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A Womenswear Label by Sarah-Jane Clarke and Heidi Middleton

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Introduction to the Sass & Bide Fashion Label

Childhood friends Sarah-Jane Clarke (Sass) and Heidi Middleton (Bide) first met at St. Aidan’s Anglican Girls School in 1992. After school the pair went their separate ways with Sarah Jane studying at the Queensland University of Technology before becoming an accountant, and Heidi studied at Queensland College of Art and Griffith University before working as an Art Director. The duo reunited in the late 1990’s and relocated to London where they set up their womenswear label Sass & Bide in 1999, with a market stall on Notting Hill’s Portobello Road Market selling their customised jeans.

Utilizing Heidi’s life passion for innovative design, and Sarah-Jane’s sense of style, the fledgling fashionista’s were facing ever increasing numbers of enthusiastic repeat customers and referrals every weekend. Sass & Bide was firmly on its way to becoming a fully fledged fashion label.

Sass and Bide Fashion Designers
Fashionistas Heidi Middleton and Sarah-Jane Clarke

That same year that their market stall had become such a success, the duo decided to return to Australia – basing themselves in Australia Sarah-Jane and Heidi set their sights an revolutionising the Australian designer denim market. Their assault on the denim industry started with the now notorious ‘East Village Jean’ – with its unmistakable two inch zip and flattering fit, which Sass & Bide is so well known for. That one jean soon gained Sass & Bide an underground following, with the international market soon following.

In 2001, with the support of Mercedes Australian Fashion Week in Sydney, Sass & Bide launched their first seasonal fashion collection, ‘Lady Punk’. The collection was received to rave reviews, both in the domestic and the international press and the rest as they say is history. The brand has since launched two diffusion lines: ‘S&B’, which is targeted at a younger demographic and is lower priced, and ‘Sass & Bide Denim’.

As of 2011, Sass & Bide were stocked in18 standalone boutiques throughout Australia, including in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Canberra. Additionally, the brand is stocked in over twenty countries in some of the world’s finest boutiques.

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Sass & Bide: Key Dates

  • 1999: Sass & Bide is founded by childhood friends, Sarah-Jane Clarke and Heidi Middleton, as a stall on London’s Portobello Road Market, where the duo began selling jeans. The duo returned to their native Australia that same year, basing the womenswear brand in Sydney, where they soon gained an underground following.
  • 2001: With the support of Mercedes Australian Fashion Week in Sydney, Sass & Bide launched their first full seasonal collection, entitled ‘Lady Punk’.
  • 2002: Sass & Bide showed at London Fashion Week for the first time.
  • 2003: Following their successful showing at London Fashion Week, Sass & Bide were invited to show at New York Fashion Week. They showed at New York for eight consecutive seasons before their triumphant return to London Fashion Week for their Spring/Summer 2010 collection in September 2009.
  • 2005: The first Sass & Side flagship boutique opens in Sydney.
  • 2007: Sass & Bide teamed up with Loveable Lingerie to create a quality women’s lingerie line.
  • 2008: Sass & Bide create a denim line for British high street giant, Topshop. Sarah-Jane said of the partnership “Topshop has been revolutionary in changing the face of high street fashion…they are iconic and leaders in the marketplace and we are very excited to be collaborating with them”.
  • 2009: The brand held a one-off charity event, the ‘Shine Initiative’, where they auctioned off artwork created by celebrity friends, raising money for children’s charity, Barnardos.
  • 2010: Sarah-Jane Clarke and Heidi Middleton receive the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award.
  • 2011: Sass & Bide sell a 65% share of their business to Melbourne-based department store Myer for $42.25 million.

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The Sass & Bide Aesthetic

“The Sass & Bide woman challenges convention. She walks to the beat of her own drum, and is a free-spirited creative soul who expresses herself through her clothing”.

It all started with the ‘Havana Jean’ – a skinny style with raffia fringing along the hem that was sold on the Portobello Road market stall, back in 1999. That first jean remains at the heart of the Sass & Bide aesthetic – defined by freedom and personal expression.

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Celebrities and Sass & Bide

If there has been a celebrity bottom worth looking at since 1999, chances are it’s been clad in a pair of low-slung Sass & Bide jeans.” – Kathleen Cuthbertson of the Herald Sun.

Sass & Bide unsurprisingly have many a celebrity fan – perhaps the most notable being world famous style-icon Sarah Jessica Parker (SJP). Sarah-Jane and Heidi were on their way to a meeting when they walked past the set of ‘Sex and the City’, where Sarah Jessica park was filming. Sarah-Jane took off her Sass & Bide denim jacket and handed it to SJP’s security guard, who loved the jacket and subsequently commissioned the brand to create some one-off pieces for the show – its not often a fashion label gets such an opportunity for global publicity.

Of course Sarah Jessica Parker is not the only stylish celebrity to be a fan of the Sass & Bide fashion label. Alison Mossart, front woman for American rock band The Kills, commissioned a customised pair of leopard print jeans and Rhianna, Miley Cyrus, Mischa Barton, Beyonce and Hillary Duff are often seen in the label. Additionally Sass & Bide have sent Kate Middleton a selection of their suede coats and denim, so watch this space for Sass & Bide being worn by a future Queen.

Sass and Bide Celebrity Clients

Rhianna, Kim Kardashian, Fergie and Beyonce in Sass & Bide.

The Future of the Sass & Bide Fashion Label

In February 2011 it was announced that department store Myer had bought a 65% share in the Sass & Bide label for a reported $42.25 million. Myer CEO Bernie Brookes said it was “probably our biggest, most exciting (acquisition)”. David Jones, Myer’s main department store rival, decided that they ‘could not justify the price’, despite the fact that David Jones had the rights to stock the label for the past ten years. So watch this space for future domestic and international expansion of Sass & Bide, all the way staying true to their original vision.

Visit the official Sass & Bide website, here.


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