Arabella Burwell Inspires

Photography by Hazel Mathias

Photographed at home in Bantry Bay, Cape Town, Ali wears Sophie Lis Fallen Moon Necklace

This month we are lucky enough to take a look inside the private world of phenomenally inspirational woman Arabella Burwell. Not only is she an incredible business woman but she is an unstoppable sportswoman who regularly takes on some of the World's toughest challenges to raise money for charity.

Arabella is a new partner at corporate finance firm, Hannam & Partners, and is the first woman to be made partner at the company. She works between London and South Africa but now calls Cape Town home and is building a new life there with her husband Tom. Did I mention she finished a half Iron Man in Durban last week too...?!

Find out how this incredible lady fits it all in whilst remaining a steadfast friend, superbly supportive sister to eight siblings and all whilst remaining the most naturally stylish woman in South Africa!

Bantry Bay, Cape Town

Can you tell me a little about your back ground and how you found yourself working where you are now?

I left Cambridge in 2006. Not many people would choose a career in finance with an anthropology degree, but a natural interest in emerging markets has certainly shaped the direction I’ve taken within the industry. I joined Barclays Capital’s graduate scheme which gave me a fantastic grounding teaching me basics I still go back to today. Two years later, I moved to a Canadian investment bank and worked as a research analyst and then a sector specialist speaking to UK based fund managers. After 5 years, I joined a newly formed firm called Hannam & Partners, primarily to help build out their capital raising offering. I have pretty amazing colleagues who have lived through almost every possible type of market. They have not only supported me moving to South Africa but 2 months ago also promoted me to Partner.

Alongside this outstanding career, you are an unstoppable sportswoman. What charity events have you taken part in?

In 2009 I completed the “3 Peaks Challenge” with 4 unstoppable girlfriends, we raised what felt like a huge sum of money for Hospice in the Weald – the hospice in Pembury that cared for my late father.  I’ve run the London Marathon twice for this charity, once dressed as a bumble-bee! I was very proud to be part of the first Strive effort in 2014, an endurance event started by my brother in law Sam Branson and his cousin Noah Devreux which raises money for the Big Change Charitable Trust. I joined them at the start of a 30 day journey, completing 3 marathons in 3 days. I was supposed to take part again in 2016 but broke my foot two weeks before and had to pull out, to make up for it I’m going to take on my first half-iron man in mid-June in Durban.

Arabella's beautiful outdoor training grounds in Cape Town

When did you to move to Cape Town?

Tom (my husband) and I first tentatively rented a house in Cape Town at the end of January 2016. Since then we’ve both got stuck into work and life here, It’s an incredible place to live with jaw-dropping scenery and full of brave, intelligent and welcoming people. The summer months in Cape Town are astonishing but I’m also now enjoying a quieter, colder winter. 

Print by Peter Pharoah, a SA artist based in the wilderness alongside Ali's trusty Giant bike

What do you like most about the city and living there?

I’m an outdoors person.  Being able to jump on my bike on a Sunday morning and head out with mountains on one side and the sea on the other is something I had never had easy access to and now I don’t know how I’d live without it.  Waking up here at the weekend makes me very happy. I have also become addicted to swimming in the (very cold) sea. I’m just getting into Yoga here too, the studios in Cape Town are excellent.

Ali hiking up Table Top Mountain with a friend.

Cape Town is a foodie heaven, there are so many different types of restaurants and we are constantly discovering new places.  The restaurant scene is vibrant and new ones are opening all the time.  I love having lunch at the Italian locanda Villa 47 in the middle of town.  Capetonians are crazy about food and borderline obsessed with wine – not surprising since there are so many incredible wine farms right on their doorstep.  My favourite is Boschendal in Franschoek, you sit looking out over the most beautiful vegetable garden and up at the mountains while eating the most stunning food.

 A selection from Ali's wine collection, all local to Cape Town. Red from Mont Rochelle (Richard Branson's wine farm), rose from Rickety Bridge and white from historic Rustenburg.Describe your perfect evening in Cape Town.

Describe your perfect night in Cape Town

In the summer – sundowners at La Parada del Mar on Camps Bay, followed by dinner at The Pot Luck Club at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock – they do the BEST grapefruit margaritas and the tapas inspired menu is fun and delicious.


How would you describe your style and how has it changed since moving?

I’m a laid back weekender and live in black jeans or denim shorts and converse.  My work week wardrobe is simple and classic. The biggest change from London to Cape Town is a lot more colour, I just can’t help being attracted to bright things when the sun is out.  My shopping habits have changed a lot over the last few years after I watched a documentary called The True Cost, which highlighted the huge social and environmental issues caused by fast-fashion culture.  Now I buy fewer clothes and I am happier to spend more money on clothes that I love and I will wear again and again.


Arabella wears Fallen Moon Necklace by Sophie Lis


Can’t live without London wardrobe staples VS can’t live without Cape Town wardrobe staples?

In Cape Town, I can’t leave the house without my favourite Ray Bans and I live in my converse come rain or shine.  There are only two necklaces that I wear constantly (and almost ever!) – one was given to me by my little sister 3 years ago and the other is your moon. London staples include a pair of faux-leather Kooples jeans and Ash trainers – I actually wore these both on my first date with Tom in January 2012!



Who is your most inspirational figure?

This may sound silly, but my biggest inspiration are my closest friends.  They are my role models, managing to navigate stressful jobs, busy lives and motherhood while being constantly creative, imaginative and conscientious and always always making time for their friends.  Having moved away, I appreciate them more than ever.


African print jumpsuit by local fair-trade designer WeWe with handmade pompom beaded necklace from Alchymia in Cape Town


What do you look for when buying jewellery for yourself or others?

I like the jewellery I wear to mean something.  I have a huge respect for precious metals and gemstones having seen first-hand how difficult they are to produce and I believe they should be treasured.  Aside from fun costume pieces for festivals, I don’t own much jewellery…it has to be very special to stick.   My favourite piece in the Sophie Lis collection is the Fallen Moon Necklace, I wear it every day.

What is your lucky charm?

I don’t have one.  Usually I get by with a lot of determination.



Love of your life...

My husband, Tom

First thing you do when you land in London?

Get an uber straight to the gym!