WITH HER YOUNG FAMILY settled by the beach in Sydney, Heidi Middleton didn’t imagine she’d be leaving the neighbourhood anytime soon. But Paris soon came calling, bringing with it the promise of new adventures and intoxicating inspiration. Now, as she embarks upon a shift in creative direction, the sass & bide co-founder and mother of two, gives us a peek into her wonderful new world
Photographed by CANDICE LAKE
Interview NATASHA INCHLEY
YOUR HOME, LOCATED IN THE 8TH ARRONDISSEMENT, IS LIKE A RARE JEWEL. HOW DID YOU FIND IT AND THEN DECORATE? We were fortunate to find a wonderful apartment, a blank canvas, near the Champs Élysées with parks and greenery, and we fell in love. The furniture, like my fashion style, is a mix of different genres and eras. I visited Clignancourt markets every week and ended up customising a lot of pieces and also painting things white, so ultimately there is a mix of old and new, antiques and modern. The flea markets are a big indulgence for me.
ART HAS ALWAYS BEEN ONE OF YOUR PASSIONS, BUT NOW IT’S A FOCUS. TELL US ABOUT YOUR VISION: My head and my heart are bursting with ideas. I’m collecting a lot of old brass at the moment and working them into collages, illustrations and also photography. It has been something that I’ve really wanted to explore for a long time. I started as an illustrator and graphic designer before moving into fashion, I then weaved art into the business for so many years in a small way, but now I am excited to have the time to really concentrate on it. I’ve recently taken a studio near Clignancourt, before then I would use the breakfast room which wasn't practical. I don't think I have felt this much excitement about a project since Sarah-Jane and I started our business.
CREATIVELY, WHAT IS ONE THEME YOU KEEP COMING BACK TO? I enjoy playing with opposing forces, whether that's in strength and beauty, or masculine and feminine ideas, there always seems to be that element throughout my work, be it fashion, interiors and now art.
SO HOW THEN ARE YOU FINDING THIS NEW STAGE IN YOUR CREATIVE LIFE? I was craving newness, I needed it. I felt like, even though we were producing these creations [at sass & bide], we were constricted by a formula, and as wonderful as the whole journey was, I knew that I needed change. Even in the very beginning, SJ and I never dreamed that we would have that business for life or hand it on to our children. We were both always very excited about trying new things. I adore fashion but my creativity also extends to other mediums, and so while I have the energy and vitality this feels like the right thing to do.
YOU HAVE ALSO EMBARKED UPON AN INTERESTING NEW LUXURY PROJECT: I have the pleasure of working with Simone Cipriani at the EFI [Ethical Fashion Initiative] again. I'm helping them to design and launch a new ethical luxury brand. I have just designed a collection of luxury scarves; symbols for peace and change. They were made by hand by wonderful artisans in developing regions of the world. The initiative provides ongoing fair trade condition work where women utilise the talents and skills that have been passed down through generations such as weaving, embroidery and printing. I love everything that the EFI stands for.
HAS YOUR STYLE CHANGED SINCE MOVING TO PARIS? I think it has – I feel as though I’ve grown up a little, my aesthetic is perhaps more refined. This kind of city living is different to running around Palm Beach with children and dogs. I’m also loving discovering new vintage, I’ve found so many interesting pieces from the old French houses. That's definitely fuelling much of the joy that I have for this city.
WHICH TREASURED PIECE FROM YOUR WARDROBE WILL YOU BE PASSING ON TO YOUR GIRLS? My daughters have already started to stake their claim. They’re little girls and so, of course, they love the big couture skirts; the Lacroix silk check skirt is a favourite. Then there’s a few vintage Chanel bags and a beautiful Valentino leather dress which is a recent purchase, a very special piece.
Walk With Me: Middleton on a chic school run with her daughters, Elke Bay, left, and India Grace.
HOW DO YOU NURTURE YOUR DAUGHTERS' CREATIVITY? We’ve always enjoyed our little art club afternoons. In Sydney, we would collect buckets of things from nature and then paint them or create objects. Even now, if we have a free Sunday, we’ll put the music on and really enjoy being creative together at the table. They are also both reaching an age where they can appreciate museums, exhibitions and beautiful gardens. I try to take them on one cultural outing a week and they also attend Les Arts Décoratifs, which hosts an art course for children every Wednesday morning in a beautiful old atelier.
AND LASTLY, I KNOW YOU HAVE A VERY CLEAR VIEWPOINT ON MOTHERHOOD, CAN YOU SHARE IT: For me, this is a big one; I do have some very strong thoughts and beliefs on motherhood. I’ve always understood that parenting is the most important thing that any of us can do. To love, properly nurture and care for a child is such an enormous contribution to society – everything is better when we parent well. I feel as though we often don't place enough emphasis on good parenting. We can see what happens with anxieties and the pressures of modern life; a lot of that stems from not getting the right support during childhood. So for me, being a good mother, or at least trying my very best, is the most important thing I’ll ever do. My parents fostered quite a few children when I was young, and I saw first-hand how exposing children to love, when they perhaps had never felt it before, could have such an impact on them. I think spending time with your children, being present and guiding them is paramount. Being a mother is my greatest joy, by far.