The myth of the lone genius continues to prevail in the fashion world, but Sage Paul is turning that notion on its head. During her childhood in a mostly Indigenous community (she is an urban Denesuliné tskwe and a member of the English River First Nation), the moms would gather the kids together for lessons in making traditional regalia and crafts. For the artist and designer, that sense of community is the anchor in everything she does – and she does a lot. From working on costumes for award-winning choreographer Nova Bhattacharya to teaching a course on contemporary Indigenous fashion (which she also created) at her alma mater, Paul is always looking for ways to make things fit together.

The next piece of the puzzle? Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto (IFWTO), a multi-day showcase of fashion and art of which Paul is a co-founder and the artistic director. Although it’s currently postponed due to the pandemic, the event is far from your traditional fashion week. In addition to four runway shows (featuring 23 designers from Canada and abroad), there’s a marketplace, an art exhibit, lectures and workshops. “I really wanted an artistic platform that respects and values the work that designers create,” says Paul. In this spirit, the chosen designers are paid artist fees rather than the other way around.

This year, IFWTO has partnered with Quebec City-based retailer Simons on a capsule collection featuring the designs of eight Indigenous artists from across Canada. Each mini collection includes an assortment of base garments made from organic linen, which act as a blank canvas for the designers to showcase their specific craft, from graphic design to laser-cut acrylic.


“We’re doing runways but looking at more of a theatrical presentation of fashion. We work with set designers, lighting designers and choreographers [to put] the show on in a way that any theatre or dance company would. It’s more of an artistic approach as opposed to the commercial runway.”


“The story that I’m telling and the meaning behind it was always the intention for me when making my clothes. I don’t know where I’m at now, but I do understand that connecting through fashion brings people together. I work specifically for my community because I’m an Indigenous woman – that’s my reality, and I feel very connected to it.”


“There’s still this romanticized idea about what it means to be in fashion, and it’s hard to let go of that fantasy, but it does take a lot of work. There’s also a lot of opportunity to help shape what the industry will look like if we take the time to research and develop it together and challenge assumptions.”

Shop our picks from the IFWTO x Edito Par Simons collection here:

Graphic Mosaic Shirt Dress by Caroline Monnet ($295)


Acrylic Gem Loose Pant by Warren Steven Scott ($125)


Crochet-Band Cinched Dress by Evan Ducharme ($395)


This article originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of ELLE Canada. Subscribe here. Buy a digital copy of this issue here or on Apple News+.


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