She possesses both a natural down to earth approach and a refined aesthetic sensibility. Designer Allegra Hicks, who in her 50s is experiencing a volcanic creative rebirth, is one of those ladies able to manage to be effortlessly chic simply staying true to herself. She doesn’t let age define herself because “age is just a state of mind and we are constantly in evolution. The key is finding something that makes you happy every day and following your passion”. Born in Turin, graduated with a degree in art and design from Politecnico di Milano, she won a grant to New York’s Parsons School of Design and studied decorative painting in Brussels before moving to London. She is now one of the most appreciated designers in the world, especially for her gorgeous and eclectic textile designs. Her secret? Ageing playfully.
Here at CrunchyTales, we believe playful ladies don’t get old. Do you think working with all these colours and patterns might have helped you to stay radiant? Is this your secret to still being glamorous?
The secret is finding something that makes you happy. A passion that helps you to keep going and make you wake up in the morning with a smile. I believe it’s extremely important to realise who you really are and what you really like.
Do you think for an artist or a designer it’s a bit easier to reinvent themselves?
I would say it’s more a matter of discovering yourself than reinventing. It’s finding your true calling. We should consider ourselves in constant evolution. In our 20s we might have plenty of potentials but it’s only later, when we realise who we really are, that we become a better version of ourselves. When I was young, I wanted to become a painter but I didn’t have the confidence. My creativity was overcome by emotional fear. I was scared of being judged as a painter and not being accepted. Then I chose to be a designer and now I have started to paint again, rediscovering my original artistic vocation. It’s only when you finally find yourself that you really flourish and if you follow your passions then you can’t consider yourself unsuccessful. Success is not really proportional to the money you make.
You live in London but from time to time you escape to Naples. How does this city help you to reconnect with your authentic soul?
Naples is such an artistic treasure but you have to discover it. Wherever you go, you find something inspiring. Naples takes you emotionally and physically: the sea, its beauty and history are so inspiring for my job. I found great craftsmen in this city and a sense of freedom.
What are your next goals? Can you give us a clue about your new project?
Now I am working on a project called “Geografia dell’anima”, a big painting mapping the soul of Naples. A puzzle, a kind of work in progress. In every single image, I’m trying to find a bit of me. Although I live in London most of the time, I experience an internal sense of belonging to Naples. “Home” is a very internal thing, not just citizenship.
Is there any successful way to boost our own creativity when in our 50s?
We should think of ourselves on a project. We are constantly in evolution. We should respect ourselves and our needs. But we also need to use discipline and passion to flourish, learning who we really are. You have to do it, you have to respect your self. I think as human beings we need to evolve. It’s really learning about life, learning why you’re here, learning why you’re doing what you’re doing.
You said a beautifully decorated room embodies the spirit of its owner, like a portrait. Do you have any tips for women who want to recreate a cosy area at home in which they can feel reinvigorated?
It’s very important to have a place that we consider ours, where we can relax and recharge ourselves mentally and physically. A place we feel to belong to. I would fill it with whatever makes you happy: a portrait or a special carpet, a plant to take care of. It’s very personal. I would say whatever gives you energy. For instance, I like being surrounded by inspirational books, fabrics, drawings, paintings, mirrors and a Moleskine in which sketching my ideas.
When you work on a project, combining colours and fabric, is there any ultimate outcome you want to achieve?
It depends on the project. I usually don’t like to compromise my aesthetic but at the same time, I think it’s important to listen to clients’ needs, understanding the person you have in front and interpret what she or he wants. When I achieve a balance between my vision and customers’ needs, then I feel my creativity being fulfilled.
Allegra, you seem to have experienced some sort of creative rebirth in your 50’s. How did you redesign your life?
It happens when you don’t allow circumstances to categorise you. It happens when you don’t follow what other people expect from you. We shouldn’t let boundaries stop us from growing. A woman has to be a mother, a daughter, a wife and even a skilled professional, but it’s important to find time to explore who we really are and what we want to achieve. Then we can be whatever we want. It’s very important to respect ourselves and our needs not just follow what it is supposed to be done.
Along the years, have you ever faced negative thoughts such as giving up your goals because feeling too old to reinvent yourself?
I think age is just a state of mind. I have never really thought about it and I have never let age define me or prevent me to do what I like.
What’s your personal idea of ageing with grace? Is there a certain way to do this?
There aren’t any rules but knowing ourselves as a person. We can be what we want to be if we live in harmony with our true self. If you want to wear that mini-skirt and you feel comfortable in it, why not? I personally would never go around in a mini skirt but just because they’re not for me. It’s all about realising what works for you and what makes you feel better. Of course, it’s also important to take care of yourself: either walking or applying cream to your face every night. In the end, you have to find your style according to who you are.