FQ Living

Island Girl

by Ellen Himelfarb photography by Struan

For fashion designer and model India Hicks, there are few places more luxurious than the home of her late father, famous British designer David Hicks. Her Caribbean oasis is the inspiration behind a new beauty line.

When does reality start to seem like a dream? When your father designs a modern dream home on a Caribbean island for family retreats? When you meet a dreamy man on that island and have three beautiful blond boys by him? When, pushing 40, you’re blessed with another pregnancy? When you live on not just one stunning island estate, but also have another for special occasions? When you’re asked by one of the world’s most prestigious cosmetics companies to develop a line for them inspired by your fabulous island lifestyle?

The reality of India Hicks is all of these, and yet I could keep going on. There is, for instance, her remarkable pedigree: she was born into an esteemed family — her mother is an aristocrat, daughter of Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India (where our heroine got her name); her father was the avant-garde British designer David Hicks; and she was a bridesmaid at the 1981 wedding of her godfather, the Prince of Wales, to Princess Diana. There is her natural radiance: more than two decades ago she was scouted by a journalist at W magazine for an article on “new British beauties,” which led to a long spell modelling for Ralph Lauren. And there is her social standing: she has always been a darling of the British media, photographed at events highbrow and lowbrow, always with a drop-dead-gorgeous gown that makes the most of her not-a-dayover- 30 figure.

But when Hicks makes the transition to her home in the Bahamas, which she is able to do rather effortlessly, she doffs her heels, pulls on her caftan and loses the bra. She has written two books depicting her photogenic island life and those photogenic, gravity-defying curves: Island Life: Inspirational Interiors and Island Beauty. So it was no big surprise when she was enlisted by Crabtree & Evelyn to coproduce a line of body and home products — called, appropriately, India Hicks Island Living. Another dream come true or just another day in the life of India Hicks? More like a little bit of both. When Hicks agreed to this interview, she was seven months into that fourth pregnancy, yet she was also on a whistle-stop tour of the western world (London for Fashion Week, New York for meetings with Crabtree, then home to the Bahamas to touch base with her three sons who were on their school break) — and still doing her morning run, to boot. It seems that no matter where in the world India Hicks is, she remains a creature of habit. “I follow a few basic rules that are important to me,” she says to me over the phone from the Crabtree offices in Connecticut. “Sleep, water and,wherever I am, I make the time for that daily run.”

The Island Living line encompasses that attitude. It was focus-grouped with the ladies she power-lunches with, fashionable Londoners and European royalty — women who work hard even though they don’t need to (“I’m always on the go, but then I choose to be,” Hicks tells me), but for whom workaholism is anathema. In her own words: “I think it’s for the ‘me’s — if you’re a working mum between 30 and 50, you earn your own income, you travel, you’re educated.” And as an aside: “It’s very good because Bergdorf took it.”

Clearly a great deal of Hicks’s time is spent 30,000 feet in the air. But she insists she feels most herself when living her island life. “I’m a free spirit. I love to work, so I need to be in cities, but I feel most comfortable and most at home on the island,” she says. “I’m very blessed that I’m able to come in and out of the life that I left behind in London. I change my wardrobe when I change gears: I’ll be in black suede high-heeled boots and a city handbag, and then…barefoot.”

And pregnant, as it were. But “barefoot and pregnant” for Hicks means something very different from the cliché. In her case, it is a desirable state, more so, in fact, than the one she ceased to inhabit in London. Who wouldn’t want to do barefoot and pregnant à la India Hicks, even with the bloating and the fatigue and the morning sickness? Take, for example, one day in the life of India Hicks. “When I’m on the island,” she says, “my day begins with being woken up by a rather rude macaw. The school run involves a golf cart and I’ll be wearing my pyjamas, and the only obstacle will be a cockerel.” Hibiscus Hill, the island home Hicks shares with her partner, David Flint Wood, and their children — Felix, Amory and Conrad — is a grand affair with an enforced aesthetic of homey casualness, where whitewashed antiques are thrown together in a spirit of ordered chaos. Ditto the family photographs, arranged onto picture rails and so many that they overlap almost entirely. “My father would be appalled that we have photographs on our walls,” she says. “He’d say it was the most common thing we could do.”

By contrast, her father’s house, Windermere, located off the island of Eleuthera, takes itself a tad more seriously. Since the celebrated designer’s death, Windermere has served as his daughter’s home away from home — or, more appropriately, an escape from the escape that is Hicks’s fabulous existence. It is where her family goes during the aforementioned school breaks, and where Hicks poses so proudly on these pages. Windermere was built in 1967, the year she was born — a brutalist Modernist take on an ancient Egyptian mausoleum. And while it might have struck some, at the time it was being built, as a rather arrogant endeavour for a non-native Bahamian on one of the country’s least developed enclaves, today Windermere is having the last laugh. “What is so remarkable about the house is that we haven’t had to change anything,” says Hicks. She then concedes that she did, in fact, redecorate the interior a couple of years ago. She maintains, however, that “architecturally, it has stood the test of time, that it is the best hurricane shelter you could hope to have.” The exterior’s tarnished grey is really concrete rendered with the pink sand of the beach (“The house has earned that weathered look, like the wrinkles on our faces,” says Hicks); it is imposing, but the interior is all light, air and island colours.

You won’t find another home this side of Miami that mixes Perspex and the pop art of Bruce Tippett with 18th-century balustrades rescued from old Bahamian settlements facing the wrecking ball. Chairs are the colour of sorbet, upholsteries unmistakably modern, and yet there is no TV and, until recently, there was no telephone either. Entertainment comes in the form of crab hunting and “endless games of Monopoly.” Notes Hicks: “The island is very different from [Hibiscus Hill]. There’s a real Robinson Crusoe feel — no shops, no community.”

Thus it was from Windermere and not her everyday home that Hicks sought inspiration for her Island Living line. “When it came to the development, I had two influences — I grew up with casuarina trees all around, and I walked past the spider lilies while going down to the beach every day.” Casuarina and spider lilies are what Island Living — capital i, capital l — is all about.

Lilies and tropical forest, macaws and golf carts. Rooms awash in colour, light, laughter and beautiful children. Royalty and parties. Bare feet and bare breasts. Somebody pinch me. On second thought, please don’t.

Built in 1967 and restored in 2002, Windermere’s tarnished grey exterior is actually concrete rendered with the pink sand of the beach. "It’s earned that weathered look, like the wrinkles on our faces," says India Hicks. The home's interior boasts natural light and sorbet-like island colours. It’s filled with art from the likes of Bruce Tippett, who was commissioned by India’s father, David Hicks, to paint some of the pieces especially for the house.

Copyright© 2007 FQ Living (FQ Holiday 2007)