Sarah-Jane Clarke designs clothes with a sense of simplicity and awareness. She is widely recognised for co-founding and helming sass & bide, but her self-titled label, Sarah-Jane Clarke, has maintained our attention for the last five years. Growing up, SJ’s family uprooted their lives for a new home every 8-10 years. She quickly adopted her parent’s love for exploring and being immersed in experiences that broadened her field of vision and now welcomes change, having moved from city to farm to island and back again.
It comes as no surprise that everything Sarah-Jane creates is informed by a profound love and respect for the natural world and an appreciation for the dedicated craftsmanship employed in quality artisanal artifacts across the globe. These elements combined conjured a vision for her most recent capsule titled Travel Wardrobe, a spirited collection crafted in luxurious, natural fabrications with a minimal footprint.
SJ now lives in Sydney’s beautiful Watsons Bay with her partner and three sons and keeps grounded with daily swims in the harbour. In conversation with SJ, we discussed her work as a fashion designer, wellness and mindset coach and all that has inspired the life and work of this effervescent and wise woman.
“I was always drawn to the power of fashion, how fabric and colour can change your mood and uplift your spirits."
“I’m perpetually inspired by travel – it truly makes my heart sing… experiencing new surroundings and perspectives fills me with so much creative motivation.”
“Luxury means having time to enjoy the things you love, whether that’s taking time to dress well, travelling to far-flung places or finding a quiet place to read a book.”
Tell me a little about your upbringing. What is your family like?
Mum and Dad were not only self-employed. They worked together. Our dinner table conversations were often centred around the ups and downs of operating your own business. Believe it or not, they’re still married after 55 years, and they’re currently travelling around Australia for one year. My mum definitely sparked my lifelong interest in health and well-being. She is well-read and offers a different viewpoint from the traditional Western schools of thought. We now spend hours discussing ideas, sharing tips, and swapping helpful books we’ve discovered.
How would you best describe what you do professionally?
I help people feel good about themselves and strive to be better, whether through design or personal coaching.
What drew you to fashion design?
I was always drawn to the power of fashion, how fabric and colour can change your mood and uplift your spirits.
What do you enjoy about it?
I’m such a visual person, and textiles and colours are definitely my favourite part of the designing process. Seeing a well-designed and constructed garment (inside-and-out) come to fruition is so pleasurable.
What inspires you professionally?
I’m perpetually inspired by travel – it truly makes my heart sing. Whether soaking up the sunshine in the balmy Northern Hemisphere summer or exploring the hidden gems of Australia, experiencing new surroundings and perspectives fills me with so much creative motivation.
Tell me about your day-to-day. Where do you live?
I live in Sydney’s beautiful Watsons Bay with Daniel, my partner of almost 18 years, and our three sons.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My mornings consist of getting my three sons off to school, and exercising myself and the dogs before walking the five minutes from my home to my studio. I’ll usually have a swim in the harbour, chat with the locals over coffee, do some work and end the day with a home-cooked dinner with the family. Repeat.
What is exciting for you about the current Australian creative landscape?
Australia has such an incredible breadth of talent across all creative mediums. Our geographical location gives us a unique perspective, meaning our artistic process is often shaped or inspired by the landscape and our innate isolation. I love some of the emerging artists who are currently having their moment and exploring the nuanced ways the past year has impacted the world around them and their artistic output.
Do you think there’s a common thread in Australian design and creativity? Something within the realm of design or dressing that feels innately Australian?
Australian style is centred on ease. This doesn’t mean it’s not chic, elegant, or refined; rather, it’s unfussy and liberating. And I think this sense of ease permeates not only our wardrobes but many other aspects of local design and creativity.
How would you describe your personal style?
Is there a piece from your wardrobe that you ‘can’t do without’?
I live in the SJC Maluku blouse. It’s the ultimate transeasonal essential.
Describe your approach to beauty and wellness...
When we feel good, mentally and physically, we can navigate life with grace. It’s important to have an awareness about what aspects in life (diet, habits, behaviours and friendships) make you feel empowered and what aspects steal your energy and power.
What does luxury mean to you?
Time. Luxury means having time to enjoy the things you love, whether that’s taking time to dress well, travelling to far-flung places or finding a quiet place to read a book.
Tell me a little about Sarah-Jane Clarke. Your most recent capsule collection is called ‘Travel Wardrobe’. When international travel is on pause, what did you want your customer to get out of this collection?
Capsule 5 is a considered extension of Capsule 4. It consists of pieces that evoke joy and allow us the freedom to celebrate the simple things in life.
What are some changes you’ve noted in the fashion industry in recent times?
The fashion industry has changed so much since I co-owned sass & bide, definitely for the better. We have so much more awareness about how the actions of both individuals and businesses affect the planet and its people, and it’s great to see that we are taking responsibility and working together to create a better future.
What is your approach to tackling sustainability?
SJC creates small capsule collections out of natural fibres designed to leave minimal environmental footprints and crafted to be loved and appreciated for life. We source our fabrics responsibly, seeking organic or recycled fibres, and when possible, we work with remnant fabrics. We also rigorously vet our manufacturing partners, ensuring they prioritise the fair treatment and wellbeing of their employees. SJC uses biodegradable shipping bags, and we partner with Shippit and Australia Post for carbon-neutral delivery services. No one is perfect, but I do believe we can each take small steps towards having a positive impact on people and our planet.
What or who is inspiring your world at this moment?
I am inspired by the artist Wayne Pate, particularly the colours that he uses in his works (I love his stripe series). I’m also a huge fan of world music – I have a playlist currently on repeat curated by Dan Lywood (the founder of Playlister) as a ‘thank you for hosting’ gift, following a lunch we had at our boatshed.
Describe your workspace – where is it located, and what do you need around you to feel creatively motivated?
For my creativity to flourish, I must be surrounded by streams of sunshine, fresh flowers, gentle music and a hit of coffee.