On Monday, Elle published a profile of Christie Smythe, the former Bloomberg News journalist who uprooted her “perfect little Brooklyn life” to start a new one with Martin Shkreli, a pharmaceutical executive known as “Pharma Bro.” Other nicknames for Shkreli include “the most hated man in America,” according to The Daily Beast, and “asshole.” Shkreli was convicted of securities fraud in 2017 and sentenced to seven years in prison where he remains to this day. Shkreli is infamously known for increasing the price of the lifesaving drug Daraprim by 5,000% in 2015, from $13 to $750. Smythe was the reporter who broke the news of the federal investigation that eventually led to his arrest. She later covered his trial, which is how her self-described romantic relationship with Shkreli began.
The Elle feature ran alongside a mini fashion shoot that took place in Central Park and Smythe’s apartment. And while the story alone is enough to make your head spin, Twitter users were quick to point out the dress Smythe wore in two of the photographs: a high-neck, puff-sleeve dress designed by Susie Cave’s gothic fashion brand The Vampire’s Wife. Coincidence? Twitter thinks not.
“The Vampire’s Wife” is the strongest, surest, most inflammatory phrase in this piece, and it’s part of a cutline.
— Dan Zak (@MrDanZak) December 21, 2020
“Styling Martin Shkreli’s ‘life partner’ in The Vampire’s Wife is almost too on the nose,” wrote Ilana Kaplan, a journalist for The Independent and Paper, among other publications. “’The Vampire’s Wife’ is the strongest, surest, most inflammatory phrase in this piece, and it’s part of a cutline,” wrote Dan Zak, a reporter for The Washington Post. Kayleigh Donaldson, a journalist for Pajiba, tweeted, “We love a subtle fashion burn.”
Given the way shoots like this work, we can say for certain that it was a stylist, not Smythe, who chose to put the former journalist in a brand that was named after the “Prince of Darkness,” Susie Cave’s husband Nick of the band Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Perhaps the stylist in question really didn’t make the connection between the dress — ironically titled The Confessional — the brand name, and the person wearing it. Accidents like this do happen, though, given that this was Smythe’s first and only time confessing her story publicly, it’d have to be one that occurred by the grace of god.
Many people on Twitter posed another question: Did Smythe know about the brand of dress she’d be wearing for the piece — a piece that led Shkreli to “stop communicating with her”? Moreso, was Susie Cave aware of the fact that Smythe would be the person posing for Elle in a dress of her design? According to the brand, neither Cave nor anyone working at The Vampire’s Wife was responsible for the sample making it into the Elle shoot, though the brand confirmed that it was, in fact, The Confessional dress. Many suggested that Cave wouldn’t appreciate being aligned with Smythe, while others said the shoot only made them want a piece by The Vampire’s Wife more. As longtime fans of the brand, we’ve never not wanted a dress from the brand whose fans include Kate Middleton and Laura Dern.
whose idea it was to do a styled photoshoot??? for the story about simping for martin shkreli?????
— joshua bote (@joshua_bote) December 21, 2020
Some people were perplexed about the existence of the styled shoot entirely. Joshua Bote, a reporter for USA Today, wondered whose idea it was to do a styled photoshoot for a story about the woman dating Shkreli? “Reading that story about the Shkreli simp in Elle and wondering when they plan on running their glossy profile and photoshoot of the women who get engaged to serial killers in prison,” tweeted Hannah Woodhead, an editor at Little White Lies.
Originally, Stephanie Clifford, the author of the story, felt the same. “Coming from a news background, I was a little surprised,” Clifford told Intelligencer of the accompanying photo shoot. “It makes sense; it’s a fashion magazine in part. Reading the credits, it’s a little jarring to see the fashion next to a question about somebody dating someone in prison. But I get it.” She also told the publication that she purposely brought the story to Elle, as opposed to a newspaper like The New York Times, because she believed it to have a “really strong history of telling sensitive stories about women.”
Fashion magazines like Elle also have a history of styling their subjects. The clothes, setting, and the photos are just as much a part of capturing a story in full as the words. According to Zak’s tweet, when said shoot includes a maneuver as artful as putting Smythe in a dress titled The Confessional and designed by The Vampires Wife, the photo portion can actually become the “strongest, surest” aspect of the entire story.
Below, read some of the most heated discussions happening on Twitter regarding Smythe’s story.
THEY PUT HER IN THE VAMPIRE’S WIFE. DID SHE KNOW??? DID SHE LET THEM, THINKING THAT WAS SO FUNNY???
— Charlotte A. Cavatica (@cavaticat) December 21, 2020
This entire Martin Shkreli + Christie Smythe story is bonkers but the fact that she is unironically posing in a Vampire’s Wife dress is what elevates it to high art. https://t.co/sq0xb1o1MG
— Zara Ahmed, DrPH (@ZarainDC) December 21, 2020
Shout out to the stylist at Elle who dressed Martin Shkreli’s ghosted girlfriend in The Vampire’s Wife for the accompanying photoshoot. We love a subtle fashion burn.
— Kayleigh Donaldson (@Ceilidhann) December 21, 2020
What about the dresses provided by the Vampire’s Wife(the designer, I believe, is married to Nick Cave)?
That was the detail that stopped me in my tracks. Extreme ’Cui bono?’ vibes.
— Geoffrey Rickly (@GeoffRickly) December 21, 2020
the martin shkreli story finally convinced me to buy a vampire’s wife face mask, AMA
— Amy X. Wang (@amyxwang) December 21, 2020
one of the dresses christie smythe was photographed in is from a brand called The Vampire’s Wife and the dress is called Confessional. i c u, snarky elle stylist pic.twitter.com/bCeyTEuKtN
— molly taft, a tall bitch (@mollytaft) December 21, 2020
— ilana kaplan (@lanikaps) December 21, 2020
My actual favorite part of the Martin Shkreli Elle piece is that his beloved Smythe is wearing a dress from — no joke! — “The Vampire’s Wife”
Just pure 😘👌 pic.twitter.com/5j1o8empyI
— Grogu? I hardly know you! (@thomdunn) December 21, 2020
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