As the daughter of famed British interior designer David Hicks, India Hicks had an eclectic childhood. “My father had some very dazzling ideas about the way that a house should look,” she says of his over-the-top use of pattern on pattern, and knack for mixing the modern with the antique. “My father was very, very bold with color. He was extremely decisive. He liked to make a statement. If you stepped into a David Hicks room, you would know at once that you were in a David Hicks room.” Her mother, Lady Pamela Hicks, was similarly stylish, and her parents played host to everyone from the “King of Sweden to Andy Warhol” in their Oxfordshire estate. Fans of The Crown will also know that Hick’s grandfather, Lord Mountbatten, was the last viceroy to India, and that Hicks famously served as a bridesmaid in the wedding of her godfather, Prince Charles, to Lady Diana in the ’80s. Not that everything in her upbringing was cushy. “We were never, ever encouraged to sit on the comfy, plumped-up cushions because that would upset the way they looked,” Hicks laughs. “We were encouraged to sit on the hard seats! It was very much the era of ‘children were there to be seen and not heard.’”
Today, the rules are much different in Hicks’ home—which is not an English manor but a bohemian-style enclave on Harbour Island in the Bahamas, where she lives with her partner, David Flint Wood, and their five children, who range in age from 9 to 20 years old. Skateboards are allowed in the living room, cooking barefoot is expected, and anyone may sit anywhere (dogs included!). The island vibes have fueled Hick’s creativity. After a successful career in modeling and design, and writing two decorating books of her own, she launched her namesake lifestyle brand in 2015, infused with her gypsy-chic sensibility and adventurous spirit. “I wanted to share part of my life—a little bit of my British heritage and a lot of my island story,” she says.
The well-crafted range includes handbags and accessories, delicately-wrought jewelry, fine fragrance and bath and body care essentials. Many pieces speak directly to personal moments in her life, and her father’s influence even sneaks in from time to time: a graphic necklace, for instance, recalls a hexagon-shaped house he built with a circular interior.
In keeping with the personal connection, Hicks adopted a direct sales model for her brand, with a network of ambassadors selling her pieces. “We’re encouraging women to have a second act,” she says of cultivating her sales force tribe. “Some mothers will be joining us in their late 40s; their children are leaving home, and it’s time to start thinking about doing something for themselves.” (Men are welcome, too, by the way.) The result, she says, is that “we actually dig much deeper than selling a lifestyle collection. We dig into this emotional journey of being together as a community.” Here, Hicks talks about her unique business model and gives us a glimpse into her thriving island life.
Were you creative from a young age?
Yes. But it’s funny because I think everyone around me was more about being creative. My mother was quite a good singer. Having said that, of course, I’m not a singer, I’m a flying dervish! So I think it was more about just having it in there in the background!
How is your taste similar and different from your father’s?
We’re similar in the fact that I’m quite a traditionalist, and my father was huge on table-scaping with objects and making sure every tabletop had a story to it. I very much do that as well. Still, I’m not sure that I could be quite as daring and live in the world of color that I’ve been brought up in. In my own home, it’s much calmer with bursts of color here and there.
You’ve designed collections licensed by everyone from Crabtree & Evelyn to HSN. What made you decide to go launch your own brand?
All of these experiences led me to the biggest step of all for me, which was to then launch my own little company. I have two partners [Konstantin Glasmacher, the entrepreneur and former co-founder of HauteLook and SoleSociety; and Nicholas Keuper, former managing director at The Boston Consulting Group]. So all three of us have very different perspectives, and I think it makes for a very good triad. We work very well together, we call on each other, we respect each other, and we recognize the strength that we have. Partnerships are very, very, very important. There’s so much stress to a startup. The speed at which you’re running is so unbelievable; good partners are so essential because then you never feel alone. Then, you are sharing experiences and running together.
What appealed to you about selling your pieces through ambassadors?
There are many women who just feel that it’s too late in their life to begin a new chapter. We really feel that we’ve got quite the strong mission now in encouraging women to have a
second act, to believe in themselves on their own. So, whatever word you call it—person-to-personal, connect-sales, direct-sales—we find that is a much stronger method and a much more engaging and rewarding theme.
How many ambassadors do you currently have?
We are around 2,000. We don’t want huge numbers. I want it to feel like it’s a boutique, like it’s a family affair, like we are an extension of one root. I don’t want to be so massive that we don’t feel really connected with one another. We have lots of great women joining us from lots of different walks of life, and that’s very important to me. I like the fact that we’re not one kind of woman. I think the layers are very interesting. The layers, all the different women, all the different experiences that we bring together—that’s what makes us interesting.
Tell us about “Get Together, Give Together,” the philanthropic program you recently launched.
It’s a charitable side of the company where a hostess will host a get-together, and the proceeds from that will go to a charity of her choice. And the ambassador who runs and organizes the event for the host will also have a percentage of her sales go to charity, which means that we stand tall and proud in the fact that we give back.
What is your schedule like, and when are you most productive?
My day starts when I take my daughter to school, and I’m in the office for the rest of the day. I’ll have back-to-back-to-back meetings through Skype or one-on-one. It will be a fully-scheduled, at least a nine-hour day because we work in different time zones. Where is the time to have your own liberty? You don’t, and I remember I would scream and say, “All of the creative side has now kind of been scheduled out.” So, I really look to weekends, when the office is quiet and there aren’t as many interruptions and we can begin to feel creative again.
Also, I will travel for design meetings, so if I’m in New York, we’ll look at fabric and touch hardware, and we’ll look at zips and we’ll scout buttons, and we’ll do that for hours. And then once I’m in there, it all comes flooding back, and I feel very excited and creative, and all the people around you are feeling the same way. But day-to-day, it’s really hard, and I think anybody who has founded a company, or oversees or runs a company, will tell you that after that, it’s very, very hard to find a balance. I look at my week’s schedule and I’m normally pretty overwhelmed by it! Then I realize my name is on this company, and I really care about it—I want to hear about the returns, what our development team is making, how the finances are looking this week. I care about every aspect, and that can be unbelievably exciting as well.
What pieces do you love most from your spring collection?
You know, I travel a great deal, so The Crown Jewels case is really nice because, not only do I put all the jewelry and all the things that I carry, but I also have my computer cords in there. It’s just something that we can put everything in. It’s like your vault. It’s somewhere to put your inheritance.
When not working, how do you spend time with your kids?
I think I’ve been very lucky to have been able to have a career before this and still be at home with them more. But now I take my 9-year-old with me quite a bit, if I’m doing long trips. It’s a kind of gypsy lifestyle. I’m very lucky to have children who are very close to one another as well. We do a lot together. This year, we’re going to Africa for two weeks to celebrate my 50th birthday in early July.
Any beauty secrets that have helped you maintain your beautiful glow?
Gosh, I’m not sure it is a beautiful glow anymore. You know, I have a slightly strange diet between trying to balance out the chocolate with a lot of green juice, but I do make sure I get an hour of exercise. I’m a runner, so I run a lot. Most days I can, if I’m not traveling. That’s when I have time to myself to gather my thoughts.
Do you have any tips for entertaining at home?
Low lighting! That helps more than you can imagine. An eclectic mix of guests. Have some surprises in there. You don’t want to have the same people all the time. I think having people seated is more interesting. Conversation flows much better, and then I think you get the chance of introducing new people, which is always nice.
What’s next for you and the India Hicks brand?
We are always planning, and the exciting thing about our brand is that we can go in any direction, and we continue to surprise and delight in the collections. I continue to draw from my heritage and be inspired by the many stories about my family, and I think we are always ever-evolving!