Sass & Bide Founders Leave the Company

Apparently they were planning this for a while.
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Dhani Mau
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Apparently they were planning this for a while.
Heidi Middleton and Sarah-Jane Clark at their final runway show in New York in February. Photo: Mireya Acierto/Getty

Heidi Middleton and Sarah-Jane Clark at their final runway show in New York in February. Photo: Mireya Acierto/Getty

Designers Heidi Middleton and Sarah-Jane Clark have left the contemporary label they founded 15 years ago, Sass & Bide, becoming the latest in a series of founding designers to depart shortly after they've been acquired by larger conglomerates.

The Australia-based company, which typically showed during New York Fashion Week (excepting a few seasons between 2009 and 2013), was acquired in 2013 by Australian department store chain Myer, which will continue to operate the brand without its founders. A rep for Sass & Bide did not immediately respond to our request for comment.

According to a statement from Myer given to Vogue Australia, Middleton and Clarke's departure was planned, and they had been transitioning out of the company for a while. Anthony Cuthbertson, who has consulted for Victoria Beckham and Mulberry recently, and also has stints at Ralph Lauren and MaxMara on his résumé, has taken over as creative director.

The designers told the magazine that their plan all along was to build an international business and then eventually sell it to focus on other creative projects, and that they wanted to leave at a time when the company was in good health.

And by all accounts, the brand does seem to be doing well. It has 25 retail stores, has expanded into several new categories including lingerie and accessories, and it saw double-digit growth in the 12 months ending last July (before it was acquired). Recently, it's been making moves towards expanding its presence in the U.S., including opening a flagship in SoHo. 

While it sounds like Middleton and Clarke's departure was amicable and on their terms, it's become pretty common for designers to leave the companies they founded following an acquisition. (The same can be said of founders in other industries, like tech.) Recent examples include Simon SpurrDanielle Helayel of Issa, Doo-Ri Chung and, most famously, Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor of Juicy Couture. Though Skaist-Levy and Nash-Taylor have launched a new label and written a book since leaving Juicy, many founding designers are still seeking second chances at success while the companies that often bear their names go on without them.