What’s the philosophy behind Tootsa MacGinty – and what inspired you to set it up?
It’s the cliche – I became a parent! I was immediately overwhelmed and disheartened by all the pink, sparkles & princesses dominating the girls clothing aisles. Shopping in the boys department wasn’t any better – unless I wanted to dress my daughter with trucks, monsters and camouflage motifs.
I had been working for over a decade in Womenswear (Tommy Hilfiger, Roxy, O’Neil, Le Coq Sportif.. Lots of sport and street wear brands) and lived in Australia, The USA and France – moving back to the UK with my baby girl I was shocked at the gendered aisles ….and also a bit bored with work and childcare routine so I set about to create an alternative. I used all my contacts and know how and still manufacture at the best factories I had worked with previously for the bigger brands.
How would you sum up the label?
Tootsa MacGinty is hardwearing, colourful, age appropriate, quality childrenswear for girls and boys which is designed to be unisex. It’s not mini-adult fashions pared-down and we don’t follow high fashion trends; although we are conscious that the clothes look good and are of great design.
Is Ruby your muse or do you design with her and her friends in mind?
My daughter is a big influence for obvious reasons, but I design with all children in mind. I am really conscious of how society portrays boys and girls as though they are polar opposites (and I’ve no doubt this is to sell us more stuff), when in actual fact they are far more alike than different. I see what interests and is important to Ruby and her friends (colour, movement, animals, comfort and fun) and try to incorporate those elements into each piece I design.
Our photoshoots are a fun event. Tootsa MacGinty are always conscious to portray boys and girls as children – we don’t use make up or do anything special to the kids’ hair. I still find it shocking how much fashion photography portrays children in adult poses and plastered with make-up. We also show boys and girls together – as equals. It’s sad that this is now quite a rarity.
What are your top three tips for dressing children?
Comfort, durability, movement, colour and fun!
I think we need to think hard about slogans on tops as it will influence how a child is perceived.
Foremost is instilling confidence in your child – making sure they can run, jump, climb, roll and do all that fun stuff kids do!
And your top three picks from the current collection?
It’s very hard to pick but we’ve just launched our machine washable wool/cashmere/cotton yarn Christmas jumpers – they’re my favourite so far. This season we worked with talented illustrator Nadia Shireen on a penguin design with 100% of profits donated to Refuge – the charity for women and children living with domestic violence.
Also new is our venture into homeware. I’m so proud that we now have a stunning collection of knitted and hand tapestry stitched cushions.
Our denim is really top notch. Built to last (and hand-me-down) they have adjustable waistbands and cuffs detailed with colourful fabric so that they look really stylish rolled up and down, so also grow with your child. The dungarees are designed to last a child 18 months at least before being handed on to a sibling or friend.
Any sneak preview tips as to what we can expect from the Spring ’15 collection?
We go to Africa for SS15 so expect lots of colourful animal prints and a bright primary coloured palette.
Do you have a set routine to your days?
As a single parent every day starts out quite structured as I don’t have much help with the day-to-day stuff. There’s just the two of us at home so we are very close and run a tight ship as both Ruby and I are quite busy! Evenings are left to chance a little more and I’m really enjoying re-discovering London life and all it has to offer. Luckily I know other single parents and we help each other out with childcare arrangements.
What about weekends – are they structured or more go with the flow?
We completely go-with-the-flow. I like to take Ruby’s lead, if she’s tired we will take it easy, if not we’re up for an adventure! Anything will do!
We sometimes escape the city and head to Biarritz in France (where Ruby was born and where I lived for 10 years) – we have a lot of good friends and we miss it terribly.
How many days per week do you work?
Every day in some capacity. I work a normal five day week but find that when you’re running a business, you’re never not really working. I have to keep an eye on the shop every day and we are always dealing with customer requests and enquiries 24 hours a day. I pride myself on our rapid response and easy customer service: it’s a pleasure to help people and chat with our customer base.
What would you say are the additional challenges of being a single parent?
To be honest I’ve only ever been a single parent and don’t have any experience of co-parenting, so I’m not best placed to answer that question. I do, however, feel incredibly blessed: Ruby and I have an extremely close bond and all the regular challenges & woes that come with single parenting are completely overshadowed by how much fun and love we have for each other. That’s not to say it’s extremely hard work, but most things that are extremely hard are also extremely rewarding and this is no exception!
Do you feel you’ve achieved that elusive work/life balance?
Yes, I think so. I love working and I do what I love…so there’s a pretty good balance!
What advice would you give to other women who are trying to juggle it all?
Give yourself a break. You cannot do it all and that’s OK. Leave an element of chance in each day.
What would you say to a woman who wanted to get back into work after having children – perhaps one who had an idea for her own project (as you did)?
Make sure it has longevity (can it grow?) and then make tiny steps towards making it happen. I think many people have ideas but few find the time and confidence to do it because the big picture is just so daunting. Take it one step at a time. There is a lot of help out there if you go looking. Government schemes, free courses and organisations to help and don’t dismiss people in your own circle of friends & contacts: I’ve been amazed at how helpful the people I know and have since met along the way have been. If it’s a good idea people will be enthused to help. And then pay it forward: it’s always nice to give the knowledge you’ve received on to the next.
Shop the collection at the website. Follow on Twitter @ToostaMacGinty and on Instagram @tootsamacginty.