When you’re designing a dress there is plenty to think about: form, fit and also, if Susie Cave has anything to do with it, the good causes it can benefit. Here she explains how an exclusive new design in African wax-print fabric can help combat the spread of Aids
Photography by Polly Borland. Text by Ross Aston
Chitenge fabric has many uses in its home of central Africa: a traditional gift for a young woman, a knotted table decoration and, given a more practical application, a sling tied across the body in which a parent can carry a small child. For this reason it feels appropriate that Susie Cave has designed an exclusive dress out of the batik cloth for her label The Vampire’s Wife to raise money for the charity Mothers2Mothers. “M2M is making tremendous headway in the elimination of paediatric Aids in Africa,” Cave explains. “I lived in Malawi as a child and have such happy memories of that time. I learned to swim in Lake Malawi, which was full of hippos and crocodiles. The culture there is so vibrant and I vividly remember the colourful wax-printed fabrics worn by the women and how they complemented the miraculous natural landscape of the country, the immense wide open spaces. It was a paradise on earth. I hope women will wear The Vampire’s Wife x M2M dress in the spirit in which it was made – with a love for Africa and support for this remarkable and truly effective charity.” Historically, the most prized examples of chitenge became artworks in themselves and were framed as decorative wall hangings – like those, this dress is something to be treasured.