Susie Cave of The Vampire’s Wife Launches a Candle Inspired by Wild Bonfires on the Beach

Parenting teenagers in lockdown is not for the lily-livered, but Susie Cave is not like most people. When her hometown of Brighton, England was in the grip of Covid-19, the fashion designer stayed up late in order to ferry her 18-year-old son Earl home from a beach party so he wouldn’t have to cadge a ride with near-strangers. The post-bedtime pick-up, a necessary unpleasantry for tired and protective parents the world over, was, for Cave, a pungent source of inspiration. “As soon as he got in the car, he just smelled so much of the bonfire,” Cave recalls. “When we got home, I wouldn’t let him wash his shirt.”

Cave sealed her son’s worn garment in a plastic bag. The small team at her cult fashion label The Vampire’s Wife then got to work recreating the smoky, tobacco-y, smells-like-teen-spirit aroma. It will be reborn as Bonfire, a candle housed in a deep vermillion glass vessel and encased in bewitching packaging that was informed by Cave’s study of centuries-old family crests.

Manufactured by legendary French candlemaker Cire Trudon (the same firm that provided candles for Louis XIV’s royal court), Bonfire’s Friday release coincides with the festive English holiday of Guy Fawkes Night—known for its fireworks and fire pits—commemorating a British soldier’s failed assassination attempt against King James I. As it happens, The Vampire’s Wife headquarters are located in Lewes, a medieval town in East Sussex that is known as the bonfire capital of the world.

“I absolutely adore candles, like the rest of the world,” Cave says. She is speaking from her kitchen in her London home, where the walls are painted a lavender that reads more Calamine-pink on Zoom. The antique armoire beside her is stocked with fancy candles that she purchased in research for this venture, her first item of non-clothing (the brand recently made face masks to match her dresses, which have fans in everyone from Florence Welch and Kate Middleton). With her penchant for high necks, floral patterns, and below-the-knee hems, it could be said that Cave marries cottagecore with a beautiful and spooky fairytale. Today, she is wearing black cat eye glasses and a puffy-shouldered metallic dress of her own design. “It’s called the Fortuneteller,” she says.

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