Gender specific clothing, I wonder how this came about? Way back when boys wore dresses, so when did it become popular to dress girls in pink and boys in blue. Well, I'm sure if I did some research I'd find the answer, but I'm just glad to see brands like Tootsa MacGinty taking the lead and trying to change the overall view on how we should dress our children. It's important to encourage our children to be confident in themselves without all the frills of fashion. Now don't get me wrong I love fashion and I love dressing Edith in cool brands, but I want her to know that she is very very special and has so much to offer with or without cool things! This is what Kate from Tootsa MacGinty is all about. Fun, quality, unisex fashion for children. I have so much respect for Kate, she is really trying to make a difference in the way the industry thinks! Hats off to you Kate. I had a wonderful opportunity to chat with Kate. Here's what she had to say:
1. TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF. WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?
I’m British but lucky enough to hold Australian citizenship. I grew up in London and left for Australia shortly after my parents moved up to Scotland when I was 16. Since then I have lived not only in Australia but also the USA and France. My name is Polish - my grandfather was stationed in the UK during the war when he met my grandmother.
2. WHEN DID TOOTSA MACGINTY START? WHAT GAVE YOU THE IDEA TO START THE BRAND?
Autumn / Winter 2011 was the first collection we produced.
I began the brand shortly after moving back to the UK with my baby daughter. As new parent, recently relocated to London from France, I was shocked at the gender segregation in the UK high street’s toy and children’s clothing departments and set about to create an alternative. Something different to all the pink, frills and sequins for girls and sludgy coloured trucks, monsters and dinosaurs for boys.
3. WHAT SETS YOU APART FROM OTHER BRANDS? WHAT DO YOU WANT US TO KNOW ABOUT TOOTSA MACGINTY?
Ultimately Tootsa MacGinty are just colourful, stylishly designed, well made children’s clothes for children.
All of our collections are unisex so we do not have separate sections for girls or boys in our shop, nor do I suggest certain styles to be more suitable for one gender or another.
As a brand, and because of my strong belief in the damaging effects of gender stereotypes, we happily and openly enter into debates on the matter.
It is my view that children ought not to be concerned with beauty, prettiness or image so we don’t use models or hair and make-up in our photo shoots or ask the children to pose unnaturally.
4. HOW DO YOU COME UP WITH THE THEMES FOR EACH COLLECTION?
As a designer I am very aware of trends. I naturally follow fashion and keep in touch with what is new in art, design, music etc. Living in London helps. London is incredibly inspirational.
Travel plays a big part and I often draw inspiration from the places I’ve visited and lived. The theme, for example, could centre around a region in the world and I would draw inspiration from the local fabrics, prints and colours. For the motifs and graphics I’d research the region’s animals or vegetation and pull it all together with a vibrant colour palette.
5. WHERE DO YOU GO FOR INSPIRATION WHEN DESIGNING A NEW COLLECTION? DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE CAFÉ, BOOKSHOP, WEBSITE THAT INSPIRES YOU?
I kind of design on-the-go but I do like the idea of finding a special place to sit down and bang out a collection! When I worked for bigger brands they would send the design team away on a week long “design retreat” - that was a nice way of working.
Alas running a business and being a single parent means that I cannot follow suit.
I am never not looking for inspiration so needless to say my desktop is a bit of a mess and I have several “hidden” Pinterest boards where I gather the things I’ve found on the internet.
6. WHERE ARE YOU FAVOURITE PLACES TO GO IN LONDON WITH YOUR LITTLE ONE?
That depends on the weather. Living in London means that you have to be prepared for the 4 seasons in 1 day. We like to dance (Westminster School of Performing Arts) and swim (Chelsea, Kings Road Pool) and watch movies (Brixton Ritzy, Saturday cinema club) and those activities will take up most of our weekend.
On a rainy afternoon after school we may go for a clamber about on the buses at The Transport Museum (Covent garden).
And in the summer a stroll along The Southbank, a paddle in the water feature in the John Madejski garden (V&A museum) or a frolic in the fountains at Somerset House or Granary Square.
7. IF YOU COULD COLLABOATE WITH ANYONE IN THE WORLD, WHO WOULD THIS BE? WHY?
Well this season we collaborated with Jennie Maizels to create a range of customizable denim. Each of our denim pieces are sold with a cute little drawstring pouch containgin 6 iron-on embroideries by Jennie, created to encourage a kids individuality and creativity.
In the future I would love to create Tootsa MacGinty ranges for some big name designers, brands or department stores and set a precedent for gender neutrality. Proving to them that there’s a real appetite out there for unisex clothing.
For example, I was so disappointed that major UK retailer John Lewis displayed the collection solely in their boys wear departments and wouldn’t consider changing the way they merchandised the shop floors. It would’ve been great fun to design a gender neutral collection and help create a new floor lay out with them.
8. WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE RECEIVED?
I suppose that would come from my parents. They’ve always really encouraged me to take risks in life; be it travel or work or study. They urged me to study the subjects I enjoyed (art, illustration and design) rather than choosing what could be considered more vocational subjects. And also ultimately supported me in starting Tootsa MacGinty; to stop thinking “what if...” and just get on and give it a go!
9. WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE TO US?
Following on from my parents - don’t play it too safe, take a few risks - if worse comes to the worse you can always come home.
Travel a lot - if you live overseas for any length of time you will forever be “homesick” for somewhere but you won’t have any regrets.
Be challenging. Ask a lot of questions and challenge anything you don’t agree with - ultimately set about making change happen.
And laugh a lot - surround yourself with people that make you happy- laughter really is a great antidote for practically everything.
10. WHAT’S IN STORE FOR TOOTSA MACGINTY? ANY NEWS YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH US?
Tootsa MacGinty has grown quicker than I could ever had wished for and now I have a team of five who are helping me to expand the brand internationally and at home. There is no doubt that there is a real appetite for stylish, unisex, brightly coloured children’s products and so ultimately we want to create a lifestyle brand with our own shops and a strong online offering. It’s early days but with passion and drive I think we will get there.