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January 17, 2014

Heidi Middleton, Founder, Sass & Bide

By Chris Boyle

story_sassandbide2Sass & Bide is an Australian women’s fashion label founded by Heidi Middleton and Sarah-Jayne Clark. Heidi talks to Elite Traveler about how the brand started, the label’s concept and what’s in store for the future.

ET: Can you please give us some background on Sass & Bide?

Heidi Middleton: I met my partner (Sass) through boyfriends about 20 years ago in Queensland, Australia, and it was really just love at first sight. We had this great energy as friends and what drew us together was our fascination of clothes, creating and styling. A wonderful friendship was born.

A couple of years after meeting we moved to London together to work in our respective careers, myself in advertising and Sass in the music industry. During our three years in London, we started a side project of designing and customizing clothing and selling in Portobello market. We had such incredible reaction. The stores we worked with continued to sell out.

Basically the next decision was made for us as a result to the overwhelmingly positive response. Our visas expired after three years and we moved back to Sydney to launch the label. We were lucky to have an angel investor enable our start. We did so well we were able to pay them back within the first year, with interest.

ET: What was you first piece of Sass & Bide clothing? What is the concept of your label?

HM: The first product that we launched was a denim jean, a two-inch zip hipster jean. A low-rise stretch vintage twist to the denim we all know and love. We started with a denim theme, skirts, jackets, pants and shorts with a unique twist, very new to the market place, especially in Australia. We started selling overseas straight away. We sold into Harvey Nichols and Barneys; We were fortunate to get some great accounts so quickly.

ET: What inspired you?

HM: We were always inspired when we weren’t able to find something to wear. That was a lot of the motivation and inspiration behind it all. We were invited to Australian Fashion Week in 2001, which then inspired us to do a very small (cap..) collection. That was really the birth of the ready to wear business, which now makes up about a third of the business.

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ET: In addition to the ready to wear business, what else makes up Sass & Bide?

HM: We range from high-end gallery bespoke pieces, knit-wear, boutique collection, denim, couture line, eyewear and lingerie. We now have 22 stores in Australia and New Zealand and 23 concessions. We just opened our store in New York a couple of days ago on Broom Street.

We were foruntate to meet David Briskin about four years ago when we needed the support. He provided us with the insight and business acumen to really go to the next level. Business is now very healthy and profitable.

ET: What is your online presence at the moment?

HM: Excellent. It’s really now becoming our number one store, a very important channel for us both in Australia and overseas.

ET: Where are your key markets?

HM: Australia, UK, US, Hong Kong and Japan. With the new store in New York, we see the US becoming very strong for us.

ET: Please tell us about your couture collection.

HM: This is our bespoke, hand-detailed/woven range. For me, this is the pinnacle of what we do. I love designing couture.

ET: Where does the name Sass & Bide come from?

HM: Our family nicknames our “Heidi Bidie”, myself, and Sara Jane is Sass!

ET: What does the future hold for you? What is your strategy?

HM: The US and Asia market are very important for us. We would like to find the right partner in Asia. Our online presence is a priority as well.

ET: Do you think you will ever dip into men’s or children’s fashion?

HM: Honestly, I don’t really have the desire to design for men. For me, if there were more hours in the day, I would quite like to try children’s clothing. Perhaps fragrance could work for us in the future as well.

At the moment, however, I feel like there is so much potential with where we are, therefore are focusing on maximizing the potential with that what we do so well. At the moment there seems to be a huge amount to explore in our existing categories. We’ve talked about possibly having stand-alone couturemont accessories stores at some stage, maybe even bigger spaces for our existing Sass & Bide stores.

ET: Congratulations on all of your success thus far. We know we will be hearing more good things down the road.

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