Come Dine With Me… SAGE NATION
For the next delicious instalment in this series, SAGE NATION founder, Sage Toda-Nation takes us with him to one of his favourite restaurants. “A must-go, family-run affair, with great food and great people,” the eponymous designer explains. This is an apt location for our catch up because, whilst Magnal II is redefining Turkish food in our capital’s culinary space, Sage’s label is reinvigorating the world of genderless clothing. Weaving his dual Japanese and British roots into a range of unique and wearable pieces of the highest quality to wear on repeat every day. The designer tells us more about his life and work over a delicious feast…
Where are you and what are you eating?
I’m at Mangal II eating some real belly-hitting food.
Why did you choose this spot?
Mangal II is the spot. I’ve been coming here ever since my friend introduced me.
What’s your favourite thing on the menu?
Right now, I would say the Sea Bream dish [he says whilst eating it].
Let’s talk about the ingredients that make up your career. What are they? How did you get started?
I guess I was never really an academic and was always someone who couldn’t be motivated to do something unless I was super invested. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to have a mother that really helped steer my interests from a young age and helped me realise that this kind of career existed.
When I was eleven, I announced that I was going to design things in my life. I had a really good art teacher at school who instilled a lot of confidence in me. After I finished school, I knew I wanted to go into some sort of a design field, I just didn't know what it was yet. I realised I didn't have the patience for architecture so I pursued fashion. I wanted to have control of the whole process of actualising something.
When did you begin SAGE NATION and why?
I started the brand during my final year of university in 2020 just before Covid kicked off. I had always been known for ‘making clothes’ up until this point, but it was the final year of university where I really started to launch the brand.
If I'm honest - I started the brand from a place of frustration. Feeling like there was a lack of what I was looking for in the world of fashion and the urge to see what could come out of offering my take on things to the world.
Your work is a mixture of purpose and perspective. How do you find the balance between the flavours?
The ‘balance’ needs to be taken into account when it comes to all aspects of putting something out into the world. From the people we work with, to how we work with people. Everything needs to have a purpose and everything needs to be kept in perspective. I feel fashion can be an industry that can chew you up and spit you back out if these things are not considered.
I am lucky enough to have found some great people in the industry that I work with who always keep things in perspective. This is very important to me. I try to be mindful of all aspects of these principles when it comes to my design approach. I think balance means longevity - and that is something I think we should all be striving for.
How do you cook up an idea? Talk us through your creative process.
I've really started to understand my process more recently. I prefer to see what we have to work with then bring in other ingredients to that. The way I work is a constant stream of ideas and thoughts. I don't set out designing a collection with a set ‘theme’ or ‘narrative’, it's more of a visceral way of working. I definitely start with fabric first, this is the canvas so it must be the most considered part. Fabric can really make or break a garment.
How do you want your pieces to make people feel?
In your opinion, who has excellent taste?
Liam Gallagher in the ‘90s. And my girlfriend.
Now for the fun questions…. Favourite thing to eat?
Omurice. It’s my struggle meal - you can pretty much always whip it up with what you have in the kitchen as long as you have rice, eggs, ketchup and an onion.
Least favourite thing to eat?
Chawanmushi - it's a Japanese savoury egg dish. It's pretty much the only dish in the world I can't get my head around. I wish I could enjoy it but I just can't.
If SAGE NATION was a dish, what dish would it be?
100% it would be onigiri. Something you can always rely on - pure and simple with something special on the inside. I normally aim to have one point of focus on all my garments, this is like the filling inside the onigiri.
What one food / drink can’t you live without?
At the moment, I can’t live without cranberry and mango juice, and any sort of lamb dish.
What would your last meal be?
A massive roast dinner with all the trimmings.
If you could only eat one cuisine for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Chanko nabe [aka sumo stew]. You have a bit of everything in there and it’s very healthy and good for bulking.
What's your favourite restaurant in the whole world?
Either the Cocoanut in Kingston Upon Thames or Mangal II.
Which three people are at your dream dinner table?
The first would be Ian Curtis, because it would just be iconic to spend a night with him. Then I would say the artist Mover - he got me through a lot of my youth.
Lastly, I would say my grandad on my dad's side, Yoshisaburo Toda 戸田吉三郎. I never got a chance to meet him before he passed but I would say he is the person I have the most in common with in my family. He was an artist - the first solo exhibition since his death is happening in Japan this November.
In life, what’s the best recipe for success?
Hard work and making sure you eat good food. And remembering that knowing and doing are two things that are very far apart.
They say that success smells sweet. What does it smell like to you?
A mixed shish kebab.
Photography: Jonathan Middleton
Words: Sophy Davis Russell
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