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Style Scion

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India Hicks, daughter of late interior design icon David Hicks, delves into a subject near and dear

BY INDIA HICKS

MY FATHER DESIGNED MY mother’s hair. He redesigned the nose of a client. He insisted on us saying “Persia” instead of “Iran,” as he found the latter word modern and awful.

My father was never dull. He was always stylish. He designed himself red-heeled dancing shoes to imitate those of Louis XIV and had his cook re-create obscure, turn-of-the-century recipes from my great-grandmother’s repertoire. He attempted to tame nature, making every line straight in all of the gardens he fashioned. Is it possible, I wonder, to inherit something from this wealth of style?

If you study people of great style, Noel Coward or Grace Kelly, for instance, you see the evolution of a personal way of dressing and being that emerges somehow, at some stage and continues serving them well into old age. They develop, if you will, a trademark all their own. Yet, to the extent that it has to do with ideas, the way we live, and what is happening around us, perhaps style can be imparted.

Although no beauty, Diana Vreeland was style personified. She piled on bracelets, wore high-necked black sweaters. She patted on the pale makeup and applied bright red lipstick. And when she entered the room, you noticed. She was living proof that if you own a style and wear it with self-assurance, others will believe in it too. It has nothing to do with youth or sex, class, color or money. It certainly is not dependent on beauty or conventional good looks. Style is individual. It shows in small ways as well as big. Like charm, you either have it or you don’t. Coco Chanel had it. She cropped her hair short, came up with a new liberating uniform of soft jersey trousers, skirts and jackets, and made them glamorous. With them, she wore huge ropes of pearls (fake, she insisted, as real ones of that size would be too vulgar) and her trademark jeweled cuffs.

Those who use lack of funds as an excuse for lack of style might ponder the story of Gloria Guinness. Though a legendary style icon in her day, Guinness had been poor for a time. But even when she had very little money, she would buy a beautiful piece of jersey, cut a hole in the top, put it over her head, and tie a cool sash around her waist. Everybody would ask where she bought her dress.

As my father once wrote in my small autograph book: ”Good taste and design are by no means dependent upon money.” Among my most stylish friends, most do not take refuge in conventionally tasteful attire. They believe in a touch of eccentricity—although not too much. While fashionable, they are by no means slaves to fashion. Instead, they have developed a fairly constant and wholly singular style of their own.

As my father demonstrated, style is both what is worn and the way it’s worn. It’s how we live, what we eat, how we garden, and how we speak.

When it comes to clothing, style requires an unstudied awareness of how to dress distinctively and in a way that expresses something of the inner self. It’s no surprise then that people deemed stylish in appearance also tend to be expert at carrying that confident attractiveness into whatever else they create: their homes, their gardens, the lovely food they prepare. Decorexia, a disease my father suffered from and something I certainly caught, is an obsession with the house and its contents. The home I share with my other David [Flint Wood], the father of my four children, is a canvas on which we’ve painted our personalities. It influences how we live and adds other levels of meaning to our surroundings. As with the best and most interesting houses, ours has evolved over time, layer upon layer, into a truthful representation of who we are. It is not a status symbol and certainly lacks pretensions. Nothing in our home has been chosen solely to impress. Rather, during the past decade, we have filled our household with meaningful belongings we love. We have accumulated treasured possessions—gifts from each other, pictures we’ve inherited, bits brought back from our wanderings around the world. Our home is a storehouse of family history, a living archive that holds the treasures of our personal life. It speaks of where we’ve been, who we are, and the distinctive style our journey together has cultivated.

At the end of the day, style is hard to define, but one thing is certain: Most of us know it when we see it. As my father demonstrated, style is both what is worn and the way it’s worn. It’s how we live, what we eat, how we garden, and how we speak.

I am blessed by having had two remarkable Davids in my life—my father, whose bold statements with high drama and pure theater in his work and his clothes made the world take notice, and my partner, who is most at home being quietly shoeless and dressed in frayed Brooks Brothers shirts, wanting only to be immersed in the pages of Joseph Conrad with Bloody Mary in hand. Yet in both men, quite different from one another, I recognize the same elegant impression and indelible style—forged in their homes and their lives.

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