The jean genies: What's the next trick for Australia's hottest design duo Sass & Bide?

With the help of a mass celebrity following, Sass & Bide launched the trend for skinny jeans and daringly low-cut hipsters.

Sarah-Jane Clarke and Heidi Middleton have a knack of creating what women want even before we realise we want it. In 1999, under the moniker Sass & Bide, the Australian duo produced a line of jeans called East Village. It was a classic hipster design made in stretch denim which was cut so daringly low that the two-inch zip barely covered a girl's modesty. It also happened to spark the fad for low-rise jeans which, for years, signed the death knell on anything that should dare come anywhere near as high as the belly-button. "When we launched the East Village it went absolutely crazy," says Middleton. "There were queues coming out of all the outlets in Sydney and they were selling out before they even hit the stores."

A few years later the duo brought out another design called the Frayed Misfit. This was a very, very tight jean, again made in flattering stretch denim. When Kate Moss got her hands on a pair, she singlehandedly kick-started the skinny-jeans fad which goes on to this day. "We do live and breathe fashion and I like to think we have a good eye, but we have been very lucky with those two products," says Middleton. "We were on the cusp of the next big thing at exactly the right time."

Clarke and Middleton met in Brisbane when the boys they were dating happened to be best friends. They quickly became good friends and decided to take a gap year to London, where they ended up selling vintage clothing and customised jeans on a stall in Portobello Market. They would buy raffia from the VV Rouleaux haberdashery on the King's Road and sew it on to cut-off denims just below the knee. "It sounds terrifying now, but we did get a great response," says Middleton. "We also did lots of eclectic, vintage-inspired stuff theatrical but still sexy." And that was over a decade ago, way before anyone had ever even heard of Sienna Miller or boho chic.

After moving back to Sydney, following the success of the East Village jean, Sass & Bide decided to test the waters on the global market. "I was incredibly hungover from a friend's birthday one day, and with my Dutch courage I decided to cold-call the head buyer at Harvey Nichols. The buyer said, 'I'm in Sydney but getting on a plane in two hours. If you can be here in 20 minutes I'll look at your product.'" Middleton shoved a pair of jeans in her handbag and hopped in a cab. Harvey Nichols ordered on the spot and has been stocking Sass & Bide ever since.

This success gave Sass & Bide a platform to launch a ready-to-wear line, and in 2003 they debuted at London Fashion Week. They now create four collections a year and have a celebrity following that includes Sarah Jessica Parker and Kylie; their Resort line has just gone into stores, while their autumn/winter 2007 sunglasses and underwear range a new area for them is due on these shores in the new year. They are currently scouting for a site in London to open a flagship store.

In many ways the company and the clothes have grown up with the two girls. But that doesn't mean the've turned their back on the younger market, for whom in January they are launching a diffusion line called S&B Vie. "We had teenagers ringing us up, asking why we weren't making things for them," says Clarke. "This company is a bit like a wild monster. What started out as two girls on a stall turned into three and now there are 55 of us."

Business aside, it's been something of a turbulent year for the girls. In February, when she was heavily pregnant with her second child, Middleton was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her baby was induced and, a week after the birth, Middleton had a lumpectomy followed by chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation treatment. "I feel like I've just been spat out the other end," she says. "The prognosis is great, but to me it still feels like I've been given extra time."

Within weeks of Middleton's diagnosis, two of her other close friends were also found to have cancer. One, her 32-year-old friend Kate, didn't make it. "You can't really take that kind of pain away," says Middleton. "It's been a very heavy time."

After six months out, Middleton is now back at the helm and their next collection, Rainbows for Kate, to be launched at New York Fashion Week in February, pays homage to her late friend. "It's going to be a very happy, amazing show that has Kate's spirit woven into every piece," says Middleton. "I only stumbled across my lump by accident, so I do feel ridiculously lucky to still be here. It could have been a very different story."

Sass and Bide ( is available from Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Harrods and Net-A-Porter

Beauty spot

Got the jeans? Here's the other basics you'll need

By Eliisa Makin

1. All-American smile

Electric toothbrush with UV sanitiser, 179, by Phillips,


2. Hair today...

Travel epilator, 25, by Boots, Silky smooth in feminine pink

3. Have a close look

Magnifying mirror, 20, by Per Una,

See every pore

4. Go straight

Hair straighteners, 30, by Morphy Richards, www. Still the best

Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    IT Project Manager

    Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

    Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    IT Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

    Day In a Page

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London