Sage Paul; Toronto; @sagepaul
Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?
I make fashion, costume and craft, and I am the founder and artistic director of Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto, which launches in spring 2018. Artistically and professionally, I am driven to activate space and amplify visibility of Indigenous people, our culture and our artistic practices. I hope my work provides a platform to do that. Through projects like hide tanning in downtown Toronto, collectively curating a craft exhibit or co-founding Setsuné Indigenous Fashion Incubator and collectively leading the Ts’kwe Makers Atelier with Ikea Canada, I want to empower our community through fashion, textiles and craft.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I graduated from the Fashion Design and Techniques program at George Brown College.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
I was hired as a summer student at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
My big break was when I got fired. In that job, I had gotten too comfortable and settled for living a “normal” 9-5 life. After being fired, I could focus again. I made art, I made fashion and I made Setsuné Indigenous Fashion Incubator.
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
I imagine that moment will be when I’m 75 years old. An old lady sitting beside my old man. Covered in sun and dressed in something simple I’ve made for us. I’ll be telling him about some hot young Indigenous fashion designer. He’ll nod and smile with joy, but he’s actually deaf.
For now, I’m in too deep and I have to make it work. I’m ambitious.
What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?
My biggest shortcoming is taking on too much work or doing work only because it’s a pay cheque. The quality of my work suffers when I’m burnt out or doing something I’m not into. It’s important I stay focused on reaching my goals and dreams.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
Carve out space for yourself. Build your process for you, in a way that complements or challenges regular industry ways.
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?
“Fake it till you make it.” I was told this in a basic fashion business workshop. If I don’t know something, I’ll research and listen before moving forward.
Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?
I have had men or people older than myself take credit for my work. This has happened at every single job I’ve ever had. I speak up and stand tall so that doesn’t happen anymore. Changing my hairstyle and tone of voice will also demand that acknowledgement. Sadly, that is a reality as a woman.
Also, while we’re on the topic of oppressed women: historically women’s practices, like crafts and textiles, were not valued as art. Men made art, but women had hobbies. Craft has a higher artistic regard these days, and is something Setsuné strives to establish for Indigenous women artists.
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?
No, I don’t make a fair income. I am an entrepreneur, an artist/designer and a woman. These are a few reasons seen in the stats for why I have a low income. I hustle to change those stats, and I see my income growing (slowly).
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
I’ve heard that we’re entitled little brats that have an attention span like Dory the fish, and we’ve grown up with the internet so we’ve never had to make a real friend. But that’s just an ugly stereotype, right? Whatever.