Long before I ever worked for VOGUE, I’d read stories about India Hicks. She was a model, an entrepreneur, the daughter of iconic interior designer David Hicks, an author, an entertaining expert...
Her life was enchanting. She’s graced the pages of VOGUE magazine ever since. Probably because she’s one of the most stylish women on the planet. There’s also the dreamy life in the Bahamas that people find so captivating. You see, India lives the kind of life you’ve probably dreamt about. 27 years ago, she left England and moved to the Bahamas, and she’s been there ever since.
She started her career as a model, before going on to author countless books (her most recent – An Entertaining Story – chronicles everything from Christmas tabletops in the Bahamas to how to put together what she dubs a last-minute ‘panic’ dinner). She’s the second cousin and goddaughter of King Charles, and in 1981, was famously one of Princess Diana’s bridesmaids. She hosts dinner parties for guests such as Jennifer Aniston. She has designed everything from hotels to fashion collections (most recently, she’s collaborated with British brands such as Penelope Chilvers, Tusting and Hester Bly). At the age of 55, she married her long-term partner David Flint Wood (he had proposed 25 years ago, and she’d said no – the COVID pandemic inspired a yes). She’s a passionate philanthropist. And then there’s the most important job to her of all – being a mother to five children. If you weren’t already fascinated, you’re sure to be now.
We spoke to India when she visited Sydney recently about all of the above and more. Read on to be inspired.
Photographed by Julie Adams at The Boathouse’s Manly Pavilion. Hair and makeup by Elsa Morgan. Clothes by Versify. Shoes by Wittner
SHOP: India wears Versify blazer, $289, Versify pants, $229, and Wittner shoes, $180. Shot at Manly Pavilion
You’ve spoken about the Queen’s death as a chapter closing for all of us – what does it mean to you personally to close this chapter?
It was an honor to be with my mother at the funeral of the Queen, not only in Westminster Abbey but also in Saint Georges Windsor. To watch the deeply symbolic, deeply moving funeral of Elizabeth II, the country’s longest reigning sovereign, was a privilege. The rituals and the carnival of costumes we were watching was an expression of eternal history. This Elizabethan age had come to an end. Unlike the day of her coronation where the rain fell constantly from darkened skies, her last day with her nation was one of sun. In the Abbey light streamed from the stain glass windows. Of course, my mother had been there not only for the coronation of the Queen but also for her wedding. I was very aware that this must have been a difficult day for my mother, a chapter closing. When I asked her how she felt she said ‘acceptance’.
On your Instagram channel, you write in a very chatty, friendly style – almost like you’re talking to a friend. What does Instagram bring to your life?
My husband David always says Instagram is like sending a postcard, you choose a pretty image, write a few words of news, and post it. Because I live overseas away from my mother and siblings, I have often seen Instagram as a way to share bits of news with our friends and family but as the followers grew and the audience enlarged, I recognized that it was certainly becoming a way to brand build. However much more importantly I now see it as a platform where I can talk about the charitable foundations I work with and for, and the warm caring community I share my daily posts with are generous in contributing to those foundations. On my first trip to the Ukrainian border where we were delivering aid four global empowerment mission a friend back in America immediately sent a considerable check to the foundation because she now felt confident that her donation would get into the right hands had I not been there on the ground working with that team we would have lost better opportunity.
You have raised 5 children – how does it feel to let them go out into the world. Does it feel like your job is done?
I have had many roles in my life but that of being a mother comes first and foremost. I always say that my strength as a mother is that I collaborate with several businesses, so I am not constantly helicoptering around my kids, my weakness is that I collaborate with several businesses, so I am not constantly helicoptering around my kids! I hope my children grow into kind, decent and fair adults, with a strong sense of humor and an impressive work ethic. I try very hard to get the balance right but sometimes the scales slide but at the end of the day my family is my heartbeat, and they know that.
Life in the Bahamas looks idyllic but no doubt there are challenges. Why did you choose to live your live in the Bahamas and how do you think it has made your life richer?
The idea of life on a tropical island appeals in one form or another to almost everybody, it certainly did to us, and it continues to do so to the extent that over the last 27 years we have raised five children here, decorated, restored, or built three houses and a hotel on two islands. These buildings are products of our imaginations, hard work and often heated debate. They have come to reflect a style most easily recognized as West Indian but hopefully also include some original ideas and more than a little wit. A great deal of our inspiration is drawn from the island we live on, its light and colors, its flora and fauna, local materials, and craftspeople, and last but by no means least its history.
SHOP: India wears Versify blazer, $289, Versify pants, $229, and Wittner shoes, $180. Shot at Manly Pavilion
You have impeccable style – let’s start with tabletops. How do you put a setting together?
My father was a very great designer and completely confident with his use of color and pattern he had a fearless relationship with pink, scarlet and orange he woke up the quiet drawing rooms of England blew away the cobwebs and let the world know about it. He was a voracious explorer discovering architectural wonders and surprises. He never thought once that a gate marked private actually meant private, he would take us, as children, on grand tours around Europe. My brother paid full attention whilst my sister and I dreamt of ponies. Growing up throughout our homes there were tablescapes of various items my father claimed to have coined this term which describes arrangements of objects in decorative groups, my father’s tablescapes might range from a collection of blue lapis lazuli, enamel, pottery to pink Indian rose quartz carved animals and snuffboxes. I have less access to such sensational objects but I um as determined to tablescape as my father was I can begin with one object of a certain color and add others around it a book bound in red linen on top of which I will place a red glass vase beside a red piece of coral and so forth and so on first time new paragraph Almost anything and anything everything can make An interesting object I have even used my mother’s swimming caps displayed under a Perspex box almost like pop art topiary.
What has your mother taught you about style?
My mother says she knew there was absolutely no point getting involved in decorating since she lived with David Hicks and his imposing eye, although of course my mother’s mother was one of the great stylish women of England and my mother is always dressed impeccably. She was quite shocked at how few people were wearing black gloves at The Queens Funeral.
You recently married your long-term partner David Flint Wood – what have you learnt about what it takes to create lasting love?
After such a bewildering 18 months of COVID I felt a longing for something reassuring, something anchoring, not only for me but for my kids, who like everyone else have been shaken by the pandemic. “Let’s get married” I suggested to David one evening. David had asked me to marry him 25 years ago when I discovered I was pregnant with our son Felix but being in my fiercely independent woman phase I never accepted, although I strongly felt that Felix and our children who would follow should carry his name, except of course Wesley, our adopted son, who arrived in our lives already named.
The service had all the English wedding trimmings, complete with the choir and an organist to lead us through a series of uplifting hymns, my son Conrad read a moving passage by Morgan Harper Nichols, an African American Christian writer ,that ends with the words: ‘And I hope this reminds you, your story is far from finished yet and you are allowed to find peace here, even before you know what happens next.’
A lasting memory was noticing my fingers entwined in David’s and on one a new simple gold and diamond wedding band, which we had chosen together in Paris a few months earlier on the inside of which David had secretly organized an engraving with the words ‘amore vincit omnia’. Love conquers all.
You’ve recently launched collaborations with brands such as Penelope Chilvers – what excites you so much about products and where do these collaborations begin?
I used to work with a tribe of smart, hardworking women who came together and created a community and a company called India Hicks inc, and for six years I travelled around America with this direct sales business but the difficulties faced as a young brand proved to be too much to overcome even with the creativity loyalty and unwavering spirit of the beloved women who were our ambassadors and so we thoughtfully wound down the business taking along the gifts of life lived, lessons learned and true friendships made. It took me some time to recover from this, but I was able to reemerge finally and begin a new chapter working with smaller more intimate brands, collaborating on collections of beautiful products from handmade leather goods for Tusting, to hand block printed tabletop linens, for Pomegrante Inc, luxury resort-wear dresses, for Hester Bly and boots and shoes made by artisans in Spain for the indomitable Penelope Chilvers. I was also able to become heavily involved with two philanthropic endeavors as a patron for The Prince’s Trust and sitting on the executive board for Global Empowerment Mission and with whom I have been to Ukraine 3 times since the invasion and although these foundations often highlight the despair of so many, they also bring stories of hope.
Your career has had many chapters – do you have a favourite?
There are many career chapters that have made me stronger and hopefully a little bit wiser, but my role as an adoptive Mum is probably the one that makes me feel most complete, these words say it all:
Not flesh of my flesh,
Nor bone of my bone,
But still, miraculously my own,
Never forget for a single minute
You grew not under my heart but in it.
And what has been the most challenging chapter and why?
Closing my India Hicks Inc business. Humbling to the core.
Finally, you recently visited Australia. What did you make of Australian style?
Both Domino, my 15-year-old assistant and I, fell in love with Australia. It was not my first visit, but it was my first visit in a while. Everyone and everything made us happy. And we admired the Aussie style wherever we went whether it was Paul Bangays breathtaking garden to cruising around the Sydney harbor in the company of Georgie Abay and her Grace Tales crew of stylish accomplished women.
We took home with us so many memories from this trip, but the most profound of all was perhaps seeing wild koalas as we climbed hanging rock, surrounded by countryside stretching away for miles and feeling rather spiritual as we reached the top of this 6-million-year-old rock formation. Thank you, Australia.