MEET SOHO’S PINK-HAIRED PRINCESS
From rebellious granddaughter of porn and property tycoon Paul Raymond to an entrepreneur with a multimillion-pound business empire of her own, INDIA ROSE JAMES tells Joanna Della-Ragione that she’s more than just an heiress
She may be as rich as the Queen, having inherited swathes of prime real estate from her grandfather Paul Raymond, but young mum India Rose James likes ot keep it real
With her pink hair and edgy fashion sense, India Rose James doesn’t look like royalty, but in London’s Soho she is as blue-blooded as they come. After all, her grandfather, the late porn baron and property tycoon Paul Raymond, was the infamous King of Soho who left his 25-year-old granddaughter and her half-sister Fawn, 31, a multimillion-pound fortune and acres of West End real estate to boot.
But don’t call India the Queen of Soho, as she has been dubbed – she prefers ‘princess’ because ‘it’s cuter’. Nevertheless, wherever India goes in W1, she is treated with the deference due to a sovereign. When we meet at the exclusive members’ club Soho House on Dean Street, the building of which is owned by her family’s firm Soho Estates, India looks more like a young creative than a multimillionaire. Yet as she pushes open the door, deftly wielding a Silver Cross pram while her seven-month-old daughter Sapphire rests on her hip, she is greeted by gushing receptionists. ‘I think when they swipe my membership card there must be a note flagged on the computer telling them who I am,’ she says.
India certainly looks like her much-loved ‘Papa’, who died in 2008 aged 82. Born Geoffrey Quinn in Liverpool in 1925, he changed his name to Paul Raymond at the age of 22 when he travelled to Clacton-on- Sea, Essex, to perform as a mind-reader billed as ‘The Modern Man of Mystery’. However, his breakthrough came in 1958 when he opened the Raymond Revuebar in the former Doric Ballroom in Soho’s Walker’s Court, cunningly dodging decency laws that barred naked women from moving around on stage by opening the venue as a private members’ club where those rules didn’t apply.
Within two years the club had 45,000 members (regulars included Peter Sellers, Diana Dors and the Kray Twins), who were enthralled by the x-rated entertainment and outlandish acts including scantily-clad performers gyrating with snakes, the Ding Dong Girl (who wore just three bells) and women stripping off in a water tank. In 1964 Paul founded an adult magazine empire and over the following years ploughed his profits into property to the extent that it was said he bought a freehold a week in 1977. By 1991 he entered rich lists with an estimated fortune of £60 million – the self-titled ‘spiv’ had arrived.
India has nothing but admiration for Paul’s drive and business acumen. And while many
I have no issues with how my granddad made his money
have branded his wealth, derived from erotic entertainment and pornographic magazines, as deeply unsavoury, India is pragmatic. ‘He saw a gap in the market and he went for it. It paid off,’ she says. ‘I have no issue at all with how he made his fortune. I have nothing against porn.’ She even admits that ‘a few friends have told me they’ve visited brothels’, but refuses to judge them, responding, ‘Do what you have to do.’ Though, tellingly, she adds, ‘I wouldn’t date those guys.’ However, after decades of seemingly boundless success, Paul faced tragedy. His beloved daughter Debbie died of a drug overdose at the age of 36, leaving behind ten-month-old India and six-year-old Fawn. Paul had Debbie and her younger brother Howard (who runs property business Raymond Estates) with his wife of 23 years Jean Bradley. (He also has a son, Derry McCarthy – born to his Clacton stage sidekick Gay Dawn, just 18 at the time – who met his father only once.) The mogul had been preparing to hand the business over to Debbie, but her death left him bereft and he spent his later years as a recluse. India shows no self-pity about this early loss and insists she never lacked a mother’s love thanks to her father John James’s second wife. ‘Jilly is my mum, there’s no question about that,’ she says. ‘Dad met her when I was only a few months old. She stuck around and put up with me. They got married 18 years ago and I have a little brother, Harvey, who is 16. Mum has been the best in the world. She took in two kids who weren’t her own and she raised us. I asked about babies when I was a child and she had to explain that she didn’t give birth to me – but I was OK with that.’ Unsurprisingly, the topic of Debbie, whom India refers to by her first name, doesn’t often arise. ‘Fawn talks about her more, but she was older and remembers. I was tiny when Debbie died. When the film came out I questioned it more. I talk to my dad occasionally but I find it difficult to broach.’
In the controversial 2013 biopic The Look of Love there is a shocking scene in which Imogen Poots’s Debbie snorts cocaine given to her by Paul (played by Steve Coogan) while she’s in labour. But India says: ‘My father wasn’t in the room while Debbie was in labour so I don’t know what is true. We don’t know if the drug-taking when she was giving birth is fact or fiction.’
Until recently, India was very much on London’s social circuit, frequenting fashion launches and art openings. But she insists there’s no reason to draw comparisons between her and Debbie. ‘Certain people think I’m going to turn out the same, but [addressing the baby on her lap] I’m not going to leave you, Saffi, don’t worry. It would make a good story to see me drug-addicted and leaving my child, but that’s never going to happen.’
In fact, India’s life appears to be one of domestic bliss. She could afford an army of helpers and yet she shares childcare duties with her fiancé, The Kooks guitarist Hugh Harris. ‘I love socialising but sometimes I’m out and miss Saffi and want to go back and snuggle,’ she says. ‘Looking at her in her cot, smiling at me, makes me so happy.’
It’s a surprise to discover that the couple have only been together for 18 months. They met at the celebrity haunt Brown’s Hotel in London’s Mayfair, had their first kiss at Reading Festival in 2015 and three months later India was pregnant and, despite her shock, determined to become a mother. ‘I’m in a position where I know that any child is always going to be looked after, so there was no reason not to have the baby.’
Hugh proposed with an enormous emerald on the roof of the Hotel Café Royal in Piccadilly Circus. Soon afterwards Saffi was born, at The Portland Hospital in Central London, where well-heeled women including Victoria Beckham and the Duchess of York go to give birth. But India is not, she insists, too posh to push. ‘I hate needles and surgery, so the idea of a caesarean terrified me. The epidural was bad enough.’
Returning to her pre-baby body hasn’t been a challenge, thanks to the gluten- and dairy-free diet that India is on in a bid to control an eczema flare-up. ‘I dread Saffi suffering with eczema like I do so I try to put as little on her skin as possible,’ she says. ‘I only bathe her a couple of times a week.’ But India does cave when faced with the biscuit accompanying her coffee. ‘Sod it,’ she
I don’t know if the story that my mum took drugs while giving birth is fact or fiction
says, wolfing it down. ‘A bit of wheat can’t hurt.’ Few who knew India as a rebellious teenager would recognise this responsible young woman and loving mother. She attended St George’s School Ascot (which she damns as ‘bourgeois’) before going to Bearwood College in Wokingham, Berkshire for sixth form, where she socialised with ‘the Eton guys down the road’. She insists that she’s not ‘posh’, though her well-rounded vowels tell a different story.
India describes school as a ‘nightmare’ and admits: ‘I smoked and drank and had what they called an “uncontrollable attitude”. If the teachers told me to walk through one door, I’d naturally want to walk through the other.’ It’s little surprise that she was expelled, although she clarifies, ‘Dad says I was asked to leave, but I don’t see the difference.’
On school trips to London, India would sneak off to visit her Papa in his Green Park penthouse. She recalls: ‘He lived in an apartment next to The Ritz. There were mirrors everywhere, it was art deco and plush. He had a projector instead of a TV and bought an entire catalogue of Elton John’s belongings at auction so the flat was full of Lalique bowls and sculptures of pre-Raphaelite women – surprisingly there weren’t many nudes.’
When Paul died, the majority of his portfolio was left to Fawn (whose biological father is Duncan Mackay from the rock band 10cc, but was adopted by John James as a child) and India, then 22 and 16 respectively. A hefty chunk was also left to Paul’s son Howard. Their fortune, which was estimated at £482 million in last year’s Sunday Times rich list, is derived from a property empire that includes Soho landmarks such as nightclub The Box, the site of the renowned Kettner’s restaurant and the former premises of the bookshop Foyles. Fawn works at Soho Estates’ Greek Street offices with John. The company’s proposed redevelopment of nightclub Madame Jojo’s and its surrounding properties drew much criticism (including from the Save Soho campaign, whose chairman Stephen Fry has spoken against the ‘rush to gentrify [Soho] to maximise profits’), but India has said the club will be back in business in 18 months, complete with a theatre upstairs.
India – who is not involved with the day-to-day running of the family business – guesses that the company owns about 60 per cent of the freeholds in the area, but says that the published estimates of their wealth aren’t accurate. She won’t confirm the size of her annual allowance – rumoured to be £1 million – either. But one thing she doesn’t want is more money. ‘If I had access to more I’d probably spend all day in Gucci,’ she jokes.
India’s first instalment from her grandfather’s legacy came at 18, when she moved to a flat above a casino in Leicester Square. ‘I did go a little crazy at first,’ she admits. ‘I’d go to The Box and buy table and bottle service for my friends, but the hangovers were hell. I’m glad I got it out of my system then.’ In fact, she admits to being surprisingly naive about her inheritance. ‘I was brought up not knowing about the money, apart from when my dad would say, “You’re going to get this,” and I’d think, “Oh, I don’t need a job.”’
But she soon learned how her wealth changed other people’s behaviour. ‘One ex was with me for my money. I could tell that he was using me. He would ask me to get him cabs as he didn’t want to take the Tube. I gave him a fiver once and he threw it in my face – so I had to get rid of him.’ Hugh, in contrast, is thrifty. ‘He’ll go to Tesco and buy Everyday Value peas,’ laughs India. ‘I mean, I don’t expect him to shop exclusively at Daylesford, but normal peas would be fine.’
India’s indulgences seem relatively tame. She admits to splurging on handbags and first-class flights because, she explains, she’s a nervous flier. ‘It’s expensive, I know, but every time there’s a bit of turbulence I freak out.’
After doing a foundation year in fine art at City & Guilds, India worked as a fashion editor on Fault Magazine, but admits she has never had a conventional job. Last year she launched the art gallery Soho Revue, named in homage to her Papa’s club, with her ex-boyfriend Will Pelham, the Eton-educated son of the Earl of Yarborough, to represent emerging artists and give them a platform in Central London. The pair plan to hold pop-ups of the same name, and new projects are on the horizon. ‘I’m starting a fashion business called Arty Farty Fashion Party, a store for emerging fashion designers that will also host regular fashion shows,’ she says. ‘I’m just starting to plan now but it should be up and running later this year – in Soho, of course.’
Above: Paul with his daughter Debbie, India’s sister Fawn as a baby, and Fawn’s father Duncan Mackay. Right: Paul and Debbie in 1989
Paul (above) and members of his Raymond Revuebar Diana Dors (left) and Peter Sellers (below)
Above: India and her fiancé Hugh Harris. Right: India (left) with siblings Harvey and Fawn
Left: Fawn with India’s father John and their stepmother Jilly. Below: India at the Soho Revue launch party
The poster for The Look of Love, the 2013 biopic about Paul