Kate Pietrasik, 41, is the designer and director of award wining children’s fashion label Tootsa MacGinty, whose predominantly unisex clothing range is loved by celebrities such as Billie Piper, Sophie Ellis Bexter and actress Romola Garai. A former womenswear designer Kate launched Tootsa MacGinty four years ago when she became a single mum and was concerned about the extent of heavily gendered clothing on offer and the impact this could have on her daughter. Kate is mum to Ruby, aged 6, and currently lives in the South of France where she enjoys long runs through the countryside and surfing.  A brilliant illustrator she is inspired by art, film, music and the creative imaginations of her daughter and her friends.

You’re a talented designer, illustrator and businesswoman. Tell us a bit more about your background.

Just prior to beginning Tootsa, I was a womenswear designer working freelance with various sports and streetwear labels. I grew up in north London and took off to Australia in my gap year after finishing school, intending to come back to begin a degree course at Chelsea College of Art. Instead I ended up falling in love with the relaxed lifestyle and sunny beaches down-under and successfully applied for Australian citizenship. I eventually completed a contemporary Art & Design degree in Aus in my mid 20’s. My college in NSW had an amazing exchange program with The Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York where I ended up studying Illustration. I spent a year in New York, and then moved to France where I began designing for surfwear brands. After several years I started to work freelance for different sport and streetwear labels (Tommy Hilfiger, LeCoqSportif, Jack Wills) and held a senior design position in a company in Amsterdam, with the rest of the time spent living in SW France by the sea. It really felt like the ideal situation. And then in 2008, I was delighted to discover that I was pregnant with my daughter Ruby.

Why are you so passionate about changing the stereotypes used to market children’s products?

After becoming a mother, I moved back to the UK and whilst shopping for my little girl I was horrified at how segregated the aisles of children’s toy and clothing departments were.
I was expected to buy lots and lots of pink for my daughter! and toys that encouraged an interest in looks, vanity and domesticity. Had she been a boy it would have been toys and sludgy coloured clothing that advocated being naughty and tough. So I set about to create a label that offered an alternative

What three key style tips for kids would you give to parents?

First and foremost I’d say Comfort:
If a child isn’t comfortable in their clothing then they won’t be able to move about freely and play. Uncomfortable clothing will never be worn twice!
Natural fibers, layers and soft fabrics are always a good option.
Colour: Children love colour – don’t be afraid to dress your kids in bright colours.

Age Appropriate: Choose age appropriate styles. They are only children for such a short time and I think it is important that they look and feel like children, not mini adults. Gentle, childlike imagery for graphics, a bright colour palette and I would avoid labeling slogans they can’t yet read or understand.

What products would we find in your make-up bag, and which three couldn’t you live without?

A good tinted moisturizer, a natural coloured lipstick or tinted lipbalm and a bronzing powder and brush.
Liz Earle Tinted Moisturiser in Beach
Guerlain Teracotta Bronzing powder
Maybeline “baby lips” in Cherry Me

What’s life like raising a child in France in comparison to the UK?

For me it’s the lifestyle. We are based some of the year down in the South West of France, right on the beach. It’s very relaxed, easy going and out-door-sey. We live on a lake and very close to the beach, next to the forest and mountains so most time away from the computer or school is spent out side – surfing, swimming, floating, cycling or walking in the forest. It’s all very healthy! But the winters down there are quite harsh and it rains a lot.
Compare that to London and it is quite different. In London there is never a shortage of something to see and do, even when it’s pouring and we love going to the museums and galleries. A mixture of both would be ideal!

What’s your favourite family recipe?

A good chili con carne served with a dollop of sour cream, grated cheese, rice and warm tortilla bread.

You’ve collaborated with Saltwater, designing a pair of sandals. Fill us in!

I’ve loved Saltwater since I first saw kids in New York wearing them. Every child in NY seems to own a pair! They’re a great, classic, timeless design in fabulous quality leather that just last and last. And they’re unisex!
So I was thrilled when they allowed me to design a pair exclusive to Tootsa. I chose to make a primary colour blocking (Red, Yellow, Blue) Saltwater sandal in both children’s and adult sizes. They’re already proving very popular!

What’s the one children’s product you couldn’t have lived without?

Can I choose more than one? Wet Wipes, Arm Bands, Toca Boca Apps, Sesame Street programmes, Playmobil and Roald Dahl books.

You’re already busy designing the range for spring/summer 2016. Tell us what we can expect, and what trends are going to be key for next year?

Actually we are busy with AW16 already! The fashion calendar is crazy and dictates that we have to design at least 15 months to 2 years in advance.

AW16 is top-secret ; ) For SS16 we opted for a French theme with the collection based around my childhood memories of long family holidays in France. Expect lots of Red, White and Blue’s, Provençal paisley trims, quirky animal characters in Breton striped shirts, sporty cycling foxes, and colourful flamingoes.

How would you sum yourself up in one sentence?

How tricky! I’d probably say I’m quite an impatient person and I enjoy finding solutions to problems. I am a bit ‘difficult’ out-spoken and opinionated, but not much of a rebel. I like to question authority and won’t accept the status quo if I don’t think it’s right. I’ll often go looking for an alternative if I believe there’s a better way! But I’m also pretty forgiving!

Tootsa MacGinty Autumn/Winter 2011-12.

Tootsa MacGinty Autumn/Winter 2011-12.

Tootsa MacGinty Autumn/Winter 2011-12.

Tootsa MacGinty Autumn/Winter 2011-12.

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