Meet Sage Paul, Founder of Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto and Women of Change Panelist

It’s 2019, and our world is undergoing the largest transition of wealth in history. A recent study revealed that 51% ($14 trillion) of personal wealth in the US was controlled by women, a number that’s expected to rise as high as $20 trillion by next year*.  Corporations are now in a scramble to adjust to this major paradigm shift; remember, we’re still living in a gender wage gap world where there are still more men than women in control of huge corporations and governments.  But with women expected to control those serious purse string, at least in the U.S., organizations that are lead by women, create opportunities for women and support women will rise above those that don’t.   It’s going to be a brave new world out there, and our friends at UforChange recognize that and are putting on a great event to get the rest of us up to speed.

photo credit Natalia Dolan 

Tomorrow, May 8th,  UforChange, the youth mentorship non-profit organization for arts and entrepreneurship, will be hosting Women of Change, a luncheon event featuring a curated panel of female entrepreneurs, creative professionals and other business people who will be sharing their success stories. These women are poised to play a major role in the dawning of a new corporate landscape, where women should and will be holding more positions of leadership, more decision making power, and more financial influence than ever before.

Taking place in downtown Toronto, Women of Change will feature an inspiring keynote speech by renowned entrepreneur and author Ann Kaplan Mulholland and a live panel with the founder of Muse Ariel Garten, lawyer and trademark agent Anjli Patel, founder of Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto Sage Paul, and entrepreneur and CEO of Pod Nation Jasmine Pickel.  The panel will be moderated by Bee Quammie of Kultur’D and hosted by Nicole Servinis of Breakfast Television.  Proceeds from the lunchtime event will go to support the empowerment of women and youth who continue to inspire the UforChange family as well as UforChange’s artistic programs for youth in the Greater Toronto Area.

I got the chance to chat with panelist Sage Paul ahead of tomorrow’s event.  Sage is an urbanDenesuliné tskwe based in Toronto and a member of English River First Nation. As mentioned above, she is a founding collective member and the Artistic Director of Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto.  As award-winning artist & designer and a recognized leader of Indigenous fashion, craft and textiles, Sage’s work centers family, sovereignty and resistance for balance. Read her story in her words below:


How did you get involved with the work you currently do?

I work at the intersection of fashion, culture and arts. I make fashion, crafts and textiles for stage, screen, runway and art exhibition and I am also the Artistic Director of Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto. I started designing from a very young age; We always had fabric, beads, markers, embroidery thread, paints, etc. at home and my mom made many of my clothes. I was set up to eventually do it for myself. My first fully-realized design was a pair of skorts made from scrap blue and white floral fabric. My mom thought I invented the skort. I don’t think that is true, but I was maybe 9 years old and her enthusiasm was encouraging.

My family lived in a community called Gabriel Dumont where all the parents regularly organized workshops like beading, pow wow regalia making, crafts markets, making drums from the rawhide stage… Working with and building community infrastructure together was also imprinted from a young age.

Aside from fashion, craft and textiles being a big part of my life from a young age, working at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival with incredible leaders for a decade heavily informed and developed my understanding of how to do the work I currently do, which is personal, cultural and ancestral expression and narration with and for a greater community. I am grateful that I have learned and discovered the skills and resources to bring together Indigenous designers and artists from across the country and around the world to strengthen our community of “Indigenous Fashion” through my personal design, Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto and many other initiatives and partnerships.


What is your WHY? 

When someone says “fashion” the default understanding of the standalone word is euro-centric, mainstream and commercial. Indigenous people or culture were not recognized in the industry unless homogenized as “Indigenous” along with heavy appropriation, stereotypes, tokenism, and exploitation. It still happens today. To share space in the industry where Indigenous designers are recognized and celebrated as multi-disciplinary, distinct and individual from each other, we have to create space for and represent ourselves. Taking up space in the fashion, art and cultural sectors with the global Indigenous community of designers and artists working in fashion, craft, and textiles moves me to do what I do. My hope is that one day the stand-alone words “art”, “fashion” and “culture” illustrate a multifaceted and inclusive impression of collaborative, creative industries, and not a euro-centric mainstream default.


What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to face?

My biggest challenge is fear: failure, the unknown… Finding courage, being creatively resourceful and listening to my mentors has been key to drive through those fearful times as successfully as possible.


What piece of advice would you give to someone trying to do what you do, or trying to follow their own dreams?

It’s so important to build and maintain good relationships with clear communication that supports mutual collaboration and expectations; Look to and honor one’s mentors, leaders and role models.


If you could pick one charitable organization to ask our readers to donate to or volunteer with, which would it be?

In terms of philanthropy and contributing to a thriving economy, I encourage everyone to buy native and pay artists what they ask and deserve to be paid! Know who is creating your work, their story and wear their work with pride and joy.


Powerful words from an inspiring woman.  Join me and the amazing females that will be present at Women of Change tomorrow.  Tickets are still available through the link below. You can attend or you can donate, or sponsor a young person to attend the event as well.  It’s sure to be an engaging and memorable one, so come on out.



*from the BMO Wealth Institute report titled “Financial Concerns of Women”

Nadia Elkharadly

Nadia Elkharadly

Nadia Elkharadly is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Addicted Magazine. Her myriad of addictions include music, fashion, travel, technology, boxing and trying to make the world a better place. Nadia is also a feminist, an animal lover, and a neverending dreamer. Keep up with her on social media through @thenadiae.
Nadia Elkharadly