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Designer India Hicks: Celebrating, and escaping, a father’s legacy

Designer India Hicks.

Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

Among India Hicks's many claims to fame – bridesmaid to Princess Di, very distant successor to the British throne, host of Top Design – none continues to define her as much as her parentage. Her full title might as well be India Hicks, daughter of famed British interior designer David Hicks.

Her father's style of mixing bold colours and patterns, and blending modern and antique pieces, established him as one of the most renowned interior decorators of his time before his death in 1998, with a client list that included Vidal Sassoon and the Prince of Wales.

India Hicks hasn't followed exactly in her father's footsteps. She began modelling in her teens, graduated from the New England School of Photography in her early 20s and went on to be everything from fragrance creator to published author.

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Next Tuesday, Hicks will be at the Design Exchange in Toronto to discuss her perspective on design and how her father has influenced her work. The Globe reached her at her home in the Bahamas.

Your talk at the Design Exchange is going to focus in part on your father's influence. Was it difficult to step out from that shadow?

For so long people said to me, 'Are you inspired by your father?' and I adamantly said 'No, no, no. I'm creating my own life and I'm an individual. He has no inspiration on me whatsoever.' And then I began to realize that actually, if I really looked closely, an awful lot of what I do comes from his extraordinary eye and having grown up under his imposing ideas of design.

What was it like growing up with a famous designer as a father?

Everything was designed around us. I grew up knowing you would never sit on the comfy, pouffed-up sofa because that would ruin the look of it. You would always just sit in the hard chair. But I must say that even though we grew up in these extraordinary design laboratories, they did feel like a home. And I think that what is remarkable about my father's work is that today you see so many designers designing homes that look like they've been designed. There's a very fine balance between something that feels like the client's own home and it having the stamp of the designer all over it, and my father was very good at that.

How would you define your design sensibility?

Fairly simply. I love details, but I'm practical at the same time. I have five children. We have three dogs and two cats. There is a lot of traffic through my home. So although we want to have rooms that look beautiful, I also understand that there are going to be smudgy fingerprints on certain fabrics, so we don't want to live in a precious way.

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What makes bad design?

Design is so personal, and what's wonderful is that everybody has a different way of seeing the world. I'm not sure there is such a thing as bad design. In my view, I wouldn't want a house that didn't feel inviting, that didn't feel like my home.

You've lived in the Bahamas for 17 years now. Has island life influenced your work?

It has, definitely. Because that is where I really felt that I had a voice and that I wasn't just the daughter of David Hicks.

Your first bedding collection – for the Home Shopping Network – just launched. The idea was to bring your tropical home to life. What was the process?

It's taken a year from [having] the vague idea to actually standing on live television and selling my collection. And rightly so, that it would take that long, because you want to make sure the fabric is right, you want to make sure that it washes well in a washing machine, you want to make sure that the colours are a true representation of the ocean here. If I'm going to put my name on something, I bloody well want to make sure it's good.

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This interview has been edited and condensed.

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About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More

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