We're making the call; Sass and Bide are no longer relevant
There is a reason why nobody has spoken about the brand in years.
Yep you’ve heard it here first, Sass and Bide are no longer relevant.
The profile picture on the brand’s Instagram is a cherry red heart. At first, the icon could have represented the brand's humble beginnings, but since they sold their remaining shares to Myer in 2014, you could suggest that it’s there to make up for what the brand is now missing.
Best friends, Sarah-Jane Clarke and Heidi Middleton started the brand in 1999 at the Portobello Markets in London. Back then, they customised vintage jeans and resold them as unique pieces. One aspect stayed consistent in their next fifteen years heading the brand - that each collection represented a worldly and carefully curated eclecticism. They created a world that everyone wanted to be a part of, and the passcode was to own your own Sass & Bide piece.
In 2001, the self-taught designers presented their first seasonal range at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia, which was followed by over a decade of showings in London and New York. In 2002, the duo were in New York during the filming of Sex and the City. A starry eyed Clarke handed her denim jacket to a security guard, who in turn gave the item to Sarah Jessica Parker, they managed to impress the star, and the next day SJP asked the duo to make her one-off pieces for the show.
In the last year of their reign, Clarke and Middleton collaborated with international campaigns such as the Ethical Fashion Initiative. The initiative combines fashion with poverty reduction by supplying ongoing work for disadvantaged African communities. This predominantly assisted women in feeding, educating, caring for themselves and their children. The beaded accessories and purses made by Kenyan women were available to purchase from their online store.
In 2013, Myer bought a 65% stake in the company for $42.25 million, and since then the brand's presence in the public eye has wavered significantly. Earlier on in the brand’s life span, you could see the heavily embellished clothes worn on red carpets by the likes of Rihanna, Miranda Kerr, Isabel Lucas, Beyonce, and Kimmy K. If you look online all articles about celebrities donning the brand are from (the latest) in 2017, and even that was a throw back article. And it's definitely safe to say that the last time Kim Kardashian wore the brand was way before Kanye rejuvenated her wardrobe.
In the end, Clarke and Middleton left the brand altogether in 2014, selling their final 35% share for $30 million according to Sydney Morning Herald. And that's the moment in our eyes, that it was all downhill from there.
In 2016, ABC released an article grading worker welfare, and Sass and Bide received a C+ rating. The Australian Ethical Commission rated Myer two out of five stars in regards to their ethics, and ‘it should be noted their labourers don’t receive a living wage or receive safe working practices’. This shows if Sass and Bide used to be socially conscious, their involvement with Myer reduces the impact of those efforts.
In 2017, the brand tried to made a 'come back' at Australian Fashion Week, and it received mixed reviews. Fashion Journal panned the show and wrote it was 'confused’ and the 'design leadership has waned significantly'. In fact, five people took a bow on the runway to claim credit for the collection, a sign of a disorganised and visionless brand.
Which, is unfortunate considering how distinct the brands semi-tribal and vintage aesthetic was in its heyday. Despite keeping some signature looks, the designs don’t stand on their own because they no longer create trend-defying looks, instead, it‘s trend-driven with some metallic and sequins thrown in for good measure.
There use to be a sense of pride in buying from the brand, but these days they are overshadowed by their local competitors, proven through their unnoticed absence at fashion week.
Words by Faye Couros
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