Sass & Bide’s CEO Reveals What It Takes to be a Great Leader

Lauren Powell
by Lauren Powell

Iconic Australian fashion label sass & bide is a true leader in its industry—and has been for almost two decades—just like its CEO. The inspirational business leader, Julie Otter, has taken the reigns at the women's designer label, and has overseen some enormous changes over the past 18 months while it has continued to grow its retail foot print and maintaining online growth—a nod to Otter’s incredible business acumen. Otter, who was once at the helm of Peter Alexander and M.A.C, believes the secrets to being a great leader are empowerment, collaboration, and vision. Read on to discover Otter’s leadership tips, her morning routine for success, and what it means to "have it all."

How has the direction of sass & bide changed over the past 18 months?

Our strategy at sass & bide has been to celebrate the history created by our founders whilst moving forward with a modern point of view on our design. We are focused on growth, ensuring we have an enduring business well into the future.

What changes have you implemented to the brand since being appointed CEO and why?

The brand focus has been to strengthen the global nature of this iconic Australian brand.

How has the fashion industry changed over the duration of your career? 

Brand globalisation and the development of true online shopping has meant that fashion has become so much more accessible, meaning so many more international brands are now a part of the Australian landscape. This has led to a level of competition, which just didn’t exist before. A clear brand vision is now more critical to success than ever before as is a strong connection to your customers.

What advice do you have for women looking to achieve your success in business?

Be open to learning from everyone around you, don’t be afraid to ask for advice, and be brave enough to make tough decisions and genuinely love what you do.

What is advice for achieving work-life balance?

For me it’s important to have strict scheduling around fitness and family time, otherwise I could work well into the night! Know what works best for you.

What does "having it all" mean to you?

Having it all to me is having the perfect balance—being happy in your work and surrounding yourself with people who share the same vision as you whilst always making time to enjoy family and friends.

Who has been your greatest mentor?

I have been fortunate to have three amazing mentors who are still guiding me today and I value all of my lessons from them.

If there was one lady boss you could brunch with, who would it be?

It would be with someone who I could never meet, but the company she built was an amazing part of my career, and that would be Estee Lauder.

What attributes do you look for in your staff at sass & bide?

I look for people who reflect the core DNA of the sass & bide brand, which is a strong sense of inclusivity, honesty, passion to achieve the very best they can, and have an absolute love for the fashion we create.

What are some of the key questions you always ask in an interview?

My first question is always “why do you want to join sass & bide?” I always ask how people like to be managed, what they think they still have to learn, and how they spend their down time. I also ask what they most want to contribute to the brand.

What mistakes have you learned from and are there any that may have even benefited you in your career?

Not listening to my gut instinct—you need to always back yourself.

What does it take to be a leader?

A good leader has the ability to empower their team, collaborate on shared goals, and inspire with their vision. They take people with them on the brand and business journey.

What's your morning ritual? How does it set you up for a successful day?

I start the morning with clarifying what I want to achieve for the day ahead. I get into the office early and have my green juice and coffee every morning while I clarify all of my appointments. I like to speak to as many members of the team as I can just by walking through each department.

Do you have a nightly routine?

No, it varies every night depending on personal commitments, like work events —but I do end every night reflecting on that day. 

Do you have any daily habits that you swear by?

Green juices, healthy diet, and an exercise regime—health is really critical for clarity, energy and running a business. From a personal perspective, time with my family every day is critical and from a professional perspective, it’s important to have strong and open communication with my team.

Browse and shop the beautiful sass & bide collection now.

What is the most prominent tip you have taken from Otter? Share your thoughts with us below. 

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