THEY were the fashion label pioneers who took the idea of Bondi cool to the world and now, after 12 exciting years, they are splitting.
George Gorrow and Dan Single did not meet at fashion school. They met during a bar fight in Los Angeles. When the punch-up died down, the conversation went a little like this:
George: ''I can't find any jeans that look good.''
Dan: ''Yeah, whaddaya reckon? Should we make some?''
The result, dreamt up over a few drinks with a few mates, was denim brand Ksubi.
There was a similar sense of free-spirited confidence when Sarah-Jane Clarke and Heidi Middleton set up a stall selling customised jeans in London's Portobello Road Market in the late '90s. Clarke was an accountant and Middleton had been an art director, but, like Single and Gorrow, their lack of fashion training was no impediment. The jeans were a hit, and the duo returned to Sydney in 1999 to found a brand called sass & bide.
The rest, for both labels, is history. In the early 2000s, Ksubi and sass & bide spearheaded an era of Australian fashion that celebrated untrammelled exuberance over industry experience. Together, the two brands put forward a new fashion vision of sexy denim and a sassy attitude that celebrated Sydney's toned bodies and vibrant beach and street culture and took it to the world.
Today, aspiring fashion designers treat their vocation as a business, studying everything from pattern-making and marketing to financial management and public relations at the myriad fashion courses and colleges that have popped up. Designers now have to compete against the arrival of international fashion chains such as Zara and Gap, that did not exist in Sydney when Ksubi and sass & bide started. There are more local designers as well, partly due to the example of ''living the dream'' set by Ksubi and sass & bide.
But in recent times that dream has had a reality check.
Ksubi went into liquidation in 2010 and was rescued by the founder of Quiksilver Europe, Harry Hodge, who came on board as a private investor. Last year, Clarke and Middleton sold a 65 per cent share of their brand to Myer for $42.25 million.
Gorrow said the brand's past three collections had been its strongest to date, including its new autumn-winter collection AD-BC, which has exceeded sales expectations in the US and has been picked up Harvey Nichols and Harrods in London.
''It's not in my nature to leave something on a low … so I thought what better time to leave than on a high?'' he said.