Alumni Spotlight: Clio Sage '10 Reflects on her Path from Architecture to Fashion and Beyond

Beginnings

Clio Sage ’10 will tell you that, if she really has to choose, she prefers to be described as a designer. “It’s a question I’ve really struggled with,” she says, “whether to describe myself as an artist, a designer, or honestly if I even fit into either of those titles at all. But the technical and pragmatic aspect of designing is what really speaks to me.” Sage has always believed in the power of design and the opportunities that designing can create. She embraces the mission of her new job, which is the belief that “design defines human progress.” 

Sage’s interest in design sparked years of studying and practicing architecture before she ever started designing clothing. “I’ve always loved architecture and studied it all through high school at Princeton Day School. I fully intended to practice it when I graduated from Columbia University. I even started working for an architecture firm, but it didn’t take me long to realize that, as a career, it wasn’t my passion.” 

Sage’s career path wasn’t a straight line from the architecture firm to the design industry. “I actually started designing wearable pieces in college. The first time was for a sculpture project and then I started designing pieces just for myself. One year after I created that first wearable piece, a friend of mine found it on Facebook and asked if I would design more for a music video he was directing,” she explains. Ultimately, the music video would never come to fruition, but Sage continued to work and rework the design until she had three articles of clothing, each made out of atypical fabrics: solid wood and plexiglass. From there, Sage entered a whirlwind.

Changes 

“My first collection was all about experimenting. I entered myself into a vendor fair and was so surprised that I was invited to attend. Everything that followed -- the fashion weeks, the collaborations -- it was all so amazing and overwhelming.” But true to her questing nature, after the initial excitement of the sudden fame she was experiencing, Sage was ready for a change. 

“I was in the middle of a lot of transition and figuring out what I wanted to do next when I wasn’t left with much of a choice but to slow down. The COVID-19 pandemic forced me to consider once again what I really wanted to do,” she reflects. Sage’s experience during the height of the pandemic was not dissimilar to that of many others, but she emerged with a new job at Eight, Inc. and a new passion project: making bags. “Fashion work, or any creative work, can get so distorted when the pressure is monetized, so I’ve decided to forego pricing the bags I make. Since I can’t put a price on my work, I barter them!” 

Rapper Azealia Banks with a custom Red TE (Tiny Essentials) bag by Sage

Sage believes that her current job gives her passion for fabrication more room to breathe. While she is working as the Senior Project Manager at Eight, Inc., she is also a Portfolio Development Teacher at Pratt summer pre-college. “To be honest, the arts faculty at Princeton Day School has shaped the kind of teacher I am.” 

Reflections 

When recalling the kinds of teachers who have shaped her experience as an adult, Sage remembers David Burkett, who gave her four incomparable years of architecture, life guidance and continued post-grad support, as well as Eileen Hohmuth-Lemonick, legendary PDS Photography Instructor and recent retiree, and how she helped Sage see herself during a challenging time. “High school is hard. I remember feeling like no one could really see me, but Eileen approached me as a teenager and said she wanted me to take a series of self portraits and have them blown up to be on display in the Arts Wing. I remember feeling so embarrassed, but also like she saw that I just needed to really see myself to know what I’m capable of. That’s the kind of educator who works at PDS, and that’s why it has had a lifelong impact on me.”

High school is hard. I remember feeling like no one could really see me, but Eileen approached me as a teenager and said she wanted me to take a series of self portraits and have them blown up to be on display in the Arts Wing. I remember feeling so embarrassed, but also like she saw that I just needed to really see myself to know what I’m capable of. That’s the kind of educator who works at PDS, and that’s why it has had a lifelong impact on me.

Although Sage contends that her life has not had a clear path, the lessons she’s learned along the way and her passion, work ethic and talent have always acted as guiding lights. She says, “I try to remind myself with every challenge that everything is happening exactly as it’s supposed to and to try to handle the hard times with grace.” Sage’s personal and professional success have proven that with the right support and a strong sense of one’s capacity, a trajectory doesn’t have to be clear in order for it to point exactly where it’s meant to go.

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