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At Sass & Bide, Gallery Girls of the World Unite

Art made with found materials is all very well, but you don’t necessarily want to find it in your living room. Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 “Fountain” was, in the end, a urinal. Damien Hirst’s tanks of the 1990s leaked, the animal corpses within rotting.

Last year, I took the children to a workshop at Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, Queens, that promised to turn our recyclables into couture, eerily presaging Karl Lagerfeld’s recent Stepford-Wives-in-the-grocery-aisles show for Chanel. (Also recalling that much-mocked scene from “American Beauty” during which the teenage neighbor of Kevin Spacey’s character is entranced by a wind-borne plastic bag.) Anyway, I’m still crossly prying the bottle caps out of their little pockets.

But the massive twisted white piece that dominates the architecture of the new Sass & Bide boutique in SoHo, the Australian label’s first American outpost, is undeniably impressive, even more so when I learned it was made from thousands of old T-shirts by Guild, a “design and build collective” based in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Miami and Portland, Ore., that has also worked on displays for Opening Ceremony and Proenza Schouler.


Image:sale bridesmaid dresses


Credit Tina Fineberg for The New York Times

“Yup, it’s gotten a lot of attention,” said a saleswoman with bobbed hair, standing like a W. Somerset Maugham character a bit forlornly in the store where no one but I was browsing last Friday afternoon. Not so much the clothes, was her implication.

Now mostly owned by Meyer, an Australian department-store chain, Sass & Bide sprung from the fevered brain of two blondes from Brisbane, Sarah-Jane Clarke (“Sass”) and Heidi Middleton (“Bide”), whose major public-relations coup in America has been winning the favor of the actress and shoe entrepreneur Sarah Jessica Parker. I can’t think it’s a coincidence that they have set up shop directly across from another pair of gal pals, Sarah Easley (“Kirna”) and Beth Buccini (“Zabête”), but they cater to a younger, kickier clientele whose primary objective is to flash some flesh. Minidresses have emphatic triangular cutouts right over the solar plexus, there are at least a dozen styles of shorts, and $300 jeans are distressed to a condition that probably wouldn’t be accepted by the Salvation Army. As a nearby sweatshirt proclaimed in metallic yarn and sequins, this is “Totes Boges.”

The Sass & Bidettes are also bidding for authenticity and sincerity, though: collaborating with tribeswomen in Kenya to sell a line of beaded handbags in a program sponsored by the United Nations. Totes Nobles, in other words — though let’s remain mindful that buying such a purse does not make one Abebech Gobena, or even Angelina Jolie.

As in the art scene, practically everything for sale here bears a title, some mysterious, some perhaps ill chosen. “Think Twice,” a long silk dress with a mustard print ($550), seemed inevitably destined for the markdown rack. “The Way of the World” was drearily embodied by elastic-waist, saggy-rumped rayon “slouchy” pants ($190). “Leave It Alone” suggested a sleeveless top in that same sad mustard shade ($320). And so I did.

Continue reading the main story The dressing chambers have transparent doors, and I wondered if they had been salvaged from the famous unisex bathrooms of the defunct Bar 89 around the corner (now Vince, another clothing store that charges for distress, though slightly less). Those become opaque only when locked, but no — here, down came a white cotton curtain. Inside, before a vitrine containing smaller-scale sculpture, a Tweety Bird with discreetly downcast eyes, I tried and quite admired “The Testimony,” a faded-denim, Liberty-print lined number ($390) with a Stella McCartney feeling.

Christy, a more cheerful, Australian clerk wearing Converse high-tops under her maxidress, helped wrestle me into “Mister Blue,” a white woolen capelet with gold buttons that not unpleasantly brought to mind a spirited tussle with Fred Grandy on the deck of “The Love Boat.” “Look, it matches your beanie!” she said.

Like the Royal Princess, Sass & Bide has a first-class cabin. Its so-called gallery section contains items like “The Bank Roll” jacket: a slicker, ridged version of “Who’s Asking” for the artlike $1,200.

“Too space-cadety,” said a young woman who appeared to be browsing with her stylist. Along with its compatriots, Outback Steakhouse and Kylie Minogue, Sass & Bide can seem beamed from a strange other universe, but they come, piece by piece, in peace.

Aussie Having chugged away quietly but successfully since the late 1990s, a label from Down Under is now parked in downtown Manhattan.

Glossy Though its motto is “dedicated to the strong, the obscure and the beautiful,” the brand is featured regularly in magazines like Marie Claire and has been worn by the not-exactly-unknown Beyoncé, Madonna and Rihanna.

Gather-No-Mossy With flashbulb-courting metallic trim and racy cuts, the clothes seem designed for the footloose clubgoer who doesn’t know where she’ll wake up the next morning.

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