On Tuesday April 22, the home décor lifestyle brand that is India Hicks made a whirlwind tour of media appearances in Toronto that culminated into an early evening talk at the Design Exchange to discuss her perspective on the impact her father, famed British interior designer David Hicks, had on the world of design.
Ever since the former Ralph Lauren model hightailed it to the Bahamas in the late 1990s, Prince Charles’s goddaughter (who was also a bridesmaid at his wedding to Princess Diana) has been packaging and repackaging her “Island Living” brand as a Crabtree & Evelyn fragrance line, a jewelry line that was deemed one of Oprah’s Favorite Things and is now sold in Holt Renfrew, and a recently launched HSN.com bedding and décor line.
So it came as no surprise that the conversation in front of the packed audience delved into how his bold, colors-clashing home interiors — which came to define the height of ’60s chic for the fashionable aristocratic jet set — influences her own rapidly growing design empire.
Here’s a digest of the 45-minute talk of the anecdotes that Hicks shared regarding her father’s design, and its influence on her own work:
The famed purple walls in Helena Rubenstein’s apartment was inspired by the lining of a favorite Balenciaga dress.
On her father’s pivotal 1961 commission to design the Knightsbridge residence of Polish beauty empress Helena Rubenstein, Hicks noted how the famed living room’s purple tweed walls came from an unlikely inspiration: “When my father and Helena met for the first time, they were discussing what the colors of the walls should be. She lifted up her skirt, revealed the purple lining, and said, ‘this will be the color,’ and clipped out the silk lining for him.” (The dress turned out to be a Balenciaga.)
He invented the phrase “tablescape.”
“Tablescapes were enormously important to my father’s work,” said Hicks. “He would arrange everything, everywhere, into tablescapes. . . he organized everything by color, and content from old to new.” (She later acknowledged how she has incorporated tablescaping into her own work, albeit as “unusually disorganized” interpretations that her father would “not approve” of.)
Her “Love Letter” fine jewelry collection was inspired by her father’s geometric writing paper.
While everything that David Hicks was his own, the famous “H” logo wasn’t — according to his daughter’s account, it was the work of an intern at one of his London offices who was playing around with the letter “H”. That geometric “H” logo became a key brand signifier for Hicks’ empire, popping up on ties, umbrellas, slippers and even briefcases. (Clearly, Tory Burch’s double “T” medallion as well as even Coach’s crossed “C” owes a great debt to it.)
“Of course, when I came to do my own jewelry collection, I was told that in the world of jewelry, there were three things that were really important: they were crosses, they were hearts, and there was the alphabet,” recounts Hicks. “Well, I knew I couldn’t redesign the cross, and I’m certainly not a heart kind of person, and I thought, ‘how can you make the alphabet your own?’” It was in rediscovering the above piece of writing paper her father did that then inspired the jewelry line.
His aristocratic clientele didn’t buy furniture — they inherited it.
One of Hicks’s favorite commissions was designing Baronscourt, the Duke of Abercorn’s main house, in the 1970s. The designer took great pleasure in re-arranging the Duke’s possessions in his vast rooms, and according to an anecdote shared by India Hicks, the Duke of Abercorn was once appalled when he learned that the family of a enarby stately home actually bought their furniture: “why do you buy your furniture? You inherit your furniture.”
She works with a muted color palette, but, like her father, likes to sneak in a “shock of colour.”
During the talk's Q&A, an audience member asked if Hicks ever rebelled against her father's design in establishing her brand's own aesthetic. While Hicks joked that she rebelled against her mother’s bouffant hair (a style that she mentioned was dictated by her father), and confessed that the years spent eating breakfast every morning surrounded intense purple, pink and puce walls may have inspired her own muted palette, she notes that “you’ll see images of my home that have shocks of color. I think you can build more from a less emotional color scheme.”