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A Day at Raffles London at The Old War Office: Attending Harper's Bazaar at Work Event

By Lucy Connors 

For the first time, the Old War Office has been opened to the public following its transformation into Raffles’ first UK hotel. The multi-year regeneration of the offices has restored the architectural landmark back to its Edwardian magnificence and was the perfect awe-inspiring venue for Harper's Bazaar at Work Event, which we were attended late last year.  


The Old War Office

Interiors at The OWO

Photo: Raffles London

The sixth annual summit, celebrating enterprising and empowering women in work, was held in the ballroom, and comprised of seven panels held throughout the day. Each conversation offered a unique perspective on the careers, industries, and definitions of success, of these inspiring women.  

Our highlights from the day: 


The event began with a conversation between Bazaar’s acting deputy editor Helena Lee, and Zawe Ashton: actor, author, and playwright. This was a completely raw and totally honest discussion, where Ashton mused on the vulnerability that comes with the visibility of being in the public eye. She spoke beautifully on the conjunction of acting with womanhood and the performative nature of our lives, talking about the effects of this constantly being watched and being aware of that – how much it can deplete you and your energy without even a conscious awareness of it.

She spoke about how it is your failures and your struggles that create your character, rather than your successes, and left us with the poignant thought that despite the roadblocks you may face, pushing through them will ‘allow women to walk where you once crawled’, there is no removing ourselves from the collective, and the bigger picture is slowly opening up and becoming better for us, and those that will follow us in the future. 


Zawe Ashton

Zawe Ashton

Photo: Jeff Spicer

Claire Waight Kellar is one of the most iconic British designers of the moment; having led major fashion houses – including becoming the first female creative director of Givenchy, before designing the Royal Wedding dress of the Duchess of Sussex – and is now at Uniqlo. This new direction and very different brand ethos have presented new challenges to the designer, and she emphasised the importance of being excited by the challenges you meet when you start pushing your own boundaries. In fashion and life, her mantra focuses on following your gut and taking risks.

The conversation on fashion was then moved in a different direction by Samantha Cameron – founder of Cefinn, and Lisa Armstrong – fashion journalist. Their focus was on women’s workwear, and how as women we can use our specific gendered ability to dress up and show personality, and how this can empower us as individuals. They focused on making the most of your circumstances and stepping along that border of personality and professionalism. 


Ramla Ali

Ramla Ali

Photo: Victor Picon

In partnership with Porsche, there was a driven and rich conversation on the art of leadership between Our Place and Malala Foundation founder Shiza Shahid, senior city lawyer Akima Paul Lambert, and the managing director of Amazon Web Services, Tanuja Randery. Their key piece of advice was to have a clear sense of mission and purpose as that will allow you to overcome any, and all obstacles. This was followed by a panel on AI and what it means for the future of work as we know it. 


The high-ceilinged majesty of the OWO’s Lawrence room was opened for the Bazaar networking reception and refreshments throughout the day. These breaks offered a space to engage in inspiring conversation and create genuine new connections, within a stunning and historic space – while enjoying everything Bazaar had on offer. 


Claire White Keller

Claire Waight Keller

Photo: Harper's Bazaar

Suzanne Heywood – current COO of Exor – gave a moving speech drawing on her experience of spending ten years of her childhood sailing around the globe with her family. It was a story of resilience, creating change, having clarity of purpose, and the importance of having a benchmark with which to put your life into perspective. 


Leading up to the final session, wellbeing coach Adrienne Adhami offered a series of exercises for sleep, breathing, and movement, to optimise our energy and reverse the transition into sedentary life which is occurring within our society.  


The afternoon closed with Fighting Fit: The Power of Resilience’, in conversation with Katarina Johnson Thompson - world champion heptathlete, and Ramla Ali - professional boxer. This was an incredibly inspiring discussion between two of Britain’s current most exciting sporting stars – competing in very different disciplines, but with very similar mindsets. Johnson Thompson is heading into Olympic year having just achieved her second World Champion Title, which also led to an interesting discussion on Ali’s inability to defend her Olympic gold medal again now she has become professional in her sport.

Katarina Johnson Thompson

Katarina Johnson-Thompson

Photo: Nike

They have both had difficult and injury-stricken careers and spoke about the importance of redefining winning so you only have to compete against yourself. They emphasised that mindset is everything and discipline can change your life, but the journey will shape your character and that makes it more valuable than the result. It is resilience that can make an athlete a champion, but it has significance every day, everything you do is about making the choice of who you want to be and sticking to that no matter what life throws at you. 


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