Walpole: In a world where we’re always available, how do you separate your personal time from your work time?
Harriet Hastings: I have always juggled work and family life. That was one of the reasons I wanted to set up my own business – to give me more control of my time. However, that does mean that you need to prepared to work at unusual times and make yourself available. I think that is part of the deal when you run your own business.
What’s one thing you do after the work day to help you unwind?
If I have been working at the Biscuiteers Ministry of Biscuits in Wimbledon, I generally bicycle to work from my home in Hammersmith. A lovely ride by the Thames is a great way to get outside, get some fresh air and a bit of perspective. Otherwise, I like to go for a swim and make sure that I do pilates twice a week. At the weekends I take my dogs walking.
What activity do you do in your time away from the office that helps you relax and recentre after a stressful week?
My absolute favourite way to spend a weekend in London is to go to a gallery. We have such incredible exhibitions on our doorstep, and it's a great way to escape into another world. I have loved the re-opening of the National Portrait Gallery, which I think is my favourite place as I am fascinated by the stories of other people’s lives. The current Yevonde: Life and Colour exhibition, for instance, has a real freshness and modernity – which is startling given she was working in the 1930s.
What’s something you’ve read, listened to or seen in your spare time that’s helped you at work?
I like to get stimulation for our designs from art, contemporary culture and fashion. We work with many of the world’s most celebrated fashion brands and they are constant source of inspiration. Recently I have been to the Chanel exhibition at the V&A, Rebel: 30 Years of London Fashion exhibition at the Design Museum and Crown to Couture at Kensington Palace. I remember a few years ago we created an entire collection based on Matisse’s cut outs following the Tate exhibition, so you never know where the next idea will come from.
After home and the office, where’s your favourite third space?
My absolutely favourite place is our house in Suffolk, where we usually spend our weekends. I really start to feel quite claustrophobic if I cant get outside enough and it’s a place where you feel you can breathe a lot easier – and do a lot of long walks by the sea followed by restorative visit to the local pub! We spend a lot of time sitting in our big open fireplace, which is a great place to read and keep warm.
On Sunday night, how do you prepare yourself for the week ahead?
I am often travelling back to London on Sunday night from Suffolk. Happily, my husband usually drives, so I use the time to get myself organised for the next week with a laptop and a hotspot. I am very much a Sunday night organiser. I like to feel that I have caught up with my emails and got a plan for the week ahead.
Best reason you've had to turn your Out of Office on recently?
I don’t often put my Out of Office on as I generally prefer to keep across things when I am away. I had appendicitis recently which was a very good reason to turn it on, but I don’t think I remembered to!
The OUT OF OFFICE hotlist
Your go-to Out of Office outfit: ME+EM jeans, a T-shirt and a Max Mara jumper.
Your happy place anywhere in the world: Italy. I adore everything about it: the food, the people, the places. We have been visiting northern Tuscany for years and there is so much to love.
Your favourite bar or restaurant: Recently, I have discovered Wild by Tart as we have opened a new Biscuiteers Icing Café next door in Eccleston Yards, Belgravia, London.
Something cultural or sporting you booked recently that you'd recommend: The Marina Abramović exhibition at the Royal Academy really blew me away. I didn’t know her work or really appreciate the impact of performance art until I saw this. Lots to shock but plenty to think about – and first time RA has given solo show to a woman.
Something you've listened to or read recently that you'd recommend: Barbara Kingsolver's Demon Copperhead won the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2023. I think it is extraordinary and one of the strongest winners. I used to run the Women’s Prize from 1996 to 2022, so I remain closely involved as a founder patron.
A hobby you'd like to cultivate: We have a lovely garden in Suffolk. My husband is very ambitious about his garden design and constantly starting new projects, so I think the hobby I would like to cultivate is gardening. I need more time and a lot more knowledge!
A luxury that’s actually a necessity: I love Wolford tights and never wear anything else – Velvet de Luxe in black are my go to.
Best luxury under £25: I love colourful and unusual stripy dinner candles, which I buy from British Colour Standard.
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Photo credit: James Robinson