working in the bridal world gives me the luxury to produce slow fashion that’s carefully considered and conscious of its impact on the world.”

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Do you have any favourite gowns in your new ‘Sappho’ collection?

“Probably The Sweetclover Dress and The Daughters Dress for their details (the traditionally made Nottingham lace trims are to die for!) – and The Longing Dress for its hard-to-achieve simplicity; it’s ostensibly the most basic dress in the collection but it was by far the hardest to accomplish.”

It went through multiple incarnations before I got it perfect; the fluid bias-cut satin is incredibly hard to work with and the simple design means it has to be exactly right. But it was worth persevering as the fabric is an absolute dream to wear!”

How would you describe your signature style?

“I’d say subtly subversive; my designs are quite unconventional, and wild and free, but in an understated way.”

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The Daughters Dress

What is your stand in inclusivity and designing for a variety of body shapes?

“It’s really important to me! The dresses feature wildly different fits of skirt, from a bum-hugging bias skirt with flared godet train, to a luxurious three-quarter circle skirt which skims smoothly from the waistline but has lots of room and movement from the waist down.

If I were to describe Rolling in Roses, I would say we are quite romantic, quite unrestrained, cool and comfortable.

“There’s a wide array of sleeve styles for different amounts of arm coverage, and pieces which can be worn with or without bras depending on the bride’s requirements.”

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“Also due to the inclusion of separates in the collection brides can choose from over 30 different configurations so ladies can choose the most flattering fit for them personally for both their top and bottom – by the way, our separates can also be made as a full complete dress if requested – I know some ladies are hesitant to risk showing any midriff.

I’d love to learn more about you as a person! Tell us how you balance your role as business owner and mum?

“With difficulty, but I love it! I have a very supportive hands-on husband, and as we both live so close to our prospective work places and are self-employed it really helps with being flexible. But I can’t say it doesn’t feel like a constant juggling act!”

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What’s next for Rolling in Roses?

“I’m exhibiting at the One Fine Day bridal market (commercial exhibition) which runs alongside London Bridal Fashion Week in March, with a view to gaining a handful of new stockists, ideally overseas. And I’m very excited about where 2020 will take us.”

Our love and thanks to Hayley and Ellis for welcoming us into their beautiful work space during a busy time, and providing endless cups of tea.

Rolling in Roses is currently stocked at Story Of My Dress in Kent, Heart Aflutter in London, Archive 12 in Belfast, Unbridaled in AYR and Labude in Cologne, Germany.

To contact Hayley directly, please email [email protected] or telephone 01904 652 892. You’ll find Rolling in Roses on Instagram at @rolling_in_roses and Hayley’s beautiful atelier and boutique is located at Cromwell House,  31 Micklegate,  York,  YO1 6JH.

You can see real brides wearing Rolling in Roses here.

Annabel x

Credits & Thanks


Annabel View all Annabel's articles

Founder of Love My Dress. Passionate Podcaster and Editor. Annabel lives in rural North Yorkshire with her husband and business partner Philip, their two daughters and menagerie of furry hounds. She loves photography, meditation, walking, being outdoors and star gazing. She is fierce when it comes to championing talent within the wedding industry and when she's not working on Love My Dress, she supports her husband Philip in the running of the family's sustainable flower farm and floral design business, Moonwind Flowers. In 2013, she became a published author.