India Hicks gives Crabtree & Evelyn a taste of Island Living, a bodycare and home collection that debuts this month.
There's an Indian saying: "We sow our karma in the West and we reap our karma in the East." Well, who knows if that's true, but India herself -- that is, India Hicks, granddaughter of the First Earl Mountbatten of Burma, the last viceroy to India --is enjoying a rich harvest from her perch on a dot of island in the Bahamas.
Descended from Queen Victoria, Hicks is 495th in line to succeed to the British throne, so the five-foot-nine beauty -- with wit and charm to burn -- has wisely chosen not to rest on her royal laurels. With two books (Island Beauty and Island Life: Inspirational Interiors), a hotel restoration (The Landing) and several home renovations recently added to her curriculum vitae, Hicks has also just signed on with Crabtree & Evelyn as creative partner to launch Island Living, a 12-piece bodycare and home collection that debuts this month. At first glance, the pairing of the irreverent royal -- with legs up to there -- who jets off to New York for modelling shoots, Paris for Dior couture shows and Miami for highlights, and stolid Crabtree & Evelyn seems a bit, well, ambitious. But on closer inspection, one wonders what took them so long to get together.
The Crabtree & Evelyn attraction
"I think Crabtree & Evelyn was attracted to me because I've chosen a less-ordinary life," says Hicks, looking tanned and athletic over a breakfast of fresh fruit and yogourt at Cricket Pavilion, one of two guest houses she designed on her island property. "The company doesn't follow trends; it's quite eclectic, and so am I. Crabtree & Evelyn has always admired English heritage; that's one reason this dovetailed into a great collaboration. I was given creative control over every aspect -- from fragrances to retail to collateral copy. Very few companies would have allowed me that. It can't just be someone slapping my name on a product."
Although Hicks is a warm and easygoing hostess -- inviting me along to take her two younger sons to school this morning (the eldest, Felix, is at boarding school in England), tour the island and snoop around her property to my heart's content -- when it comes to product development and design, she's as fierce as a lioness protecting her cubs.
"They wanted me to do potpourri and I said, 'Are you sure?' But they really wanted it, so I said, 'Okay, but can we call it something else?' They immediately agreed. I call it Treasure Box: it's a mahogany-stained box that looks like a pirate's chest, with a treasure map of the island of Eleuthera, pebbles scented with casuarina (a fir tree native to the island), some responsibly harvested shells, a key and even a smiling skull and crossbones. It's something a grandmother could buy for her grandson," she says, nodding toward her sons' rooms upstairs, "for smelly little boys." Another source of inspiration was the interior of her island home, as well as illustrations of red coral from books like Albertus Seba's Cabinet of Natural Curiosities, a book that she gave to her partner, David Flint Wood, along with an inscription that reads "May we always be surrounded by natural curiosities, those other than our children."