5 Minutes with… Kirstie Duke and Lucinda Waite, Co-Founders of Töastie 🌟
When did you first have the idea for your business, and how did this evolve to where you are today?
Lucinda: Pretty much since the beginning of my career I had wanted to set up a business for myself, the obsession I had developed always focused on outerwear and outdoor exploration. I did a year in industry for Burberry whilst at University where I completely fell in love with the masterfully crafted product that both looked beautiful and whose heritage also stemmed from garments that were created to provide a function; gabardine trench coats that had all these different closures and functions to protect the wearer from the elements, stunning military inspired parka jackets with articulated seaming to allow full range of movement. I just loved that higher level of consideration and innovation (often inspired by our ever-unpredictable Great British Weather) that was at the same time, extremely tasteful and flattering. There seem to be very few fashion-led outdoor brands that also place as much emphasis on how a garment technically performs and vice versa.
Over the years I was never really in a position to act on this until I was about to have my first child, it then occurred to me to apply these sensibilities to the childrenswear market. I remember showing one of my best friends Kirstie some of the ideas at the time but saying what a terrible procrastinator I was and it would probably never happen. Being the incredibly proactive and tenacious person she is, she was straight on the phone to a supplier and within minutes, our first product had been sourced. She then kindly offered to lend me a hand with the business (which I promptly bit off) and we’ve enjoyed the rollercoaster under joint ownership together ever since.
Kirstie was born in rural Scotland and like me, spent most of her childhood outdoors, we both share the same passionate belief that nature has, and always will have the answer to many of life’s stresses. Screens and ‘electrics’ weren’t really a feature of our youth and we always had nature’s playground to fall back on if something wasn’t great at school. Our mission is to inspire children to experience that same sanctuary of the great outdoors however large or small, and in doing so develop a deep desire to preserve and protect it long into their future.
When you were growing up, did you always want to work in your industry?
Lucinda: From the age of around 5 years old, when I wasn’t outside getting muddy, I was constantly drawing fashion figures with all sorts of different ‘themed’ outfits. I also had a collection of barbies and hand-me-down dolls who I would make reams of outfits for from scraps of fabric, even to this day I distinctly remember my Mum saying to me “You should be a fashion designer when you grow up” and for some reason it has stuck with me all this time. Both my father and grandfather had woollen mills in Yorkshire too so I suspect there may be something in my DNA!
At MWK we are inspired by female leaders (particularly as our leaders are two incredible women!) – have you been inspired by past colleagues or leaders?
Lucinda: It will come as no surprise from my earlier response that Christopher Bailey (a fellow Yorkshireman) has been an inspiration to me from the beginning of my career. The way his great love of heritage character and innovation, combined with impeccable taste resonates through his collections to me is unrivalled.
What’s your favourite fashion trend for your children?
Kirstie: I love a really classic look with a modern twist or pop of colour. I’m currently channeling this through Coco; Snoopy denim pinafore dress, knee high frilled-socks, oversized lace collar and Veja trainers.
What’s most important to you when choosing an outfit for yourself , and for your children?
Kirstie: It is so important that it will go the distance. I am fiercely opposed to fast fashion, I hate waste. I would always rather buy up a size for Coco and roll back the sleeves as I am only too conscious that she would be in and out of it in no time otherwise. She’s particularly dinky, so her raincoat is down to her knees but the cuffs are turned back twice and she is completely unphased! I will always try and buy clothing that can be passed down to her younger sister, so I shop for durable and timeless pieces.
You share our sustainable values – what do you like about the experience of rental and resale fashion and how it can help the current consumer climate?
Kirstie: Consumers shifting their mindset towards making considered purchases which are thoughtfully designed and made to last in itself shows respect for the planet, rather than buying often inexpensive, throwaway pieces. We love the ethos behind the concept of luxury rental; protecting our planet from the impact of fast fashion, whilst giving consumers the opportunity to wear some truly aspirational labels.
What would you say has been the driving force for your success?
Kirstie: We have always maintained a clear focus when it comes to our brand ethos and values centering around ‘responsibility’. Connecting children to nature is at the very heart of everything that we do; by creating highly comfortable outerwear with playful touches that resonate with children, we enable and motivate them to engage with nature come rain or shine. Every consideration we make as a brand is done with nature in mind – whether it’s fabrics, freight choices, or giving back through carbon neutral projects, to underpinning the brand with a message of education to inspire children in nature, our planet is and always has always been our priority.
What were your favourite outfits as a child?
Kirstie: I was a child of the 80’s therefore they were generally retrospectively tragic.. I had a favourite colour block ski jacket from the eternally stylish C&A! I was incredibly fortunate to have spent my entire childhood outside, always exploring, climbing trees, swimming in salmon rivers, sailing. What I remember more distinctly are the uncomfortable coats I was forced into – heavy, rubbery raincoats that have that cold, damp, oily, raincoat smell which evoke my senses to this day. Coats you couldn’t wait to get out of. This has undoubtedly inspired us to create truly comfortable, beautifully soft outerwear.
Lucinda: A pair of cherry printed Culottes which were hand made by my mum, soft as a cloud and made me feel special. How a child actually feels when they are wearing our product is absolutely essential to us.