How do you introduce India Hicks? A question that’s been on my mind for days. A name that needs no introduction at all. Her talents are so remarkable though, that, even if they have been well documented before, I can’t resist but enumerate them all once again. Designer, author, model, entrepreneur, mother, marathon runner, India Hicks is a force to be reckoned with.
Daughter of famed interior designer David Hicks and Lady Pamela Hicks, India was named in honour of her maternal grandfather, the Earl Mountbatten of Burma, the last Viceroy to India, who served until the country received independence in 1947. Goddaughter of the Prince of Wales, and also his second cousin, India was one of the bridesmaids at his wedding to Lady Diana. Impressive, yes, but India Hicks eschewed high society and chose her own path. She is now a designer in her own right and a successful business woman, and that is even more admirable than having legendary parentage and royal heritage.
London born and raised, India moved to Boston in her late teens to study photography. After taking her degree, she moved to New York and stepped to the other side of the camera, becoming a fashion model, working for the likes of Ralph Lauren and J. Crew. Then she fell in love, “with a man and the small tropical island he lived on”, and moved to the Bahamas, the home for many years now for her and her partner, David Flint Wood.
She has since become a hotel owner, and subsequently interior designer, designed a jewelry line, wrote two books, an interiors book titled Island Life: Inspirational Interiors (co-authored by David Flint Wood), and a lifestyle/beauty book, Island Beauty. She is creator partner to Crabtree & Evelyn, an all-natural body-care and home collection, and has recently launched her India Hicks Island Living line of bedding and décor, on HSN.com. Her online store offers, alongside India’s own creations, a carefully curated selection of both products that she finds on her trips to far flung corners of the world and local finds. But I think above all that, she is mother of four and foster parent to another, a woman in love with her family and the island they live on.
Yes, I felt just a bit intimidated talking to India. But I fell in love with the beautiful, unique jewelry and suddenly wanted to learn more about the woman, the mother, the designer, the royalty, and had this bold idea of asking her to grant me the honour of an interview. To my immeasurable joy, she accepted. And not only that, but she was generous to answer all my questions, and she did that with great kindness and promptitude. Thank you, India.
You are designer, author, entrepreneur, mother of five. What is the secret to a successfully balanced life?
The secret is there is no secret. Sometimes it’s a little more balanced than other times, sometimes a little more successful, only rarely am I successfully balanced. But I am highly organized, and I don’t watch much TV!
How has your father influenced your work?
He was bold and decisive, he was individual, he never followed a trend, he designed homes, not houses, and he set the decorating world alight with his ideas. His work has certainly influenced me, I obsess over table scapes (a word he is said to have coined), I would never shy away from covering a sofa in shocking pink or fire engine red, I love mixing old and new, but I don’t have the courage he had, I don’t have the fearless relationship to color he enjoyed, I don’t have the guts to be governed entirely by geometric patterns. Everything my father did, he did with conviction.
Given your lineage, was it difficult to find your own voice in design?
For many years I shied away from design and decoration. My father was considered one of the world’s leading talents, my brother was an accomplished architect, my sister-in-law a fashion designer, how could I find my own voice when there were already so many? Moving to The Bahamas allowed me to begin a new life, one entirely of my own, a blank canvas upon which I could paint my own story.
What is your design motto? What makes good design?
My father always said: ‘Decorating is the art of accentuating the best and covering up the worst’.
Who do you design for?
I design for me, whether it be a fragrance or candle, a bedding collection or a piece of jewelry, I design for me. I want to be sure the sheets I design I will also sleep on, the jewelry I create I love….
Each of your jewelry collections has its own story attached to it. Could you tell me more about the inspiration behind them?
My father’s Logo was a simple, but powerful device of four H’s joined in a cross format. Before long, there was an entire alphabet that played with multiples and geometry, like the H’s. The simple, smart chic of this alphabet has inspired generations of designers, evident today in the Logos of many top brands. My father could be tricky at times, as many great creative forces are, however I recognize I would not be who I am today, nor have the strength of character I do if he had not been my father. I named my alphabet collection Love Letter, as in a way this is my love letter to him.
Hicks On Hicks:
My father designed my mother’s hair. He redesigned the nose of a client. He designed the bowling alley of the White House and the private apartments of The Prince of Wales. He was always stylish. He was never dull. Living under the imposing eye of my father had a strong part in developing my own design sense. Inspired by my father’s famous hexagon pattern as the primary design element, this Hicks on Hicks collection is modern and architectural. Bold medallions, cuffs and statement rings I hope will stir the hearts of design purists and fashion followers.
I live a less than ordinary life on an out island in The Bahamas. An adventurous, but real life, where there is room to breathe and time to think. In turning my island sensibility into fine jewelry, I embraced the colors and textures of the island’s nature. Bleached coral and sea biscuits, my affinity for the sea and its creatures, the pink sand beaches and turquoise waters are powerful elements that inspire and infiltrate my Island Life collections.
Palm fronds host my sleeping, they decorate my dining table, they shade my children playing in the garden. They are in abundance and a constant reminder of my island life.
After many years of diving in tropical waters I remained transfixed by the sights and patterns found at the bottom of the sea bed. Sea creatures of all shapes and sizes have become familiar friends.
Bows and arrows:
To this day I see local fishermen on Eleuthera, and the island I live on, diving with spear heads and my own children growing up on this island play endlessly and yes, alarmingly, with bows and arrows.
The moon and her phases also play a part in my island life, a full moon brings a high tide, a half moon reminds me that time is passing too quickly and the crescent moon, my favourite, allows the stars to shine more brightly.
All your jewelry collections are beautiful, but I do have a favourite. I can truly say that I fell in love with the Palms, Fish, Moons, Arrows line and I feel that by wearing one of the pieces I would carry a little of the freedom and lifestyle of the island (generally speaking) with me, no matter where I am. Was this universal appeal something you had in mind when you created this collection? Or did you want to design something very personal?
As I said earlier, I do design for myself, with the many chapters of my life coming into play, everything is very personal, but I do test the product as we move forward. Will my older sister steal this? Will my teenage niece steal that? If they both do, then I know we have a successful collection! I also listen to what our sales team tell me, and take into account the practicalities of materials, for example the price of gold skyrocketed, so we decided to create a collection in gold vermeil, instead of 18 karat, which meant the jewelry collection could still be affordable.
What was the height of your career so far?
I’ve a long way to go before I’ve reached the height, but one of the craziest periods was hosting a reality design TV show whilst breastfeeding. That took a little bit of juggling.
You’ve distilled your Harbour Island style into jewelry, accessories, clothing, beauty products and homeware. What’s next?
Oh so much, but right now I am training for a 100 mile bike race, raising money for breast cancer awareness in The Bahamas. Something I take seriously. Our foster child’s mother died of breast cancer.
Cary Grant said: “You can tell how secure a woman is by the amount of make-up she wears.” I’ve seen many photos of you wearing very little or no make-up at all. You come across as a natural beauty. Does this somehow reflect your island lifestyle or has it always been your beauty philosophy?
My mother wears no make up at all. My sister wears no make up either. And neither do I. It never really occurred to me that I might need too.
Any beauty tips?
Lots of water, lots of green juice, lots of chocolate. But above all, I exercise. Find that hour for yourself. It’s so important. Whether it’s a walk in the park, a jog on the beach, a bike ride in the countryside, try to stay motivated.
What does style mean to you? What defines your personal style?
Being yourself and no one else.
Your favourite item of clothing.
Jeans, boring, I know. David would so much prefer it if I woke up each morning and dressed as Grace Kelly.
What did you enjoy the most about your modelling career?
Meeting extraordinary people from all walks of life, and working together as a team.
If you could name just one favourite designer, who would that be?
Ralph Lauren. His clothes fit me like a glove. I don’t need to try anything on.
Your island life sounds idyllic. Are there any lows to it? Would you ever go back to living in the city?
Many low’s, no vet, no dentist, only a visiting doctor who services three other islands, over night Fed Ex takes 6 days, the electricity fails on an almost daily basis making running a business very tricky, 3 months of hurricane season, no theater, no newspapers, no marmite. But at the end of my garden is a three mile pink sand beach, and that I am not giving up easily.
The best piece of advice you’ve been given.
There is more in you than you think. My old school motto.
Words that best describe you.
Really? We have to answer that?? David would have a field day with this question….stubborn, bossy, maddening would probably be his words. I would like to think I am loyal and dependable. And energetic, highly energetic.
Your favourite moment of the day.
Taking my dogs to pee in the garden last thing at night, when the children are asleep and the house is finally quiet, looking up at the velvet tropical night sky and counting my blessings.
photos: courtesy of India Hicks and her wonderful team | 3-India Hicks Domino necklace, 5-Love Letter pendants (all from the Love Letters collection / 4-Hexagon necklace from the Hicks on Hicks collection / 6-9: pieces from the Palms, Fish, Moons, Arrows collection