Inside design: Allegra Hicks
You may know her as the Queen of Caftans, a title she earned in 1998 after launching her own line. Or maybe you know her as the coauthor of Design Alchemy (Sterling, 2002), which she wrote with her husband, interior designer and architect Ashley Hicks. You might also know her as the designer of an extensive line of fabric, wallpaper, soft furnishings and accessories sold at her eponymous London store, online at allegrahicks.com and at boutiques in North America. Last year, the fashion and lifestyle designer released a new line of home accessories, and her third collection of fabrics debuts in the fall, so if you don’t know Allegra Hicks yet, you will!
Style at Home Textiles seem to occupy a place close to your heart. Why is that?
Allegra Hicks I specialized in textile design in Milan, so patterns and fabrics are what I'm most expert at. But they're also what I love best. Designing a fabric, or a pattern for a fabric, is very creative; it's much like doing a painting -- you're inspired by layers of texture and colour. For me, the rest of the home is a natural outgrowth of those designs. When you live in a cold climate like England's, fabrics and rugs are the components of a house that set the tone. When I started designing fabric, everything was minimalist. We called it modern, but really it was plain. We didn't have the selection of geometric prints we have now. Then, I couldn't find anything I wanted for myself or my home. We had a Turkish kilim and very simple furnishings. One day, a client of my husband's saw my patterns and asked to have one made into a rug. It was much the same with my caftans. I wanted one but couldn't find it. I design things I want but can't find.
S@H So what is it that you want right now?
AH I'm working on a special project with fashion entrepreneur Lisa Bittan. It's a healing caftan. The fabric is woven in India, but beforehand it’s soaked in Ayurvedic plants that stain the fabric and infuse it with healing properties. Will it heal? Well, intention gives way to reality. If you believe in the healing power of the plants, then it will work.
Photos courtesy of Allegra Hicks Ltd., allegrahicks.com
S@H Your work has often been described as organic, but this project takes that nature-based approach to a whole new level, doesn’t it?
AH One has to be true to oneself, and I’ve always thought one should grow old more naturally. There should be more harmony between us and nature. There shouldn’t be friction between the lives we design and the world of nature.
S@H That belief is reflected in your work.
AH My inspiration often comes from nature, but it’s not a literal translation. A leaf may inspire a print, but the print won’t necessarily replicate that leaf -- it will be an extrapolation. When we create, we draw from memories and feelings. Things like colours are imprinted on our DNA; it’s much deeper than simply recalling and replicating an exact image. Many of the items from my home accessories line are taken directly from nature. My favourites are still the coral trays and candlesticks. Coral symbolizes good fortune in Italian culture.
S@H I once interviewed a furniture designer who likened home accessories to jewelry. Do you agree with that?
AH Yes! I mean, when you think about it, items like cushions and candlesticks aren’t necessities. A sofa is a necessity, but accessories set the mood of a room -- they make a statement. Accessories can be whimsical or glamorous, but they should always be personal. The biggest mistake people make is thinking that everything needs to be expensive. Accessories should reflect who you are, from your favourite colours to special memories and cherished objects. When I'm designing, those are the things I draw on. I hope they touch others in the same way.
Building a harmonious home
London-based fashion and lifestyle designer Allegra Hicks has won a place in the hearts and homes of many Europeans with her trademark style: elegant organic. Here’s how you can take natural chic to the next level.
- “Natural” doesn’t have to mean “rustic” or “ethnic” when organic motifs (leaves, coral, florals) are incorporated into sleek, sophisticated fabrics and materials, like silk and resin.
- “Patterns prescribe the tone of a room,” says Allegra. Chintz isn’t so modern, but a leaf in a repeating geometric is very contemporary.
- Subtle changes can make a big difference. Adding Allegra’s coral handles to your own black lacquered tray is all it takes to inject a touch of the natural world into a modern interior.
- Get personal. Use what you have around you: shells collected on vacation, branches from the tree in your yard.