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Meet India's Best Mates: Brooke Shields, Naeem Khan, Emilia Wickstead, and More

The bride's closest friends reminiscence on the wedding day and share some advice.

Iconic, elegant, striking, and fuss-free are just a few of the ways India's "great mates" would describe her. And it was these folks—fashion designers Naeem Khan and Emilia Wickstead, actress Brooke Shields, and the esteemed London florist Pulbrook & Gould—whom India called upon to help with her English wedding weekend in September 2021.

They graciously accepted the tasks, whether it was creating a bespoke look for the nuptials, designing a bouquet for the bride, or witnessing two lovers finally join hands in marriage. Ahead, we asked these "mates" of India's to reflect on their friendship with her, reminiscence on the wedding day, and share tidbits of wedding planning advice.

A Reception Gown by Naeem Khan

It was Indian-American fashion designer Naeem Khan who created the first of two bridal gowns India would wear on her wedding weekend. A high-neck column gown with an intricately ornate pattern and flirty floor-length ribbons flowing from the shoulders, the custom look was quintessential Naeem Khan, but filled with more symbolic meaning than first meets the eye.

wedding dress

Courtesy of India Hicks

While India and Khan's friendship dates back to her NYC modeling days in the late '80s/early '90s (she called him one day asking to wear one of his gowns to an event, thus initiating a decades-long bond), there is another side to their friendship; one rooted in history and culture, a connection between countries. India’s grandfather, Louis Mountbatten, was the last Viceroy of India, where Khan was born. That intersection between history and homeland, and Khan's "love for a friend" was the foundation of the reception gown he designed India on her wedding day. 

Khan knew he wanted to create a dress for India the moment he learned she and David were tying the knot. "It was bloody high time that they got married," he says with a laugh. "They’ve lived an amazing, beautiful life and it was due time. And I really wanted to be a part of India’s big day."

How beautiful it is that you have a name like India, I’m from India, and she comes from a historical family of India and England, and then the dress was made in India by Indian craftsmen with all these beautiful Indian techniques.

He continues, "I wanted something super special for her; to create a dress that is entirely made by hand [and] has patterns that come from India. How beautiful it is that you have a name like India, I’m from India, and she comes from a historical family of India and England, and then the dress was made in India by Indian craftsmen with all these beautiful Indian techniques. There is a lot of message in that dress."

India Hicks and Naeem Khan

Courtesy of India Hicks

Ahead of the wedding, India (who was joined by her daughter Domino), flew to Khan's Manhattan studio to try the bridal gown on for the first time. "I just was dying to see it," the seasoned designer recalls. "I loved that dress because I had designed it, obviously. For me, it's more important that she loves it and I was so thrilled that [it was] love at first sight [for India]. She put it on and said, 'This is it.'"

To Khan, India is "the perfect Naeem Khan bride" because "she’s worldly, she’s traveled, she’s fashionable, she takes care of herself, and she is a woman of the world." She trusted her dear friend's talents and was decisive with her opinions—two vital characteristics for brides who are choosing a bespoke gown. "It is very important for brides to let the designer do their thing," he advises. "When you as a bride you come in, you have your point of view and the designer has to look into what you like, but you should let the designer do what [they do] best and you will be happy."

Another counsel from Khan on dress shopping? "Don’t make a decision based on trend because trends come and go."

A Ceremony Dress by Emilia Wickstead

Emilia Wickstead

Courtesy of India Hicks

India's second look of the weekend—her wedding ceremony dress—was the vision of bridal designer and friend Emilia Wickstead. India had called Wickstead personally to ask about making her a dress, and the New Zealand designer happily obliged. "India has immaculate taste, so I was honored that she would think of me. My reaction was 'Absolutely, yes—it would be a privilege.'"

Wickstead knew of India long before the two became friends, but their camaraderie formed when India reached out about something work-related. Wickstead explains, "I remember feeling proud as I thought she was such a style icon. I originally learned about her from my mother and had then followed her life and career as a model. It was a very aspirational moment for me."

It was important to me that the dress felt extremely tasteful, but still fashion-forward. Deceptively simple but effective—which can be very hard to achieve.

For the look that would define India as a bride, Wickstead envisioned a "modern-day interpretation" of an all-lace gown. "Not too traditional, not too much fuss, but with beautiful, architectural, couture lines," she describes. "It was important to me that the dress felt extremely tasteful, but still fashion-forward. Deceptively simple but effective—which can be very hard to achieve."

But achieve it she did, partly thanks to the ivory French lace India had fallen in love with. However, refining the silhouette together wasn't without a few bumps in the road. As Wickstead reveals, India was adamant that she wanted a fitted sleeve on the gown—an element typically only made possible using an underarm seam. But Wickstead, on the other hand, "was adamant that a seam would spoil the overall effect of the design." A testament to her talents, the bridal designer was able to achieve India's desired look without the dreaded seam.

"Timeless, elegant simplicity is the cornerstone of everything that we do at Emilia Wickstead," illustrates Wickstead. "Our bridal collections combine respect for old-world tradition with modernity and femininity—often with unexpected or playful twists. India perfectly embodies this. She is beautiful, but not afraid to be a little bit different, and bold and uncompromising in her choices."

As Wickstead describes, the morning of India's wedding was "easy and uncomplicated." The bride went upstairs at her mother's house, zipped herself into the dress, and came downstairs barefoot; a moment the designer recalls as "effortlessly chic."

With India as the perfect example, Wickstead believes a bridal gown, or any wedding garment for that matter, should reflect your personality. "Above everything, it should make you feel comfortable, confident, and beautiful. Like the best version of yourself." And if India's wedding album is any indication, Wickstead's creation did just that.

A Bridal Bouquet by Pulbrook & Gould

No traditional bridal ensemble is complete without a bouquet, and for that India turned to Harald Altmaier of Pulbrook & Gould. Established in 1956, Pulbrook & Gould is arguably London's most prestigious floral studio (they have quite a few royal weddings and events on their resumé), and the same florist India's mother entrusted for her own wedding bouquet in 1960. "We have worked with a number [of] families where three generations or close relatives have used us. It gives us great pride to be sought out and used for occasions like these," admits managing director Erik Karlsen.

After many years, she is still the epitome of elegance and good manners without portraying any formality. Striking in a distinguished way and very elegant.

"Harald first met India at the beginning of September before her wedding day. I had known her previously," adds Karlsen. "After many years, she is still the epitome of elegance and good manners without portraying any formality. Striking in a distinguished way and very elegant."

Altmaier first joined Pulbrook & Gould as a floral designer in 1993, after perfecting the craft in both Australia and Germany. Today, he is a consultant with the studio and ultimately responsible for India's coveted floral accessory. "Harald's [objective], like all our florists, is to work with the seasons, using the best flowers available to bring ultimate joy and pleasure to the recipient," Karlsen explains.

For India's bouquet, that meant a loosely gathered bunch of English country garden and countryside flowers (think roses, Japanese anemones, hydrangeas, love in the mist, and eucalyptus, to name a few); full of natural texture, but highly sophisticated. An all-white creation that also doubled as a "something blue" thanks to subtle accents of blue blooms.

flowers

Courtesy of India Hicks

Karlsen adds, "With India, she had a definite style she wished to follow and relied upon Harald and Pulbrook & Gould to interpret her wishes. Pulbrook & Gould's style is based on using the raw material to its best advantage without it seeming contrived. The look is natural in appearance yet very sophisticated in execution. We always consider what flowers will suit the brief and occasion, right down to the simplest posy created in our flagship store on Buckingham Palace Road."

For nearly-weds preparing bouquets and other wedding day blooms, Karlsen advises to "always make sure your choice is appropriate to the surroundings." And if you are debating whether or not to include flowers in your day-of décor, remember this: "Flowers immediately give one a sense of elation, celebration, and joy, regardless of whether it is a formal or casual occasion."

A Wedding Guest in Brooke Shields

India and actress Brooke Shields have been calling each other dear friends for over 16 years. And their relationship is all thanks to a party they both attended in London while Shields was in West End's production of Chicago. "The minute I saw her it was as if she just floats into the room. She just makes everybody feel comfortable and she's incredibly chic," Shields says of her first impression of India.

India Hicks and Brooke Shields

Courtesy of India Hicks

Later, Shields would visit India at her home in the Bahamas and had a similar feeling: "Again, it was as if she rounded a corner and she had this caftan that was flowing and I instantly wanted to re-pack all of the clothes I had brought for my holiday," she laughs.

From there, their friendship blossomed into one full of fond memories made, birthdays celebrated together, and more—Shields really is one of India's "great mates" after all! In fact, even David is a dear friend of the actress, she jokes, "There were a few years there where I felt like I spent more time with him than I even did my husband [because] we worked on a project together." So, to hear David and India we're going to formally exchange vows was moving.

"They've taught us more about commitment than any early married couple I know," admits Shields. "And I thought it was so beautiful that they waited as long as they did. The joke was 'Oh finally!' but to me, it was really changing the narrative around what it means to be a partner with somebody. And then this beautiful desire to celebrate the ritual, but have their kids all be a part of it in an individual way—to me, it was more meaningful," adding, "it was so sweet to see [India and David] be so emotional and open and vulnerable."

I felt blessed to be invited. It was such an intimate wedding and that was not lost on us.

She continues, "I felt blessed to be invited. It was such an intimate wedding and that was not lost on us." But of all the memories from the cherished weekend, two moments stick out in Shields's mind: watching David's reaction to India's walk down the aisle and listening to his toast. "It just brought tears to my eyes," to which she adds, "It's really nice to see your friends not be guarded and be willing to share [these moments] with people that they care about."

And around the same time as India and David were starting this new chapter of marriage in their already 20-plus year relationship, Shields was launching her latest project, a 360-degree wellbeing platform called Beginning Is Now. "It stems from this idea that I believe over the years, I have gotten more confident and stronger and better as I've matured, and yet when I look at the marketplace, I'm not being marketed to." The solution was this online platform and lifestyle brand, which Shields launched in September 2021, with the goal of creating, growing, and connecting a community of women to relate to, learn from, and inspire each other.

Ask Shields and she'll agree that her friend India is a great reflection of the community she is trying to build with this platform and a living embodiment of the "beginning is now" mantra. "Anybody can tell you what it means to begin a new endeavor and to step out of your comfort zone. I think India has done that her whole life, and she encouraged me unbelievably through this process. I've seen her pivot on multiple occasions. I've watched her champion other people, help her friends. She's always trying to help me, I'm always trying to help her—and that's what a real community of females is about."

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