From red-carpet awards ceremonies to rock-star-studded afterparties, dresses by The Vampire’s Wife are having their moment in the moonlight. Using her own singular style as a blueprint, model-turned-designer Susie Cave (formerly known as Susie Bick) takes glam-rock fabrics such as velvet, metallic lamé and Liberty print florals, and shapes them into high-necked Victoriana-style dresses (from £485) with attitude. “As far as I can see, women still want to maintain their sensuality,” Cave expounds. “My dresses are very much about the silhouette – that it is powerful and beautiful and magisterial.”
This combination of style, strength and sensuality is clearly an effective mix; The Vampire’s Wife has rapidly accumulated an A-list following of women who prefer covered-up chic to barely-there ballgowns; think Maggie Gyllenhaal, Sarah Jessica Parker, Alexa Chung, Ruth Negga and Florence Welch. “They are not about empowerment as such as they are predicated on the idea that women are already powerful,” Cave maintains of the dresses, which encapsulate the zeitgeist for taking back control.
Business began in 2014, when Cave joined with friend Alex Adamson to produce a range of vintage-inspired dresses, part Seventies hippy, part Little House on the Prairie. Since then, the rise of The Vampire’s Wife has been swift. The collection has expanded to include lamé jackets (£850), A-line ruffle detail skirts (£595), silk cashmere cardigans (£455) and limited-edition T-shirts (£125); aided, in part, by an early endorsement from Ruth Chapman at Matchesfashion.com. “Matches pretty much adopted us when we were just groping around in the dark,” adds the designer. “They have been wonderful.”
Spring/summer 2018 sees the launch of fine jewellery in collaboration with designer Annoushka Ducas. The 18ct gold charm bracelets and necklaces embellished with sapphires, rubies and pearls (available online and at Dover Street Market) are named after songs by Nick Cave, Susie’s husband. Love Letter (£1,200) is a gold envelope-shaped charm engraved with “Sealed With A Loving Kiss”; The Ship Song (£1,200), an engraved miniature galleon; and the Red Right Hand (£2,200) – a favourite of Bad Seeds fans and Peaky Blinders viewers alike – a polished gold hand wearing a ruby ring. “Nick has a great interest in The Vampire’s Wife, loves clothes and loves the fact that our house is so full of industry,” Cave says of her rock-star husband and life in their Brighton terrace. “He gets very excited and it is hugely helpful, because his ideas crash around and stir things up. I think he is very moved by how well things are going.”
On the label’s whirlwind success and the evolution of a stellar second career, Cave admits to having little time for deliberation. “I have had hardly a moment to dwell on the company’s success. There is just too much to do to be concerned with that.” Making a nod to life after the tragic death of one of the couple’s twin sons, Arthur, in 2015, she says: “I have thrown myself deep into the work. To make the dresses themselves, the idea that I can lose myself in the creative process has become more than running a business, it is a matter of survival.”
The innate power of clothing was something Cave was aware of from an early age; she acknowledges that a good deal of time at boarding school was spent modifying clothes (her own and those of friends) to provoke a reaction. This was reinforced by a high-profile modelling career in the 1980s and 1990s and continues through her own label today. “I understand that you can become an event in yourself just by standing there if your dress is right. Women have that power. It has nothing to do with how much flesh you reveal and all to do with the command of the silhouette.”