Sarah-Jane Clarke founded the fashion label sass & bide with Heidi Middleton in the late 1990s, when they began selling customised jeans in a market stall on London’s Portobello Road. Their designs have featured in the Sex and the City series and are a favourite among celebrities. I caught up with Clarke before she embarked on a six-month sabbatical and found out about her coming adventure, the secret to her success and opening the brand’s first international store.
What is in the pipeline for sass & bide?
Sass & bide is in a really great spot at the moment and I’m really proud of what we are doing and achieving. We are about to open our first flagship store in New York, which will be incredible.
You started the label in London and have shown at London Fashion Week for many years. Why did you choose New York as your first international store?
We felt like we had to open in New York, London or Paris. Since we opened our online e-boutique we have noticed a lot of the international sales are coming from the US.
I hear you are about to embark on an adventure.
Yes, I’m about to live my dream – myself, [husband] Daniel and our three boys, who are eight, six and four years of age, are about to embark on a six-month sabbatical. We are going to Europe, South America and the Middle East, and just really exploring the world and opening the boys’ ideas on what the world is all about, and taking them on lots of adventures and teaching them about different cultures, languages and food. We have got a lot on the to-do list. We are also going to jungles [and] beaches, we are going skiing, we are going to hunt for truffles and pick mushrooms. We are also taking the boys to the sloth orphanage; I find them amazing little creatures.
What do you plan to do with the boys’ studies?
We are going to home-school them and when we get back they will go back to school. It’s quite an incredible experience for all of us. I have never had more than 10 days off since we started sass & bide and both Daniel and I have worked since we had the boys, so we have never spent 24 hours, seven days a week with them. I’m really looking forward to having just the five of us together and enjoying each others’ company while they are still young.
Will you have any contact with the business?
Yes, I’m going to be still in contact one day a week. While I’m over there I will be going to every weekend flea market and vintage fair, so hopefully I can be collecting a lot of inspiration for the design team and sending parcels back to Heidi.
You and Heidi started the business selling at markets. Back then, did you think your brand would be where it is today?
No, I think it’s just that we have always run the business quite instinctual and I think it happened to work for us, so I never thought I’d be where we are but I’m happy we are here.
Do you ever go back to the Portobello Market where you first started out?
Yes, every time we go to London it’s the first thing we do. We often land and go straight there on Friday morning and we go and say hi to all our friends because a lot of the stall owners have known us for 15 years now.
In this financially difficult time, designers have been struggling. What is the secret to your success?
I think the brand really has to have a strong identity and you have to stay focused on that and be original. It has to have the heart. And I think all those things combined makes it into something people want to be part of and belong to.
Who are some of your favourite celebrities who have worn sass & bide?
We have been really lucky that celebrities have wanted to wear the product because we don’t actively send too many parcels out. We always like the girls who wear it in a unique way: Beyonce, Kate Moss, Kate Bosworth and also Nicole Richie.
If you’d never gone into fashion, what would you be doing?
Well, I really love interiors and I love collecting vintage clothing, and I think would have to somehow have an interiors shop with vintage clothing or something like that.
What do you do to relax?
We go to the southern highlands. We have a place there and I have a vegie patch that I work on and really just relax.
WE WENT TO 10 William Street, Paddington.
WE ATE Bruschetta with anchovy and basil, crudo di bonito and prawn cracker bottarga.
WE DRANK Jean Foillard Morgon 2010 Beaujolais.
I WORE Elllery top.
SARAH-JANE WORE sass & bide from head to toe.
Photography: James Brickwood