In the 10 years since she opened The Sugar Mill shop on Harbour Island, and then in 2015 an e-commerce and luxury direct sales operation propelled by stylish, well-traveled women much like herself, India Hicks has always been in the business of selling good taste. Now she is using that sharp eye for the Curated Capsule Collections, quarterly debuts of design collaborations with brands like Finlay & Co., Dempsey & Carroll, Jonathan Adler and Day Birger et Mikkelsen.
The first of these partnerships with India Hicks Inc. is the introduction of limited-edition Finlay & Co. sunglasses and Holicow designs. As will be the case with the other partners, items will only be available for a limited time while supplies last. Even Christian Louboutin has reached out, looking to partner for the launch of one of his beauty products, Hicks said.
Reluctant as she is to even use the term “direct sales,” Hicks has mastered its at-home appeal with her ambassadors, who have helped cultivate a core audience of women between the ages of 35 and 60. On average about 140,000 women see the India Hicks assortment at these events each month. Declining to comment on annual sales, Hicks said, “There is kind of a yearning for getting back to the kitchen table with girlfriends. There’s something very nice and inviting about what we’re doing. It feels very safe, not the intimidating shopping experience that we’ve all had.”
Appealing to former urbanites who have since moved to the suburbs, the relaxed setting has enhanced sales, she said. Hostesses are known to set the scene with fresh-cut flowers, dimmed lighting, burning candles and an eye-catching table setting. “One of the things we hear is we don’t do a hard sell. People come to our get-togethers and it is very much an event. It is a social occasion. We try, try, try — especially with our corporate events that this must feel like a family reunion.” Hicks said. “They’re inviting their girlfriends around for a gossip and a glass of wine. At the same time, there is beautiful product on the table that, by the way, they are able to buy.”
The company’s chief executive officer Nicholas Keuper said, “India has always been a curator of taste and she has taken it to this company where we’re really trying to curate beautiful product that to date has been our own. Now we’re taking the curation idea to third-party.”
Hicks, an island-dwelling aristocrat, is one refined retailer and entrepreneur. She is the goddaughter and second cousin to the Prince of Wales and her mother, Lady Pamela Hicks, is a daughter of Earl Mountbatten of Burma. Her father was the legendary interior decorator David Hicks. As a child she was a flower girl in the Prince’s wedding to Princess Diana, but her storied upbringing is punctuated with fashion stories too. Asked about a teenage visit with Emilio Pucci, she said, “Emilio Pucci was a very good friend of my father’s and his daughter has remained a friend. Unfortunately, he did make us have lunch in his very skin-tight Pucci suits. What was more interesting than being dressed in Pucci for lunch was his swimming pool had huge blocks of ice that were brought in each day to chill it. It was the most beautiful palazzo in Italy.”
Referring to her 2,000 “pretty sophisticated” ambassadors, Hicks said, “This isn’t the trunk show model. This can really be a career for them. It’s very exciting, particularly for a woman who wanted to stay at home for whatever reason and now is looking for a new opportunity. They’re not having to go back to corporate America, to self invest, to draw up a business plan.”
Their individual social media reach only reinforces the company’s social media channels, Hicks said. “Most importantly we have a field of women who are actively involved in our brand who will spread the word through their contacts and their contacts’ contacts. That is the beauty of our business. We are not sitting on the shelves of Bergdorf Goodman waiting for a salesperson to point us out.”