Chapters In My Life: India Hicks

Chapters In My Life: India Hicks

Designer and philanthropist India Hicks was born into an extraordinary family – her mother, Lady Pamela Hicks, was a lady-in-waiting to the Queen and her grandfather was the late Lord Mountbatten. More than two decades ago, she set up home in the Bahamas with her partner David Flint Wood, with whom she shares five children. Last year, they finally tied the knot – something, she says, has fundamentally changed her outlook on life, both personally and professionally. Here, she shares with us some of the key moments in her life…
By Harriet Russell /

Chapter One: Growing Up In The Shadow Of The Crown

“My mother’s life has very much been in the shadow of her very famous parents and the great leaders she was around. It suited her, as she never wanted to be the star of the show. My father was definitely the exciting one, but he was quite difficult to live with and was always coming up with mad-cap ideas. For instance, he never wanted to wear a proper riding hat when he was on a horse, it had to be a bowler hat instead. I had a very privileged upbringing in a way – but this idea of the Royal ‘shadow’ never felt like it cast over my own life as much as it probably did my mother’s.
 
“If we are going to talk about ‘shadows’, then I guess a few things spring to mind: first, my father was very good at spending money, which led to us having to sell our house. My grandfather [Lord Mountbatten] was also murdered by the IRA, and that was another very traumatic time. It should hardly come as a surprise that my bond with my mother is very strong – we share the same temperament and the same passions, one being that we’re both obsessed with dachshunds. Our lives are probably quite different – she’s very calm and quiet – but we’re much more than mother and daughter, we’re also good friends.”

Chapter Two: Going To Boarding School & On To Boston

“My experience at [Scottish boarding school] Gordonstoun was very formative. I really took to it – people say it can be a tough environment, but I fully subscribed to the philosophy of the school’s founder Kurt Hahn. The school’s motto. Plus est en vous (There is more in you), pretty much sums up my experience there. It was all about self-discovery and the approach was very much no-nonsense. Believe me, there was no chance of being a Snowflake at Gordonstoun. In fact, living on the edge of a cliff in Scotland without much to rely on except for some life-saving skills is probably what prepared me for island life later on.
 
“After school, I went to study photography in the States, in Boston. It gave me the creative outlet I’d been looking for (I’d previously been afraid to pursue anything too arty, given what my father and brother [Ashely Hicks] did for a living), but I ended up on the other side of the camera as a model. I was never a supermodel or big fashion star, but I enjoyed it. It felt wonderful to be so independent and earning my own income – I was very lucky I never had a #MeToo moment. I also got to work with some of the best photographers and hair and make-up artists of that time – it was an enormous privilege.”

Chapter Three: Settling Down With David 

“David [Flint Wood] and I have actually known each other since I was 11 (he’s six years older than me) and, while we’ve been together for 26 years, we only got married this year. During my modelling years we weren’t in touch – he was dating a ballerina and I was going out with a Greek. But after a few years living in Paris (a bit lonely) and New York (very chaotic), a dramatic trip to New Zealand prompted me to go and stay in the Bahamas to try and rebalance myself a bit. I drove up to Harbour Island, where David was also at the time, and four months later I was pregnant. You could say it was a bit of a whirlwind. 
 
“Nothing in my life has ever been planned out. I’ve always valued my independence but, when I fell pregnant, I felt David and I should set up a home together, get a dog and the baby should take his name. Five children later, here we are.”

Chapter Four: Moving To The Bahamas

“When we decided to build a life on Harbour Island in the Bahamas, it was completely unheard of to move there full-time if it wasn't somewhere you'd been born – it was somewhere you came for a holiday. It was unfathomable that you’d be able to do things like give birth here – there wasn’t even a local dentist or doctor. They still ask you not to give birth here, actually, as they prefer you to go to the mainland. Life here is very luxurious in many ways, but there are frustrations that come with it. We have a three-month-long hurricane season and sometimes the freight boat won’t show up for three days. 
 
“That said, moving here helped me feel like my own person – away from my extraordinary background. It was a relief to find no one knew me here. After modelling, it was also refreshing to see a different concept of beauty, too. Voluptuous curves are desirable – not the skinny look we all covet in the fashion world. Together with David, we’ve managed to develop a life here that’s quite unusual.”

I had a very privileged upbringing in a way – but this idea of the Royal ‘shadow’ never felt like it cast over my own life as much as it probably did my mother’s.

Chapter Five: Starting A Business

“The businesses I’ve started or projects I’ve pursued have all been very organic – nothing was ever rigidly thought out or planned. When we moved here, we invested in and ended up remodelling a hotel, which led to writing several books on design, all of which had a consistent message around the lifestyle we live and breathe. It felt quite pioneering at the time, and I’ve loved being able to document all our experiences along the way. 
 
“I’m no stranger to failure, though. My own venture, India Hicks Inc, was called ‘a little big business’ or ‘a big little business’ at the time – at its height it turned over more than $10m a year. We sold jewellery, handbags, perfumes, beauty products – and then it all fell apart. I’d worked very hard, but the truth was everything grew too fast – now I’m much more interested in smaller and more meaningful ventures. My tie-up with British family business Tusting, for example, is all about products which are made in England using traditional craftspeople and skills. It feels much more authentic and sustainable – these are pieces which are made to order, so there’s minimal waste, and they’re designed to last a lifetime. I’ve loved being involved in design again – my tabletop collection, India Hicks x Pomegranate, has also given me another creative outlet. I’m looking forward to promoting the brand more now we can travel and do press again.
 
“A hurricane also devastated a couple of the islands either side of us a few years back, so I’ve been heavily involved in disaster relief agencies and organisations like the Global Empowerment Mission. My philanthropic work has become a much more central part of my life, and I’m involved in the Prince’s Trust, too.” 

Chapter Six: Adding To The Family 

“Each of my five children is very different. We have four boys (Felix, Wesley, Amory and Conrad) and a girl (Domino). Wesley, who I always describe as my second eldest (when in fact he’s the eldest), has been a part of our family since he was around two years old. He was at school with my son Felix and they were great friends, so he was always at our house. He was such a fixture – he spent many a Christmas with us and joined us on trips to England and the US when I gave birth to Domino.
 
“Then, when he was 11, his mother died from breast cancer. It was devastating, but it was a very natural decision to make him a permanent member of our family. That said, I made a number of mistakes at the time – no one gives you a fostering textbook to tell you how to do it right. I thought he would need space, so I put him in our guest room downstairs. Then, Conrad, who was only six or seven at the time, said, “Don’t do that, it makes him feel like a guest.” It was so profound. Because Felix was away at boarding school at the time, we decided Wes could sleep in his room. Even so, he refused to sleep in Felix’s bed, preferring instead to sleep on a camp bed on the floor. He stayed there – even when Felix came home – for about five years. Every time I offered to give him his own room, he said no. In Felix’s room is where he felt the most secure. 
 
“It never occurred to us that Wesley was different in any way but, since the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s become a more conscious issue. In some ways, having him as part of our family has given me a better insight into these societal problems. When Amory and Wesley used to travel to the US, for example, it was always Wesley who was taken to one side, and Amory was let straight through. He would sit and wait for his brother to come out of the interview and always told us how agonising it was. After a while, we recommended Wes start dressing differently – travelling in chinos and a blazer as opposed to jeans and a hoodie seemed to help, if you can believe it. It’s appalling when you think about it.” 

DAVIDLOFTUS | @WESLEY_THECREATOR
@SUMMERDOLLY007
DAVIDLOFTUS | @WESLEY_THECREATOR
I’m 54 now but it’s exhilarating to still have so much to be excited about in life – even in these middle years.

Chapter Seven: Surviving The Pandemic

“We’ve never felt more remote than during the pandemic. Harbour Island is a tiny speck of land, and it was completely closed off. Even my best friend, who’s also my business partner, usually takes a seven-minute ferry ride from the mainland to come to work every day. But even that couldn’t happen and people started to panic about food. It’s one of the reasons we decided to set up a food bank, which I’m pleased to say has been very successful. 
 
“I’ve also never been separated from my mother for that long, even though I knew she was safe. That said, we were some of the lucky ones who didn’t lose a business or loved ones, and we had plenty of space to be able to hunker down and not go mad. It probably played hugely into mine and David’s decision to get married. In our minds, we’ve been more married than most for 26 years, but Covid was a strange time and we all – the children included – felt the future was so uncertain. We needed to do something that would anchor all of us together, so I suggested to David we get married – he was pretty stunned after I’d turned him down all those years ago. I admit I did wonder if getting married might unsettle our relationship, but it’s had the opposite effect. The vows – which we said in a church – felt very spiritual and binding. It really brought the idea of commitment home to me. I love being able to say ‘my husband’ now – there’s no confusion anymore!”

Chapter Eight: The Next Chapter

“I’m 54 now but it’s exhilarating to still have so much to be excited about in life – even in these middle years. Anyone can create that excitement for themselves. We all have our own challenges but it's important to remember everything is in your hands. Developing new projects, thinking about new avenues – it’s all thrilling. I’m looking forward to a very full life.”
 
Follow @IndiaHicksStyle on Instagram. Find out more about India’s philanthropic work at Princes-Trust.Enthuse.com.

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