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Cult Status: Sass & Bide’s Paula Mackenzie

Hailing from Australia as one of the country’s most well-known fashion brands, sass & bide is a force to reckon with. The brand’s signature aesthetic features strong lines and fine detailing and this transcends right through to store design, evident in their latest Newmarket store. Zara Overton spoke with Managing Director Paula Mackenzie to learn more about the brand and its evolution.


sass & bide began in 1999, and today has 23 boutiques alongside stockists across Australia and New Zealand. Can you tell us about the brand’s evolution?

The brand was formed by two best friends who broke the rules and followed their hearts to create a fashion label fueled by a distinctive vision: the strong, the beautiful and the obscure. The brand has definitely evolved over the years as our ranges and footprint have grown but the ethos has always remained the same. We still celebrate the same core values today.

How would you describe the sass & bide customer?

I am incredibly lucky in that I get to spend a lot of time with our customers, both in work and out of hours. You can tell a sass & bide girl the moment she enters a room. She’s complex and contrasting, playful yet strong – there is a beautiful tension in her personality that we always try to celebrate.

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sass & bide has a very recognisable brand image and is known for its signature geometric lines, patterns, metallics, and denim, ultimately taking the brand to cult status. What do you think has been the key ingredient to the brand’s success and popularity?

There is a freespirited confidence inherent in our brand that appeals to our customers. For us, fashion has always been about taking chances and having fun which has created some truly iconic moments in our history and an enduring appeal that has stood the test of time with both our new and loyal customers.

What are your top five key items for a women’s capsule wardrobe?

1) Embellished tailoring that can be worn as separates 2) The perfect pair of denim 3) A timeless gown for when the occasion calls (sequins essential) 4) Cashmere sets for winter 5) Vintage boots

The brand is well known for its beautifully designed and carefully thought out retail environments which embody the sass & bide aesthetic. Can you tell us about your Newmarket store, and the concept behind the fit-out?

Our customers are always quick to tell us that they love our store environment so there was no other option than to bring in our long-term partners Akin Atelier to create something both beautiful and functional. Past the iconic window frames, I love all of the hidden details that make this specific store so memorable – copper light boxes filled with curiosities can be found behind curtains or randomly built into the exterior walls. Adding a touch of obscurity to the design, the team repurposed three original 1940’s carousel horses to create a hanging installation. I can’t tell you how many customers have asked to buy them!

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The state of the fashion industry is quite uncertain and challenging right now. How are you managing through it?

The industry has been feeling heavy for a few years so if anything, this has given all of us a chance to look at how we can better focus our offering to meet the needs of our customer. Seasons will become increasingly less relevant, instead replaced with capsule collections that drop more frequently throughout the year. Service will also play a huge role in the growth of our industry; we need to be flexible to the shifting demands of the individual customer and how they shop.

Celebrities including the likes of Beyoncé, Rihanna and Taylor Swift are just a few who have worn sass & bide. How does exposure from celebrities and influencers grow your brand? And how much focus do you put on this?

Of course, it’s a great day in the design room when Rihanna or Beyoncé appear in one of our pieces. These are strong women that inspire us so naturally we’re honoured when they wear us and while it’s not our core focus, we definitely see a spike in coverage and requests after an A-list appearance in one of our gowns.


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Supporting community initiatives and giving back are important values of sass & bide. Can you tell us more about the work you do with Barnardos and Make-A-Wish?

We’re proud to have raised over $1m for these charities to help support families and children in need. This year’s ‘Heart of Gold’ Barnardos campaign was captured through the eyes of the children making it particularly memorable.

What are some of the key trends we can expect to see coming through from sass & bide this season?

Statement tailoring with fine gold embellishments is having a moment both here and in the US.

If there is one piece from sass & bide that we have to buy this season, what would it be?

The Midnight Shine tailoring was shown in New York just before the shut down and received a lot of coverage.

What has been your best fashion investment?

My sass & bide leather jacket from PreFall20.


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And your worst?

I always fall in love with shoes while travelling and then find out they don’t fit when I return.

What has been your proudest moment on the sass & bide journey thus far?

Turning 21 this year, we showed our new range in New York where it was universally well received. It’s a was a proud moment to be so established but still very relevant.

What is one piece of advice you wish you had known 10 years ago?

Trust your instincts – if you feel like something is right just go for it.

What’s next for sass & bide?

Based on the success of our New York showings, we’re looking forward to taking the brand back to the US and Europe when things calm down.


Level 2, Westfield Newmarket



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