Designer and lifestyle entrepreneur India Hicks.
A field guide to living quite an extraordinary life
Hurrying along Goethe Street toward PUBLIC Hotel, I was more nervous than I can ever remember feeling before an interview. I’d been nervous before—mostly when sitting down with one of fashion’s marquee names.
Vera Wang was gracious and fun, and we established right away that I had assisted one of her best friends from her Vogue days and gushed for quite a while about this wonderful woman we knew in common. Michael Kors was cranky once and witty once. Manolo Blahnik loved that I was a collector of his work and wanted to send me (alligator) shoes until his business partner George Malkemus put a stop to it. The late Oscar de la Renta was handsome and incredibly intelligent.
So why was I experiencing butterflies as I walked to meet with India Hicks on a chilly Tuesday morning? Because she is the only designer who opened up her business to me and other women who dream of entrepreneurship, love luxury and are trying to balance the joy of family with the thrill that comes from a job well done.
By launching India Hicks London – Harbour Island as a direct sales business rather than wholesaling to luxury retailers, India in effect created a whole new category. Her bags, beauty and accessories are crafted with the highest attention to detail in partnership with some of the best workshops and factories in the world. What sets each item apart is that India is a storyteller — these leather goods and fragrances tell the story of her life. “Ambassadors” absorb the stories and share them at “Get Togethers,” where the emphasis is on fun and friendship, no hard selling allowed.
Sampling one of India’s fragrances.
We settled in next to a cozy fire to chat about being back in Chicago 14 months after launching, lessons learned along the way and how to handle airport security stress. I needn’t have been nervous; this is a woman whose graciousness is as wonderful as her exquisite senses of proportion and color.
“When we were here before, it was February, and it was freezing,” India says as we commiserate over the cold April morning and give thanks for the fire. Alessandra Branca hosted a beautiful Get Together for friends and fellow designers to shop the collection. “Alessandra is a friend from Harbour Island. She is so enthusiastic and family-minded,” India says. So many people have asked (read: begged) over the past year for her to return, and she obliged, packing more into 24 hours than most people do into a week.
Enthusiastic and family-minded certainly sums up the crowd of nearly 150 who descend on Galleria Marchetti later that evening. Many adorned in their India Hicks scarves and carrying the most beautiful handbags, to which they have attached multiple Agra Tassels, an IH signature.
Friends and fans gather around India Hicks at Galleria Marchetti, April 26, 2016
Several of the Ambassadors around the room have achieved incredible success in under a year, earning multiple promotions and putting together teams of 100 people who have been swept up in the wonderful idea of having something of their own at a time when they give so much to so many. “These are strong women who are unbelievably confident,” India says, “and with a fresh, new company like this, it’s exciting. We are building a powerful community of women.”
The group is 90% women, which is how India prefers it, although men are welcome, of course. As a mother of five, though, and a woman who leads a company, writes books, designs homes and hotels, gives keynote speeches and more, she understands that modern life is amazing, but finding balance is challenging and offers, “It’s really hard to have it all, but this is a stepping stone.”
India goes on to articulate beautifully what many people feel, but fewer people say: “Women are very good daughters, very good mothers, very good wives and partners. If we can do all that, we can jump in and do this.” She herself fills all of these roles and more. Her trip to Chicago and back to the Bahamas is so quick that while walking through the airport upon landing, a notification came through that check-in was available for the return flight. This is so she will be back with her youngest, daughter Domino, and partner David Flint Wood as quickly as possible. She is also close with her mother, Lady Pamela Hicks, who has had “a front row seat to history.” India says, “I’m very close to her. We share the same sense of humor. She is a brilliant comedic raconteur — her timing is perfect.” It would certainly be possible for her to enjoy life telling wonderful stories of the past, but India says that’s not the case at all. “She has always moved forward with the times, she’s never taken anything for granted, which is extraordinary given the privilege into which she born.” India adds that her mother is always gracious and when she herself finds a situation like an airport security line frustrating, she will often ask herself, “What would my mother do?” in order to remain calm and endure.
The Lady P Bag, named for India’s mother, Lady Pamela Hicks.
A few days after we meet, India debuts her Lady P and Beyond collection, which includes the most wonderful handbag inspired by Lady Pamela. It’s just structured enough to recall the proper bags India recalls her mother going about London with in the 1970s, but with a long strap that allows for modern cool girl crossbody wear. On its own, it’s terrific, but with the romantic backstory, it becomes a must-have-in-all-three-colors.
That’s the magic India Hicks touch —an incredible item, with an authentic story that you may learn from a friend or tell to your own circles of influence. The experience is so much deeper than plucking a mass release bag off a shelf and searching for someone to ring up the sale. It’s the new sharing economy.
India and her most successful Chicago Ambassadors toast to the success of the past year and a very bright future.
Feeling inspired? Your Ambassador, including myself, would be delighted to help you plan a Get Together, or learn more about launching your own India Hicks business. Find me at indiahicks.com/rep/Hinsdale or search for someone close to you.
India Hicks Inc.