Heidi Middleton and Sarah-Jane Clarke Exit Sass & Bide

The duo founded the brand in 1999.

SYDNEY — Sass & Bide creative director Heidi Middleton and brand director Sarah-Jane Clarke are leaving the business they founded in 1999.


Neither Middleton nor Clarke were contactable at press time, but in a statement released on Friday by the Myer department store chain, which has owned the brand since September 2013, the duo’s departure had been planned for some time.


“Myer wishes Heidi and Sarah-Jane well, they go with our great good wishes and we expect they will be associated with Sass & Bide for a long time,” the retailer said in a statement. “Myer has worked closely with Sarah-Jane and Heidi to establish a strong team of designers and Sass & Bide has recently appointed a new design director, Anthony Cuthbertson, as well as an art director, Bonnie O’Hare.”


Cuthbertson, a British native, was the creative director of Daks from 2000 to 2006 and has also worked for Max Mara, Sportsmax, Moncler, Burlington, René Lezard, Amanda Wakeley and most recently, mid-market Australian retail chains David Lawrence and Jigsaw. O’Hare, an Australian, is a former art director at Tommy Hilfiger Europe.


Together with Sass & Bide’s new Canadian chief executive officer Christopher Colfer, a former senior Richemont executive and chief executive officer of Alfred Dunhill, who joined the company in April, Cuthbertson and O’Hare embark on a new chapter for the brand Middleton and Clarke founded at a Portobello Market stand in London in 1999. They then went on to become one of Australia’s best-known fashion names, showing during London and New York fashion weeks.


Starting out with customized denim, Sass & Bide became infamous for its best-selling East Village and Frayed Misfits low-rise stretch skinny jeans with scandalously low two-inch zips.


Denim still accounts for 20 percent of the business. However, the brand’s bohemian, heavily embellished ready-to-wear became just as popular, garnering a celebrity clientele that includes Madonna, Rihanna and Beyoncé. 


In 2009, the duo sold a 50 percent stake to Australian fashion entrepreneurs David Briskin and Daniel Besen, who would engineer a rollout of freestanding stores across Australia and New Zealand over the following two years, delivering sales of A$37 million, or $32.3 million, in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, and annual sales growth of more than 50 percent between 2009 and 2011, according to a statement from Myer in February 2011. That was the time Myer first acquired a 65 percent stake for A$42.3million, or $42.8 million.


In September 2013, Myer acquired the brand outright for A$30 million, or $28 million, according to a statement released by Myer to the Australian Securities Exchange.


Dollar figures are converted at average exchange for the period to which they refer.


Sass & Bide has since expanded into lingerie, sunglasses and accessories. There are 25 freestanding Sass & Bide stores in Australia, New Zealand and New York and 22 Myer concessions, with wholesale stockists in 20 markets.


According to Sass & Bide’s most recent public figures prior to moving under Myer’s control, the company posted a 48 percent rise in profit to just under A$8 million, or $7.3 million, for the 12 months to July 27, 2013, on sales of A$60.6 million, or $55.4 million, up 18 percent. It is estimated the brand boosted sales and profit by 45 percent and 112 percent, respectively, in the two years since Myer first bought into the business.


In November, Middleton and Clarke stepped down as directors.


A Myer spokeswoman declined to comment on future plans for the business other than to describe Sass & Bide as “a landmark brand for Myer,” which will disclose some further financial information on the company with its full year results in September.