It’s been four years since Sass & Bide’s Sarah-Jane Clarke departed from the label she founded with partner and co-founder Heidi Middleton. After sailing off into the unknown, the intervening years have been quiet for Clarke, who left the world of fashion to travel with her husband and three sons. But while ostensibly absent from the industry, Clarke has been busy contemplating its missing parts.
The result is Sarah-Jane Clarke, a newly launched, eponymous label that is at once quieter and more versatile than anything the fashion juggernaut has done before. While Sass & Bide is synonymous with the sparklier end of dressing, Sarah-Jane Clarke exudes a more natural kind of confidence, relying on natural materials, neutral palettes and billowy silhouettes for a subtler brand of drama.
At the core of the brand is travel – both aesthetically and practically. As much as the looks themselves are inspired by the places Clarke has visited during her sabbatical – the colours of a Moroccan sunset, the vintage markets in Paris and the waters of the Mediterranean – they are also designed to fill a gap for well-made garments that travel well in a suitcase and fit any occasion an intrepid traveller might meet.
“During my explorations I started thinking that there was a need for luxurious materials that travelled well: breezy silhouettes and natural materials that would sit equally at home in the Ritz in Paris as they would floating around a living room,” Clarke tells Broadsheet. “They were all pieces that would sit well in my own suitcase.”
So far, 17 pieces have been released as part of the soft launch of Sarah-Jane Clarke. Each draws on linens Clarke sourced from family-run mills in Italy, where the materials are hand-loomed and created in small batches. Neutral colourways nod to the natural: soft, Sahara oranges, moss greens, creamy ivories and a smattering of animal and floral prints. All of the pieces are then created in Sydney by local makers.
Sarah-Jane Clarke fits well within the slow-fashion wheelhouse. The sustainability conscious label eschews the typically wasteful model of seasonal releases and over saturation, opting instead for twice-yearly capsule collections released in small, weekly drops.
“I feel like releasing seasonal collections is so taxing not only on the designer but on the consumer. We’re so bombarded with newness,” says Clarke. “I’ll keep updating the silhouettes using the same block but reinventing it. The idea is to be really resourceful in what I’ve created to far.”
Although the price point is at the pointy end of the scale – with current pieces starting from $320 for shorts and reaching all the way to $1200 for a dress – buying less is a message that sits at the heart of the label. Clarke emphasises these pieces are designed to last.
“I wanted to reflect a more graceful pace of life, celebrating simplicity and freedom, pieces you’ll hopefully keep in your wardrobe forever,” says Clarke. “I really wanted to create a luxurious travel collection that transcends the seasons, using the finest quality fabrics and leaving a minimal footprint on our earth. Saying that, I do love shiny things and textural finishes, so you can definitely expect to see more of that in the future.”