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India Hicks Island Heir

Words by Juliet Austin

Once upon a time, on a faraway island surrounded by the sparkling Caribbean Sea, there lived a princess blessed with three gifts: jaw-dropping beauty, business savvy galore and a kickass determination to be true to herself no matter what.

Fall 2010 Images_Page_42_Image_0002Far-fetched? Perhaps. But given India Hicks’ impressive British pedigree – heir to the British throne, granddaughter of the deeply respected last Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten, goddaughter to Prince Charles and daughter of iconic interior designer, David Hicks – and her well-publicised escape from the rat race to a life of idyllic seclusion on Harbour Island in The Bahamas, it may hold more than a glimmer of truth.

Royally blessed, for the better part of a decade India Hicks was muse to the creative genius of Ralph Lauren and her picture perfect looks graced front covers of magazines from Elle to Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Her books, Island Life: Inspirational Interiors and Island Beauty, testify to a keen sense of style, while her latest stint hosting Bravo’s reality design series Top Design is proof in the pudding that the India Hicks brand is on fire. So, why stop there? Hotelier, boutique owner, and most recently Creative Partner for Crabtree & Evelyn, India Hicks has become, it would seem, an unwitting lifestyle guru. With her unabashed, ‘hands on’ approach, the aristocratic mother-of-four insists on blazing her own uncompromising trail rather than resting on the laurels of any proverbial silver spoon: “I’ve chosen,” she states, “a less ordinary life.” Less ordinary, perhaps, but authentic to the core.

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Guided purely by instinct, Hibiscus Hill, Hicks’ plantation style home which she renovated with her partner, David Flint Wood, reinvigorates the beach house vibe: sepia walls bask in luminous Caribbean light while windows and doors are cast open, taking in the “strident, muscular colour” of the tropics. “It’s good to come indoors and rest your eyes,” she says, by way of explanation.

Fall 2010 Images_Page_42_Image_0002Inside, formal detailing combines with the casually classic and the deeply personal: a Victorian dining table encircled by chairs from New Orleans; a whitewashed antique chair with bold fuchsia upholstery; vintage fabrics cheek by jowl with thrift shop knickknacks and a Lord Mountbatten tester bed that, “carries personal history in its title.” The stuff of Robert Louis Stevenson – a smattering of straw sunhats on a ledge strike an artful pose; Olympia (the dog) plays with Batman (the cat) watched over by Jenga, (the parrot) who looks on, unbemused; a printer’s tray filled with treasures from the sea graces the guesthouse while an ever-evolving exhibition of family photographs spreads organically across a wall, compounding the effortless chic of a design aficionado who is clearly enjoying living life on her terms. “I choose not to spend my life organising the Hunt Ball or dazzling my ‘husband’s’ investment banking clients with my wardrobe and encyclopaedic knowledge of the hostesses of New York,” she asserts.

“Who wouldn’t want to… in some way feel they had been dropped into an Ernest Hemmingway novel or expect Johnny Depp to come crashing though the window?”

Fall 2010 Images_Page_45_Image_0001In fact, one look at her trademark ‘tablescapes’ tells you everything you need to know about India Hicks’ infectious appeal. Once a signature of her late father’s, her intriguing tabletop collections of complementary objects showcase a deeply personal, graphic quality. Adventurous and open-minded, her classic European sensibility anchors a design ethic informed by Asian, African and Caribbean influences. “Growing up with David Hicks as my father meant that almost every day was an education of one’s eye. [Many] of his traits appear in my homes, perhaps more tempered, but nonetheless inherited.”

What is more, the barefoot beauty also displays quite the eye for business. Capitalising on living the dream, Hicks essentially markets herself, offering through her signature award-winning collections, Crabtree & Evelyn’s Island Living and Island Night, the chance to be – in some infinitesimal way – connected to a lifestyle of sunshine, salty sea air and happy children.

Fall 2010 Images_Page_45_Image_0002With painstaking attention to detail, scents, soaps, lotions and potions evoke the fresh air and freedom of island life and, true to form, come full of nature’s goodness and free of “nasties.” Even the environmentally responsible packaging is inventively beyond the box: an elegant black glass decanter inspired by an antique of her grandmother’s, handmade rattan containers and reusable natural-weave bags – not to mention the brass clasped wooden holder inspired by her great-grandfather’s duelling case. Through her designs, Hicks cleverly captures the ethereal Caribbean experience that speaks to fantasy, sensuality and escapism. “Everyone loves a good story,” she explains. “Design is in many ways like theatre. Through all types of imagery, we tell stories… we are all looking for Neverland.”

As such, albeit by osmosis from a childhood spent observing her father’s visionary brilliance or by virtue of innate natural gift, Hicks’ well-honed eye invokes the sensibilities of a master storyteller. Her displays at The Sugar Mill – the Harbour Island boutique that she co-owns with Linda Griffin – buzz with an eclectic array of “carefully curated collections” discovered on her world travels from must-haves found at Haute Couture shows in Paris to flea market finds unearthed on the streets of Rio de Janeiro.

Fall 2010 Images_Page_44_Image_0001Recently lending her Midas touch to the transformation of The Landing – an eighteenth century island inn turned swanky, boutique hotel – Hicks embraced natural island wisdom in historic context. Guest accommodations boast mahogany stained four-poster beds, sumptuous Ralph Lauren linens and Indian cotton accents. Waxed hardwood floors, seagrass matting, cosy sofas and wide verandahs, featuring Adirondack chairs poised for the sun to set on another day in paradise, combine to create a dream of a place. According to Hicks: “Who wouldn’t want to… in some way feel they had been dropped into an Ernest Hemmingway novel or expect Johnny Depp to come crashing though the window?”Point taken.

Call it like you see it: Hicks has hit the nail on the head. Her wild success is founded upon the unshakable premise that we all dream the Caribbean dream – the difference is, she has made it her reality. Purveyor of dreams, custodian of Caribbean chic, the time has drawn nigh to crown India Hicks the incontrovertible island heir.

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