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Sage Paul is a designer and the founder of Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto. (Johnathan Ball) Mint green, cranberry red silk, crimson bugle beads, rawhide.

The colours and fabrics remind Sage Paul of her time spent in hospitals, and of the trauma of her miscarriages.

The Toronto-based Dene designer’s forthcoming clothing collection, Giving Life, is an intimate expression for Paul. "You can tell your secrets through fashion, and it’s not so vulnerable." Rawhide bust from Paul’s forthcoming Giving Life collection. Modelled by Paul’s sister, Skye Paul. (Photo by Ratul Debnath) Giving Life will debut at The Fashion and Design Festival in Montreal at the end of August. The collection, which includes a tailored starched white blazer inspired by a lab coat, is a reflection of feeling disempowered in the healthcare system. Paul hopes that Giving Life can reframe how patients feel in hospitals, and she hopes that her clothes can make people feel empowered.

Fashion is a way to tell stories, explained Paul. Storytelling on the runways

When Paul thinks about Indigenous fashion she thinks about communication. "Fashion is like a language," clothing is and always has been a way to communicate, she explained. "We would be able to identify our different nations through clothing."

Paul also works to create a platform for other Indigenous designers to tell their own stories.

As the founder and artistic director of Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto, Paul has met designers from nations all over Turtle Island. At the event, which wrapped up in early June, Paul saw common threads among them.

"One of the common things among all of the designers was an honouring of a lot of aunties and grandmas," said Paul. "People were bringing stories that were shared with them by those women in their lives."

One of the event’s four runways was dedicated to these women.

"We wanted to use that show as a way to honour those women," explained Paul. "Indigenous women who have helped pave the way for where we’re at right now with Indigenous fashion. Even myself has a space because of the work that these women have done."

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