Designer India Hicks: ‘The older I get, the more I simplify my wardrobe’

Penelope Chilvers AW23
Riding in the gardens at her mother’s home in Oxfordshire - Penelope Chilvers AW23

One of the most cherished items of clothing that the designer India Hicks owns isn’t in her wardrobe at all. She keeps the taffeta dress that she wore, aged 13, as a bridesmaid to the late Princess Diana at her wedding to the now King Charles, in a sealed Perspex box at her Oxfordshire home.

‘It is framed on the wall, it looks like art,’ says Hicks. ‘A great mate of mine is Hamish Bowles, a [former] editor at American Vogue. He’s always saying that I have to preserve it in special boxes and under certain lights, with extra burglar alarms. I’m a little bit more casual. It’s just a slight 1980s fashion moment, hanging there.’

india hicks
Wearing sculptural gold earrings by La Carlia

It could have been, as Hicks herself points out, ‘hard to get away from’ the influence of that event on her future style. Her mother, Lady Pamela Hicks, served as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth II. Her late father was the decoration doyen David Hicks. She was brought up in what she describes as a ‘sensational and confusing’ fashion juxtaposition – her mum’s poise, owning ‘hundreds of pairs’ of gloves for all occasions, versus her dad’s penchant for pacing around in the Bahamas wearing ‘a leather jacket, open to show this perfect physique and loads of beads. Can you imagine?’

It has all served to influence Hicks’s taste – she can look impossibly polished, but inject any outfit with wit and creativity. Today, she lives between the Bahamas, London and Oxfordshire. Her wardrobe, as such, is divided, or ‘mapped out’, across continents and caters to various roles. ‘The older I get, the more I simplify my wardrobe,’ she says. ‘I have the business city look, the island country life look, the sports look and the travel look.

india hicks
Relaxing after a game of pickleball in the Bahamas
india hicks
In a printed midi-dress by Hester Bly

When I’m going to Ukraine to work for the Global Empowerment Mission, that’s one uniform, or when I’m giving a speech, I make an effort to wear something special.’ If she’s at home in Harbour Island in the Bahamas, an average day will begin with pickleball – the athleisure attire may then linger until lunch. She’ll conduct meetings for her design company from her home office (‘My security blanket is jeans,’ she admits), then throw on a printed dress for dinner at a local beach club.

Overall, her approach day-to-day is casual. ‘I’m a terrible disappointment to my husband,’ she says. ‘He likes to imagine that I might wake up and dress like Grace Kelly, but I don’t.’

india hicks
Working in Ukraine with the Global Empowerment Mission

Hicks married the advertising executive David Flint Wood in 2021, after 26 years together. She commissioned designer Emilia Wickstead to create her bridal gown. “It was the perfect wedding dress for someone who’s a little bit later in life getting married for the first time and thinking what do you wear so that you don’t look ridiculous?” she laughs. “We ended up with a sort of 1950s tea dress in an incredible lace.”

A fashion model in the early 1990s, Hicks has remained a loyal client to brands she discovered in that time. ‘I still love Ralph Lauren’s storytelling. If my budget can stretch, I stretch to Dior for glamour. But often I don’t have much time; I’ve been known to raid the shops at London’s St Pancras station before I get the Eurostar to Paris. Calvin Klein for underwear, LK Bennett…’

india hicks
On the way to dinner in a Nina Morris velvet suit

When it comes to shoes, Hicks says it’s all or nothing. ‘Completely flat, or Eiffel Tower high.’ For the latter, she goes to Christian Louboutin; for the everyday, it’s Penelope Chilvers. Hicks also designs collections for the brand, spanning from suede riding boots to leopard-print ballet pumps. ‘Her riding boots are perfect; I’ll wear them with jeans, or under an evening dress.’

Hicks buys with longevity in mind, but any new arrivals must pass a particular test; the exacting eye of her 15 year old daughter, Domino. “There’s a lot of “just no, mum.” says Hicks.“Normally now I will call and ask her before buying something, which is slightly surprising considering brands hire me as a designer.” There’s nothing like a teenage critic to rattle one’s confidence, we agree.

Four personal style rules

Step away from the skinny jeans

My teenage daughter [Domino] has drummed that into me – now I wear wide-legs, by J Crew and Day Birger et Mikkelsen.

Shop with an eye for quality materials

Even the simplest silhouette can look really expensive in the right fabric.

I will always spend more money on bags and shoes

I don’t buy bags with blaring brand logos on them – I don’t want them to be a statement. I look for timeless quality design.

Have your favourite brands, but stay open to new ones

I like to know what’s going on in fashion. I’ve just discovered TWP, an American label that makes amazing wide-leg trousers and jackets.

India’s UK picks

india hicks
india hicks

Lynx pumps, £169, Penelope Chilvers; Bellmer jacket, £189, LK Bennett; Organic cotton jeans, £220, Toteme, at Net-a-Porter

India’s Bahamas picks

india hicks
india hicks

Maxi dress, £185, Pink City Prints; Iona bag, £68.60, Lalo

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