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Indagare Design Club Series: An Entertaining Story, with India Hicks

Designer and entrepreneur India Hicks sat down with Indagare CEO and Founder Melissa Biggs Bradley during our Design Club series to talk about her latest projects and design inspirations, island living during Covid and why creating your own unique sense of place (and setting a proper table) still matter.

There is something entirely infectious about the energy of India Hicks that comes through even on Zoom. She has an uncanny ability to command the room, even through a screen. Instantly likable, high-energy, self-deprecating, generous, humorous, India is what someone’s grandmother might have called a “live wire.” She’s capable of filling in both sides of a conversation (if necessary), and she has lots of ideas—and she’s going to tell you about them all, in one sitting, if possible. No doubt she’d make a fabulous dinner partner. In short, like her newest book, An Entertaining Story, India is highly…entertaining. 

This week, the designer and entrepreneur confessed to Indagare’s Design Club, a small group of like-minded travelers in the Indagare community who meet each month with leading designers and tastemakers, that she finds it a little ironic that the book she launched during Covid is about entertaining, a subject that has become taboo: “There was a moment of panic for me and I thought…I’ve launched the book at really the worst time ever….Actually, I found that an awful lot of people were sitting at home and they wanted a moment of escapism…so I was very lucky.” 

It was also a little ironic that, during most of the past 10 months, she found herself at home on Harbour Island in the Bahamas, surrounded by her partner and five children constantly—“I’m really a terrible cook,” she explains. But all of that extra cooking, the messy kitchen, the unpacking and reloading of dishwashers, the unmatched socks and untidy rooms helped inspire her most recent project: This past Sunday she launched India Hicks Home, a lovely micro collection of table linens she designed and is distributing through Kentucky-based company Pomegranate Inc. (available for purchase, here). Designing a tabletop collection during Covid was perhaps just the antidote she needed—an expression of her creative, entrepreneurial side, especially given the shuttering of her lifestyle brand last year. “I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to do a small and limited-run collection of linens that could be hand-blocked in India in partnership with Pomegranate. We’ve done it very limited because I wanted to be considerate of where the world is, and it’s nice to feel that there’s something that’s affordable, and yet it still feels quite special.” 

The collection comprises three styles of table linens (napkins, placemats and runners) that can be combined together. For the first run she wanted to keep it simple, with just two color schemes of chocolate brown and carnation red. She designed it, she explains, “to be mixed and mingled haphazardly on the table, because I felt that was kind of how we were eating as a family during this time of Covid—we’re all very different kinds of characters and we do all mix and mingle rather haphazardly around the table, so I wanted a collection that didn’t feel precious.” 

The designs themselves are also personal, in part inspired by her walks to the beach and the sea with her 13-year-old daughter Domino (“Sea Ferns & Domino”). Another, “Carnations,” incorporates a bold red floral print drawn from her father (and interior designer) David Hicks’s graphic carnation design—which was inspired by the flower his father wore in his buttonhole daily. The third, “Palm Avenue,” incorporates the avenue of trees her longtime partner, David Flint Wood, planted when they first moved into their house 25 years ago. “The majestic avenue of palm trees shows our family’s history, and we do entertain down there quite a lot.” 

When it comes to entertaining, India is something of an expert, as one might expect—as the daughter of David Hicks and Lady Pamela Hicks and the goddaughter of Prince Charles (she was part of the wedding party when he married Diana, Princess of Wales). During the Indagare Design Club’s intimate virtual gathering, we asked her to share her philosophy about entertaining and a few of her tips and tricks to bring a dose of style home during Covid. Here are her answers:

India’s entertaining-style philosophy: 

“The way I entertain is intimate and haphazard and slightly unpolished. I like to make people feel comfortable and relaxed and I love ‘informal,’ but I still love a sense of drama. But in that, make everybody feel relaxed—so maybe the menu actually is chicken pot pie—that might be exactly what’s needed in an evening where you’ve got a very mixed group of people.” 

Change your surroundings—even when you can’t.

“Find an unusual place to entertain. It may not be at the end of a dock on a tropical island, but even during lockdown I found that there were ways to set an unusual table or find an unusual spot within our bubble. It may be that you’ve always sat around your kitchen table—but it might be fun to actually move that kitchen table to a different area of your house… or find a new place to set up a cocktail scene….for our own peace of mind—just shake it up a little bit.”

A platter can be everything.

“I always say lay a pretty platter, because it’s just so easy—it’s such a good cheat…. You can just quickly put a plate together. I also say, my God, nowadays, we all have these appalling diets—there is always someone who can’t eat something….so there must be something on that plate that even someone with a weird, weird dietary restriction can eat!”

Use what you have.

“I get bored of my own tabletop. So sometimes I use whatever is to hand. I like to change it up as much as possible. One time, I just went to the kitchen to see whatever we had. And there was a whole lot of asparagus that Claire was going to use for dinner that night. And, unfortunately for Claire, the asparagus soup had to be changed, because I said, ‘Oh my God, they’re brilliant on the table.’ I put them into jam jars….”

Related: Indagare Global Conversations Podcast Episode 1.01: India Hicks

Go with it—adapt!

“In the time of Covid, do we worry if the table runner goes over the edge right? I don’t even know what’s right or wrong, I really wouldn’t know. If it looks good to you and feels good to you go for it, that is just fine.”

Baby’s breath may in fact be the answer.

“There’s sort of another extreme kind of not setting the table, but doing it quickly with Gypsophila—you call it baby’s breath—a whisper of baby’s breath. I love it because it normally comes when you get this nasty old bouquet of flowers and you’ve got the roses, with a horrible Gypsophila as the filler, because the florist wants to cheat and not put all the roses in there, but actually it’s kind of amazing on its own, and when it dries down I love it, too.”

Will there be wedding bells in the spring?

“I’m feeling a bit more anchored I think in this time [of Covid]…You know lots of people say, why did you decide to get married after 25 years of not being married? I felt there was so much uncertainty and actually the one thing that might make my own small, tiny family unit feel a bit more anchored was doing something incredibly traditional—like getting married—and so it just suddenly felt like the right thing to do. David likes to say he hasn’t even accepted yet. We did actually set a date and, of course, England went into another lockdown…I really did want to get married in the church where my father is buried, and where I was christened, and where my mother lives next door, and it wouldn’t feel right to do it here without her. So we’ll wait a little longer. The problem is, of course, I’m an organizer—I’m a Virgo, so I had a beautiful, beautiful winter dress—and now I’m going to be sweltering in it.”

Is there any silver lining of Covid?

“I think we’re probably a little bit more nimble and agile in our thinking. All of us can remember those early days in Milan…. You remember the guy clinking his glass in the mirror and people singing in the street…. And then Covid slowly spread over the world. It was all so extraordinary to see how as humans, we adapted—and we need to adapt more. Maybe it’s just given us all a moment to pause and take stock…. We still want to travel and we still want to explore the world and we still want to understand other nations and other ways of living, but maybe we need to calm down a little bit more.” 

To learn more about India Hicks’s collection go to indiahicks.com or follow her on Instagram at @indiahicksstyle.

Related: Indagare Global Conversations Talk with Melissa Biggs Bradley and India Hicks

For more information or to join our Indagare Clubs on Design, Fashion, Contemporary Art, History, Wellness and Cocktails, go to travel.indagare.com/clubs

– Jen Barr on February 11, 2021

Quotable

The way I entertain is intimate and haphazard and slightly unpolished. I like to make people feel comfortable and relaxed and I love ‘informal,’ but I still love a sense of drama.

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