Sass & Bide, the beloved 2000s Australian label known for their signature aesthetic of low-rise bootleg jeans, 'rats' leggings, and eye-catching embellished styles, was once at the forefront of the fashion world. Celebrities like Mila Kunis, Sarah Jessica Parker, and more were regularly spotted sporting the brand's designs. But what exactly is the story behind Sass & Bide and where are the original designers now? Buckle up, because we're about to dive into the fascinating history and evolution of this legendary Australian brand.
In 1999, Sarah-Jane (Sass) and Heidi (Bide) joined forces to create the now-legendary label "Sass & Bide". They began their journey selling vintage-inspired custom jeans at London's Portobello Markets, where their one-of-a-kind designs caught the eye of the fashion world. With their belief that a "great fitting jean sits super low and is super sexy", Sass & Bide quickly rose from underground sensation to a leading force in women's fashion design.
Their first seasonal collection presented at the 2001 Mercedes Australian Fashion Week which marked a turning point in the brand's history. The unique and eye-catching collection caught the attention of the fashion industry, leading to invitations to showcase at London Fashion Week in 2002 and New York Fashion Week the following year. Over the next several years, Sass & Bide presented eight consecutive seasons of shows in both London and New York, solidifying their place as a prominent player on the international fashion stage.
In 2002, Sass & Bide's rise to fame was further accelerated with a chance encounter on the set of Sex and the City. The duo were on their way to an appointment in Manhattan when they walked past the set of Sex and the City. Clarke took off her self-designed denim jacket and handed it to the security guard who then passed it on to Sarah Jessica Parker. Impressed by the duo's denim jacket, Parker commissioned one-of-a-kind pieces for the show, bringing Sass & Bide to the attention of other high-profile celebrities including Madonna, Beyoncé, Mila Kunis and Kate Moss.
The growth and popularity of Sass & Bide as a cult label was further solidified with each new season, leading to their design collaboration with Topshop for a denim line in 2008. During this time, the designers also made an appearance on the highly-regarded reality show of the 2000s, The Hills. In the show, prominent fashion publicist, Kelly Catrone of People's Revolution, sent leading lady Whitney Port to work at the Sass & Bide fashion show during Fashion Week in New York. Whitney's styling played a crucial role in the show and her influence was reflected in the designers' choice to feature a pair of then iconic, 'rats' as a centrepiece in their runway look.
After year on year success, in 2011, the Australian department store chain, Myer, made a significant investment in Sass & Bide by acquiring a 65% stake in the label for $42.25 million (AUD). By late 2013, Myer completed the acquisition by purchasing the remaining shares of the business. Despite the change in ownership, Sarah-Jane and Heidi remained on the executive and advisory boards until their departure in June 2014. The following year, the brand welcomed Therese Rawsthorne (now design director at Zimmermann) as the Creative Director. Rawsthorne was tasked with steering Sass & Bide into the future while staying true to its values, heritage, and archives. Her collections would be inspired by the rich history of the brand and its extensive archives.
In 2020, Sass and Bide underwent a major overhaul, with the appointment of a new design team to lead the brand into the future. Made up of five young and talented designers with fresh ideas and a new perspective, the goal to make the brand more inclusive, sustainable, and empowering for women. The design team focused on re-establishing Sass and Bide as a leader in the fashion industry and reviving the brand’s unique and edgy aesthetic.
As for the original designers, Heidi Middleton refocused her design efforts on her sustainably driven brand in 2018 with the launch of Art Club, in the same year Sarah-Jane Clarke established her own name-sake label, based out of Sydney's east which also places an emphasis on sustainability.
As a true devotee of Sass and Bide, the brand was always a standout in the industry, effortlessly distinct amidst the sea of sameness. Fast forward to 2023, with a current following of over 320k on Instagram and approximately 40 boutiques across Australia, and while the brand may have lost its once-sparkling, embellished crown, there's no denying the resurgence of 2000's fashion. So who knows? This beloved brand could be on the brink of a revival that could see it reclaim its throne as a leader in fashion once again.
Stay tuned x