Alec Baldwin, Tommy Hilfiger and a Designer With a ‘Downton’ Connection

The roster of media mavens, moguls and boldface names spotted today at Michael's.

lunch at michaelsIt was something of a British invasion at Michael’s today with plenty of posh folks (Majesty magazine EIC Ingrid Seward, the always dashing Euan Rellie) with pedigrees from across the pond in the mix among the usual scrum of fashionistas (Tommy Hilfiger) and famous faces (Alec Baldwin).

Diane Clehane and India Hicks
Diane Clehane and India Hicks
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I was joined by designer and entrepreneur India Hicks, whose father was famed interior decorator David Hicks, and her mother is Lady Pamela Hicks, daughter to the Earl and Countess Mountbatten of Burma. India’s grandfather was the last Viceroy of India, hence her name. It all sounds very Downton Abbey, doesn’t it? Well, if you think that’s very British, here’s a fun fact: When India was a mere 13 years old, she was a bridesmaid at Princess Diana’s wedding to Prince Charles, who just happens to be her godfather.

And speaking of Downton Abbey, India told me that none other than Hugh Bonneville is starring in a film playing her grandfather, due out later this year. Viceroy’s House, a costume drama is an upstairs-downstairs love story about a Hindu and Muslim love affair. When I asked India if she was a fan of Downton Abbey, she said she hadn’t seen much of it after watching a few episodes and noted that the producers got some of the details wrong. To wit: the Crawley daughters were shown wearing lace gloves, something “a very different type of woman would wear.” Ouch. Then concluded: “I think it’s more of an American thing.” No argument here.

I was enthralled as India, in her cut-glass British accent, recounted the story of when her mother first met the actor before shooting began. After giving him the once over, she proclaimed Hugh to be in need of slimming down “at least two stone” before he could do justice to playing her “fit” father. Then, she insisted on seeing his salute so as to make sure he knew the difference between the American and British technique. (We have to imagine after six years as Lord Grantham, Hugh had that down pat.) When I commented she sounded a bit like Downton’s Mr. Carson, India explained, “My mother is extremely engaging so she gets away with it.” Apparently no worse for wear, Hugh passed muster in the end and shooting commenced.

India’s own life seems rife for the big screen treatment: Raised in the British countryside by parents with titles and close ties to the royal family, her first taste of the limelight came when she was one of Princess Diana’s bridesmaids. She documented the experience for the Daily Mail on the eve of the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William, revealing that at one point Princess Margaret, “appeared in her nightie” offered her use of her toothbrush. On the big day it was India who, along with another girl, was responsible for handling the unwieldy 25-foot train of Diana’s gown.

After leaving photography school in Boston, Ralph Lauren booked India for her first modeling job and she later went on to create and design collections of bath and beauty products for Crabtree & Evelyn and a collection for HSN (“I adore [CEO] Mindy Grossman!”)

India now lives on a small island in the Bahamas, with her partner David Flint Wood and their five children ranging in ages 8 to 19.

She’s published three books – Island Life, Island Beauty and  Island Style (Rizzoli) published last year. She’s just signed the contract on her yet-to-be titled next book which will cover — what else? — her British heritage and style.

Last year, she launched her eponymous lifestyle brand: India Hicks Inc, a swanky line of gifts, fragrances and accessories for home (perfect for the well-appointed abodes of Greenwich, Oyster Bay or the Upper East Side) inspired by her island life with a nod to her British heritage. Clever India has reinvented the female-centric direct sales business model and is selling these collections through networks of entrepreneurial women who she smartly calls her “tribes” (Their official title with the company is ‘ambassadors’ and when they move up the ladder they’re appointed ‘directors.’) These women sell their own “curated” collections from the over 200 items India offers in their home and through hosted parties — sometimes attended by India herself.