INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE’S WIFE
Designer Susie Cave.
Fashion muse turned maker with a modelling career worthy of legend, English siren SUSIE CAVE chose a moniker inspired by husband Nick’s abandoned book project to launch the newest label to know. By DIVYA BALA
“HE TOOK ONE LOOK AT ME and told me to go back to school,” says Susie Cave (nee Bick) of her first encounter, at the age of 14, with legendary photographer Steven Meisel. Little did he know that Cave’s imminent modelling career would provide an education in itself, and, along with a childhood predilection for sewing and the chiffon tea dresses and wellington boots worn by her fellow students at Dartington Hall School, would eventually pave the way to her recently launched dress label, the Vampire’s Wife.
Having been scouted on the streets of New York (after running away from the aforementioned English boarding school), the beguiling beauty heeded Meisel’s advice and returned to her studies. But with her otherworldly alabaster skin and striking raven-black hair, it was not long until she was back in front of the lens for the likes of Guy Bourdin, Helmut Newton, Nick Knight and David Bailey.yet Cave preferred to be out of the spotlight, describing her behaviour during her modelling days as “terrible, really — very unprofessional. I had a habit of fleeing the scene of the crime if I thought the session was going to turn out badly. It’d be a situation of crawling out of the bathroom window and running for my life.” However, this reluctance to be photographed inspired some truly breathtaking portraits and, in turn, a lifelong fascination with fashion. “i found it quite painful being photographed, initially,” she told Matchesfashion.com. “so I think, for me, the attraction was often to do with wearing these wonderful clothes with different things, not having one particular style and working with many different designers.”
Cave’s powers of seduction were just as strong away from the camera. Long-time friend and colleague Kate Moss, who cast Cave as her co-star in the campaign for her Equipment collaboration, gushes, “i grew up with Susie when I was first working. I kind of get shy when she’s around. She’s so feminine — all woman!” Also susceptible to her wiles was Australian musician Nick Cave. In the 2014 documentary 20,000 Days on Earth, he describes, in his signature prose, meeting his now wife: “when she came
walking in, all the things I’d obsessed over for all the years … All the endless and possible fantasies … All the stuff I’d heard and seen and read.all the continuing, never-ending drip feed of erotic data came together in that one moment in one big crash-bang and I was lost to her and that was that.” Suffice it to say, over the course of their 17-year marriage, she has provided the inspiration for many of his sensual, love-fuelled rock ballads.
In something of a closed creative circuit, it was her husband who provided her fashion label’s name. It was the working title of a book Nick had pitched to a publisher, but the decision to discontinue the project allowed Cave to adopt the name. “It revolved around the publishing of some lovely photos our dear friend Dominique Issermann had taken of me over the years — very special photos,” she explains.“it was supposed to be an examination of the role of the muse. Anyway, the book was abandoned and we thought The Vampire’s Wife was a great name for the company, that it was playful and funny and memorable.”
While the words ‘playful’ and ‘funny’ might not be the first one thinks of when considering any creative seed of the Caves’ (Nick is often referred to as rock’s Prince of Darkness, after all), her collections do have a certain airiness and whimsy to them. Cave’s pieces are demure, feminine — girly, even — tempered with vintage accents such as micro ruffles, full skirts, midi lengths and jacquard placements.the emphasis is on silhouette and fabrication; streamlined, body-skimming styles are realised in Liberty prints, British shirtmaker’s cotton and bespoke silks engineered by one of only two silk mills left in the country — which also happens to work with the archives of Marie Antoinette.
Designs are guided by Cave’s own sartorial instincts, which she describes as “chaotic, mostly”. She explains modestly: “The way I dress is usually last-minute, intuitive and at odds with whatever the occasion may be.” Though to look over her public appear- ances, rich in gothic velvets, plush black fur and lace, one would be inclined to disagree. Her instincts, in turn, inform her design choices, with Cave roadtesting each piece.“i tend to put whatever I create on, and if I look better in it, I know I’m onto something,” she says.“i basically work on the premise that if I love the garment — you know, if it’s made with love — chances are other people are going to love it too.at least respond positively to the energy within it.” And they do: the designer can already list such discerning couture enthusiasts as Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton as fans.
When asked about the brand’s ethos, Cave says, “My personal wish is people will look at a person wearing avampire’swife dress and think ‘What a beautiful woman’, not ‘What a beautiful dress’.” In Susie Cave’s case, it’s both. Thevampire’swife is available from matchesfashion.com and thevampireswife.com.
“The way I dress is usually last-minute, intuitive and at odds with whatever the occasion may be.”
Cave in pieces from The Vampire’s Wife.
Nick and Susie Cave photographed by Dominique Issermann.
The Vampire’s Wife dresses, $770 (left), and $875, matchesfashion.com. From far left: the new collection; Cate Blanchett in The Vampire’s Wife skirt; the designer with her husband, Nick Cave.