“We Carry Each Other”: Susie Cave on Her Beloved The Vampire’s Wife Family

Pin It
The Vampire’s Wife Pussy Bow Collection Susie Nick Cave
Susie Cave, Nick Cave, and Bella Freud. Susie wears the Lunar Eclipse dress; Bella the Total Mayhem dressPhotography by Casper Sejersen, Styling by Ellie Grace Cumming. Courtesy of The Vampire’s Wife

Designer Susie Cave has united with photographer Casper Sejersen on a series of portraits of friends and family – from Kate Moss and Keira Knightley to husband Nick – in The Vampire’s Wife’s latest collection

Since its inception in 2014, The Vampire’s Wife – the ethereal fashion label dreamt up by British designer and model Susie Cave – has attracted an enamoured and devoted following. Her darkly romantic dresses, in Liberty-print florals, lace, velvet, silk and chiffon, often with a signature puff sleeve, have become a runaway success: they conjure the past without nostalgia, and are glamorous and gothic at once (Cave is the wife of musician Nick Cave, and the brand takes its name from an abandoned book project of his).

Three years on – in which time the beloved label has expanded manifold – Cave has revealed a new series of photographic portraits immortalising her The Vampire’s Wife “family” in the label’s latest collection. Captured by Danish photographer and AnOther contributor Casper Sejersen (perhaps best known for his ‘orgasm’ promotional images for Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac) the subjects encompass friends, family and collaborators – including plenty of familiar faces, among them Keira Knightley, Kate Moss and husband Nick. 

The collection itself is titled Pussy Bow, an attempt by Cave to expand her usual design signatures towards something “exaggerated” and “bolder”. “Marilyn Monroe said she wanted people at the back of the crowd to be able to see her. I think she meant to understand her,” Cave tells AnOther of the collection’s nexus; as such, Cave thought about creating dresses with which to be seen from across a room (or, indeed, a film premiere). To do so, she drafted in costume designer Alice Babidge – who she met on the set of Ned Kelly biopic True History of the Kelly Gang, in which her son Earl stars – to help achieve a look Cave deems “supercharged”. “My God, Alice is an ideas machine! With her vast theatrical and film knowledge she was able to help make the dresses more distinctive and bold,” says Cave. “Lush and bold and wonderfully sexy.”

As for the shoot itself, Cave says its magnitude – over 20 subjects were photographed on a single day, including a baby and a dog – “came as something of a surprise”. “We felt the Pussy Bow collection was very special and needed something more than a normal photo shoot,” Cave says. “I just started asking my friends in the art world, models, poets, designers, actors, just people that I loved and that I thought would bring their own sense of style with them. And they all just sort of showed up. I was amazed, really, even my husband who refuses to be photographed for anything said he’d give it a go!”

Among them were Knightley – then heavily pregnant – Moss, Bella Freud, AnOther’s senior fashion editor-at-large Katy England and son Wolf Gillespie, Daisy Hoppen, founder of communications agency DH-PR, and Cave herself, who appears in several of the images. “I had an absolute ball,” Cave says of the day of the shoot. “We were a family of strange creatures that all had a similar understanding of beauty. Everyone was just jumping in front of the camera and doing their thing: Kate dancing all over the place, and Keira very pregnant and poetic, Greta Bellamacina with her baby and Amanda Harlech, all black lace and gothic and gorgeous. And Thomas Houseago, the sculptor, who is an absolute force of nature raging around. It was great fun. Chaos. I was surrounded by the most beautiful, talented, supportive people. They are a family.”

Sejersen, of whose work Cave says she is a “great fan”, captures the various subjects in a manner akin to a family portrait, though often with an element of the surreal: subjects might cover their faces or hold large flowers, turn their back towards the camera or slouch completely over a chair. “We did it all on the same day,” Sejersen, who was introduced to Cave by Another Man’s fashion director Ellie Grace Cumming, who styled the shoot, says. “Because it was friends and people close to Susie, the atmosphere was so friendly and calm; very intimate. [They were the] nicest crowd – all special, individual and very very talented characters. My way of working is very intuitive, I like to give the people in front of my camera a lot of mental space, and I think that suited this project perfectly.”

For Sejersen, The Vampire’s Wife is a “hymn to women, all sorts, mothers, young and old, power women, raw women, classic women, and all their loved ones and friends. It’s more than just another fashion brand. It is powerful and fragile at the same time, it reflects Susie’s personality; it is very personal.” His favourite photograph is an outtake of Susie and Nick, “that I will keep for a special occasion”. 

As for Cave’s favourite picture, it is also of Nick: in it, he is turned away from the camera, holding one of Susie’s gowns which drapes over his shoulder. “It sort of symbolises the support he has for The Vampire’s Wife,” she says. “We carry each other!”