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Portrait of Heidi Middleton and Sarah-Jane Clarke (Sass & Bide)
, 2008

by Deborah Paauwe

inkjet print on paper (frame: 82.0 cm x 157.0 cm)

Sarah-Jane ‘Sass’ Clarke (b. 1974) and Heidi ‘Bide’ Middleton (b. 1971) founded the fashion label sass and bide. The women met in Brisbane in 1992, Clarke (in the white feathers) having studied business and Middleton graphic design. A few years later, living in London, they began their retail career selling customized jeans at Portobello Road markets. Returning to Australia in 1999, they established a tiny sass&bide outlet with a small loan, manning market stalls on the weekends to bring in extra income. With the launch of their skintight, extreme-hipster jeans, their business skyrocketed and they made their international debut in London in 2003. Powering through numerous pregnancies as well as serious illness on Middleton’s part, the close friends showed regularly in New York, positioned their label in some 200 stores around the world, secured their place on the BRW list of Australia’s richest people under forty (in 2011 they sold 65 per cent of sass&bide to Myer for $42.5 million) and opened a flagship store in New York. Myer bought out sass&bide in late 2013, and Clarke and Middleton severed ties with the brand in 2014.

Deborah Paauwe (b. 1972), a South Australian-based artist born in Pennsylvania of Chinese and Dutch heritage, spent her childhood travelling the world with her missionary parents and her brothers. In 1985 the family moved to Australia; she has undertaken studies in art in Adelaide and London, and exhibited widely. Paauwe is particularly well- known for her unsettling depiction of girls and women in frothy pastel and cupcake-coloured clothes. This commissioned portrait is an example of the Gallery’s instigation of collaboration between subjects and practitioners who might never otherwise have come together.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Commissioned with funds provided by Marilyn Darling AC 2008
Accession number: 2008.109