#QTPOC Of The Week | Paige Goodings, Entrepreneur & People Enthusiast

First and foremost, I am a student. I am in school now at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a Powers-Knapp scholar and in the Fashion Business Management program at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. On the rare weeks when I’m not in school I always find ways to learn through unique opportunities. Whether I’m planning photoshoot or creating a shot list for a commercial - I try to carry a learn as I go, adapt as I grow mentality. Besides being a student, I am an entrepreneur, aspiring fashion event producer, apparel designer, yogi and an overall people enthusiast.

At any point in the near future, you will catch me with my hands full - collaborating on a few passion projects, studying for class, and running from the train to make it to my favorite yoga class (shout out to Daya Yoga Studio in Bushwick). I guess in short, what I do, or rather - how I like to spend my time - is working with other creatives in meaningful ways to promote inclusivity, authenticity and earnest enjoyment.

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What’s your background?

I’ll try to hit all of the marks with this question. I’m from Wisconsin - born in Madison, grew up in Waukesha and Milwaukee. I’m a biracial, queer, woman of color with a multicultural upbringing. My dad is from the West Indies, born in Grenada and grew up in St. Thomas (US Virgin Islands). He came to the mainland for college and met my lovely mother shortly after. My mom was born in Wisconsin with notably German, Russian, French, Dutch and English roots. When I say I’m from Wisconsin - I don’t mean the rural, farming, corn field Wisconsin, but yes, I do mean autumn tailgating at Badger games, MKE Summerfest in July, Colectivo coffee & Kopp’s Custard-style Wisconsin. My community groups growing up definitely informed how I view relationships and rich culture unique to my own.

My neighborhood block in particular, was a mini oasis in the midst of a very white, middle class community where my neighbors doubled as my family. I like to say that I was raised by mothers of many backgrounds - Puerto Rican, Asian Indian, Taiwanese and of course midwestern white American - all from whom I learned from their perspectives and traditions as they shared their homelife with me. Throughout my adolescence, I grew up alongside six foreign exchange students who lived with my family. My siblings hailed from Japan, Germany, Spain and France, and from them, I learned about inclusivity and loving differences at a young age.

Growing up with friends and family from various parts of the globe, you recognize that everyone, especially those not in the majority (such as myself), are all looking to feel understood and included despite their differences. To give you some perspective - In my high school, I was one of six black identifying students of color to graduate from a class of 300. Finding community in a predominately white, christian heteronormative space was already a challenge and then, as a biracial girl, being labeled as “the whitest black girl”- where I was too white to understand nuances of African-American social culture, finding community in predominantly black and hispanic peer groups was also a challenge. So I got used to fluttering. Fluttering between different social groups, involving myself wherever I felt like I felt accepted into a space. Again I became a people enthusiast when I learned to cherish the individual, authentic relationships I had made. Eventually in my senior year I felt like I had developed a strong social network to create a meaningful, project that involved my favorite things -  fashion, style as an intersection of identity, and giving back to the community that raised me.

So I didn’t have the opportunity to study art or design through a fashion curriculum like some had on the east coast.  However, I was compelled to create a platform through academia, giving students a chance to exercise their creativity, marketing abilities and source materials locally. A friend and I founded a program called the Strut Your Stuff Project, which is a runway show comprised of second-hand clothing that empowers students to embrace diversity at its core, appreciate sustainable design, and support the community through monetary and clothing donations. I developed a love for art and fashion design in an environment that lacked opportunities around fashion-related projects that celebrates unique, unabashed style. Today, the Strut Your Stuff Program is rolling into its sixth year in my hometown.

Looking back, I think creating that project gave me much needed autonomy to self-identify for once and seek out individuals who shared in my passions. In a town where I felt void of community based on shared experiences, I created a unique community based on shared interests and supporting individual stand alones, like myself. Since then, I have played roles in the production process of sixteen additional fashion shows and design exhibitions - at every level of professionalism - be it grassroots projects, for local business, academic exhibitions or for the official Mercedes-benz NYFW.

My appreciation for handcrafted-quality design, runway performances, storytelling, independent projects, and celebrating dimensional identities has guided me through my undergraduate education and towards my professional path. I came into college with new community established by the Powers-Knapp scholarship - who supports and unifies underrepresented minorities with outstanding academic position and leadership who paid my tuition for all of my schooling; first to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, then to live with a host family and study in Paris, and now, in NYC to finish my degrees at FIT and contribute to fashion industry to help others share their authentic stories.

So now I’m here! Living in Brooklyn feeling more myself, feeling included for my differences and queerer than ever. I’m currently assisting at Nineteenth Amendment,(a responsible and beautiful e-tailer for that sells directly from designer studios and manufactures in the US),with one semester of my undergrad to go! I’m definitely still fluttering between social groups, and occasionally tripping over my own feet to get to a yoga class on time.  

What do you enjoy the most about “what you do”?   

Specifically for planning runway shows - my favorite part is planning the sensual elements that transform a trunk show into an immersive experience. So much of a message is in the delivery- the framework - that goes a step further than the visuals. Once the physical space, lighting design, audio creative, and transitions are coordinated with the movement, the models understand the story and embodies the energy of the collection; if this is done successfully, the message is coherent, powerful and hopefully well received. I believe framing the art is as important as the artwork itself - runway presentations magnify the garments. There are just so many heartbreakingly beautiful and inspiring stories out there and I just love having the opportunity to work with designers and creators who want to send a message.

What is the most challenging thing about “what you do”?

I think the most challenging thing for me is maintaining work-life balance. Sometimes I’ll get so carried away by a project, I won’t sleep for over 24 hours straight in my grind-mode. Sometimes I just don’t have the patience to step away from the problem and sleep on it; ergo - making it worse. I noticed a trend upon moving here four months ago. It’s exactly this - everyone has a “thing” and there’s this expectation that you do your thing morning, afternoon and night, non-stop, that it’s a grind. Although I have the utmost respect for anyone who this formula works but I burn out unless I have balance. Even extroverted, social butterflies need time to cocoon themselves in order to recharge and maintain high levels of functionality.  I used to think “rise and grind”  through the majority of my undergrad, but I realized that I’m much happier, more productive, creative and chilled out when I make time in my day to step away from the project and relax.  

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?

lol oh, to pick just one... Honestly, the DapperQ runway show at the Brooklyn Museum during NYFW was my favorite show to be apart of by far. Not only did I get to see it live but I was able to help prepare for the debut of Kris Harring’s gender-neutral RTW collection. I loved the blend of masculine and feminine energy in each collection that bore its way through the crowd. Although some pieces were more performative than ready to wear, I loved that the model was received first as the person, then as the designer’s projected experience, and not as a hanger for the latest trend. It was a powerful night, framed beautifully by the production team designers and the audience alike.

What is your dream project?

I have a few! One - After graduation, I want to make the Strut Your Stuff Project a replicable platform -to make it accessible to other high school districts in the midwest where there is a need for textiles and apparel programs/ fashion opportunities. I hope to stay involved with academia.

Also, in my twenties, I want to work for IMG and plan Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week, with the intention of bring new, independent designers to the scene...somebody’s gotta do it.

One day, I would love to have my own collection showcased as an interactive exhibit - I want to share my experience as a biracial queer woman in from the midwest. I don’t want to say too much about it, but the audience will be encouraged to interact with the collection. In a tactile experience, I want to facilitate curiosity, vulnerability and compassion. That’d be pretty dope.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

My dad told me, ever since I was a kid, “Paige, go talk to the mirror. I can’t help you with how you feel.” In doing so, I discovered the more you talk to yourself with love and affirmation, the more you value yourself.

Speaking mantras like, “I’m worthy of---” and “Today, I’m enough for--”, I actually wake up the next morning and start to believe it. So in this new chapter, I’m learning to be my own cheerleader. I’m fairly successful at giving pep talks to my friends. They’re amazing people and I believe in them wholeheartedly, I’m just trying to give myself that fuel.Through my own voice, with written affirmations, I’m actually finding peace in solitude. I think that’s what my dad had to do while growing up in a difficult situation. Now he is my source of inspiration for resilience, self-assurance, and humility. He taught me, there’s no excuse, it’s all up to you.

Name something you love outside of “what you do”, and why.

Dancing. Ah, I love dancing. Swing dancing, salsa dancing, bachata, merengue, tango, classical, contemporary, hip-hop, tap, wall twerking, fricken fox trot - you name it - I love it all. Rhythmic movement like dancing and yoga is revitalizing. It reduces stress, and helps me stay light on my thoughts. I think I need it like I need AC and sweet plantains in the summer. Dance helps me feel sensual and in control of my body. Dancing is my ideal Friday night activity, my favorite non-verbal form of communication, and my most searched content on Youtube.

What should we look out for and how can we keep up with you &/or your work?

My post-grad summer project is to (finally) create my portfolio/website - incorporating my personal apparel designs, runway shows, and collaborative projects, linked with my personal blog (I write), and a special networking page that will link all of the creators that I’ve ever worked with noting their expertise for further internal circle connecting. For now, you can follow me on Instagram @paige_goodings

Thanks for providing a space for me to share my story Kristen! I’m SafeWord smitten.