Sass & Bide recently opened its first international store, a 2,000-square-foot flagship at 480 Broome Street in New York’s SoHo neighborhood.
This story first appeared in the December 10, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“It’s been a long time in the making,” said Heidi Middleton, creative director, speaking by telephone from Down Under. The company in September launched an international e-commerce site and identified a strong customer based in downtown Manhattan. The 70 million Australian dollar, or $63.9 million at current exchange, company offers a full range of women’s ready-to-wear and denim, as well as handbags, jewelry, footwear and innerwear.
“We have 21 stores in Australia and New Zealand and concessions at Myer department stores,” she said. “It made sense to test the retail in our homeland. But there’s no point in expanding beyond the stores we have in Australia.”
Middleton said the New York store is the first location in a planned expansion strategy. “We’re looking in a few markets,” she said. “It was instinctual to open the first store in New York. We also looked in L.A. We love the [SoHo] area and felt it had a great energy. Broome Street felt like a new pocket of SoHo that was starting to evolve. We love our neighbors there and the street seems to be growing a strong like-minded presence.”
Middleton and cofounder Sarah-Jane Clark worked with Australian architecture and interior design firm Akin Creative and the design collective Guild is Good to transform the space. “I’m surrounded by a lot of nature in Sydney,” Middleton said. “I’m always sourcing inspiration from nature around me. The concept of the store is strength, beauty modernity and spirit. I wanted to have a beautiful blank clean canvas that could house different collections, moods and feelings.” A white sculpture provides interest and texture to the store. “I kept finding beautiful knotted driftwood,” Middleton said. “The idea was to superscale it and marry that collision of the natural and man-made worlds. We want to retain the designer feel of the brand and retail uniqueness.”
It might become harder to do that. Myer, which is Australia’s biggest department store, bought a 65 percent stake in Sass & Bide in 2011 for $42.3 million. Since then, Sass & Bide has delivered a consistently strong performance for its investors, growing sales by 45 percent and profit by 112 percent. In October, Myer purchased the remaining 35 percent of the company for around $30 million.
Myer has promised to retain Sass & Bide’s management and design autonomy.
Middleton and Clarke earlier this month stepped down from the board of the company they founded.
Clarke, a former accountant, and Middleton, formerly an advertising art director, met in Brisbane, Australia, in the early Nineties and launched their clothing business in a stall at the Portobello Market in London.