India Hicks is a woman of many talents. She’s a mother of five, a philanthropist, and runs The Sugar Mill, a successful design and retail business, from her home on Harbour Island on the sun-kissed, pink sand shores of The Bahamas.
The daughter of Lady Pamela Hicks and a second cousin to Prince Charles, the (presumably) next British monarch, she has an aristocratic pedigree when it comes to interior design. Her father was David Hicks, the famous interior designer and decorator noted for his bold ‘60s chic use of color and contemporary art and furniture. Her Grandfather was the British diplomat that turned India (the nation) over to Mahatma Gandhi and independence.
I asked India what the recent lockdown and work-from-home trends had meant to her and her business.
“We have spent a lot more time in our homes over the last couple of years. Perhaps more than we ever had before,” she said. “We have looked at our homes differently as a consequence. While I was in lockdown, I was thinking: ‘What is an easy way to make a home feel more inviting or refreshed without having to tear down walls or employ an interior designer?’ and I came to think about linens – just buying a new tablecloth, napkins, placemats, and table runners, you find your environment is ‘zhuzhed’ very quickly and very inexpensively.”
India partnered with Pomegranate Inc., a woman-owned small business based in Lexington, Kentucky, which has expertise in traditional, artisan hand block-printed fabrics and linens in… India.
“We develop limited collections, so you feel you are buying something beautiful and irresistible,” she said. “Our range of cream and gold linens, which we had carefully designed with the new year in mind, sold like hot cakes. There is nothing more rewarding as a designer than seeing a collection selling well. We now have a new line called ‘Love and Linens’ which launched in time for Valentine’s Day.”
Did the pandemic help or hinder the creative process?
“During the pandemic I found myself spending periods of quarantine in my father’s bedroom in Oxfordshire, England,” India explained. “This room is rather magical and looks out over the garden he planted. Behind glass on a series of shelves down one wall is a patchwork of memories that he collected during his life and from his travels. Letters written to him from his mother, seating plans from dinners, keys to secret places, and black and white photographs of early childhood moments. The room also houses a library of books, boasting small motifs on their spines. I would gaze at these and draw inspiration for future prints and designs. All my designs have themes that anchor back to my life in England or the Bahamas.”
India says the pandemic made us re-evaluate how we live our lives.
“I think eating at home together with your family became important. Prior to the pandemic, too many of us were in the office late, snatching food on the go. But then, working from home, we were brought back to the kitchen or dining room tables. There were fun challenges, I can remember having to plan four different lockdown birthdays and trying to make each one feel special and individual.”
“One of the most precious memories from this time was being back around the table, without our phones, talking and not being distracted by the pace of normal, modern life.”
“Frankly, I’m a shit cook but I always want to make the table look pretty, and it takes so little to really transform it and make it warm and inviting.”
She observes how the way we entertain has changed: “We are lucky to have the space to do dramatic long tables on our terraces but, since COVID, we have found we enjoy smaller, more intimate gatherings. We’ve even started to reintroduce round tables rather than the great long ones we were used to.”
India experienced change in her business too.
“For six years I ran a reasonably big, small business – or maybe a small, big business – headquartered in Los Angeles, shuttling back and forth, with thousands of ambassadors selling our collections. The circumstances changed and we had to make the decision to shut the business, which was heart-breaking because I was learning so much and adored all the women who had empowered me and the company.
“What I’m doing now is really the reverse of that. I’m now lucky to be designing and creating again but this time with small independent businesses, always making sure the messaging is thoughtful and meaningful. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the times we are living through. My partners at Pomegranate are always thinking conscientiously. The little label inside my napkins and tablecloths reads ‘India Hicks happily for Pomegranate’ and it is just that, a very happy partnership.”
And India thinks the pandemic has made people more thoughtful about sustainability and community.
“Living on Harbour Island, there is a real sense of community. We are very dependent on tourism. It provides most of the income for the islanders. With the pandemic, tourism was shut off overnight and local families became concerned, wondering how they were going to support themselves.”
Local businesses, churches, and the police all helped set up a food bank to help locals struggling during the lockdown.
“I was honored to be involved as we fed 3,000 people each weekend,” she said. “It was a real reminder that you can make a difference in your community and that sense of belonging is so valuable.
“I think it’s been especially tough for the younger generation. In fact, one of the reasons I decided the time was finally right to get married after being with David unmarried for 26 years was to bring some normalcy to the kids’ lives, to do something that felt grounding, secure, and traditional after so many topsy-turvy months of lockdowns.”
India has also become an Ambassador for Women Supporting Women, a foundation organized by The Prince’s Trust, founded by Prince Charles in 1976.
“This is a passionate group of successful women entrepreneurs and others who are committed to changing the lives of young women marginalized by society,” she said. “The mission is simple: to provide the right help to nurture, empower, and inspire young women to build brighter futures.”
She’s enthusiastic about the work.
“The Prince’s Trust is an amazing organization. When Prince Charles launched it back in the early seventies – talking and thinking about sustainability and green issues for the first time – he was a visionary, so far ahead of his time, he doesn’t get enough acknowledgement for that. I am honored to be an ambassador for the Trust and doing my small part to help young women get into the workplace.
”The world is in a very strange place,” adds India. “We need to be a lot more patient and a lot more caring and giving with each other. We need to take a deep breath and think about what is truly meaningful.”
Beach Happy made a donation to The Prince’s Trust as part of this article to support the important work they are doing.