July 19, 2013 6:41 pm

Battle dress: an interview with Christiane Amanpour

Reporter and news anchor Christiane Amanpour talks about image, communication – and what to wear in a war zone
Christiane Amanpour at CNN’s London studio, 2006©Retna

Christiane Amanpour at CNN’s London studio, 2006

Christiane Amanpour is the chief international correspondent for CNN, host of an eponymous interview programme, and is also global affairs anchor of ABC News. She grew up in Iran and in Great Britain and joined CNN after university. As a reporter, she has covered many conflicts as well as interviewing heads of state such as Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad and the former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

. . .

Christiane Amanpour in Tom Ford suit and Jimmy Choo shoes©Evan Sung

Christiane Amanpour in Tom Ford suit and Jimmy Choo shoes

Suit by Tom Ford

I’ve been friends with Tom Ford for about eight years – he’s a news junkie, and watches CNN a lot – and he declared when we met that I needed an upgrade (those are my words, not his); something that would keep my style but polish it. So he made me a number of suits: the one I am wearing, plus one in a light cream silk, and one in purple, all with similar details and silhouette. I fully abdicated any decision-making, which was a new thing, since I am someone who likes to say, “Do this, or do that.” The result really surprised me, not because I didn’t think he would do a good job but because I felt so good in the suits, and I had never really put much stock in the ability of clothes to lift a mood. I wouldn’t wear these in the field, of course, but I wear them in the studio, and to interview heads of state. I wore this one to interview Thein Sein, the president of Myanmar, for example, before he met President Obama [in May], and to interview Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan, when he was in DC.

I was very lucky in my profession, because I grew up in this very subjective, visual medium in the field, as opposed to in the studio, so I never had bosses telling me what I could or could not wear. I had to develop my style on my own, and what I created was a sort of uniform for myself. I am a big believer in uniforms. I went to boarding school and it may have started there, but generally I think they relieve the pressure of having to decide what to wear as the first order of business every morning. Also, I do a lot of work on humanitarian catastrophes, and I do feel it’s morally as well as professionally inappropriate to be too concerned about my clothes in that situation. It’s not that clothes don’t matter; it’s that I want them to free me to concentrate on my work.

Beretta shooting jacket

Beretta shooting jacket

So my professional uniform is a Beretta shooting jacket – not a flak jacket – a white shirt, usually from Theory, because it’s clean and simple; beige pants or black jeans; and flat leather Tod’s lace-up boots. I bought these boots in Paris in 1992 and I’m still wearing them – they’ve been all over the world with me. They are incredibly comfortable. I’m not trying to dress like a soldier or a photographer but in this I feel appropriate, especially in the Muslim world. And being appropriate enables me to get my foot in the door.

www.tomford.com

. . .

Shoes by Manolo Blahnik

These were actually my wedding shoes, and I had them redyed afterwards. They are higher than I generally wear every day. Mostly I wear flats, because I ride my bicycle everywhere. During hurricane Sandy, I was in the office on time every day, because I rode my bike in, and it was the one kind of transportation in the city that stayed reliable in that situation. I have a black suede pair from LK Bennett I am very fond of.

Tod’s boots

Tod’s boots

I don’t like the idea of only wearing things once, which is why I had the shoes re-coloured; generally I keep things for ever. I like the idea of having some very good pieces that last. I have a great Etro jacket, for example, that my husband [James Rubin, former state department chief spokesman and executive editor at Bloomberg News, recently appointed research fellow at Oxford university’s Rothermere American Institute] bought for me in Rome, and I wear everywhere. I have a Diane von Furstenberg leather jacket with studs that I wear all the time. It’s nice when clothes have a history.

www.manoloblahnik.com

. . .

Earrings and pinky ring by Lalaounis

The ring was given to me by one of my Iranian aunts – actually someone who was just a good friend of my family, but we call her “aunt” – to mark the birth of my son, Darius. It’s lapis, which is a favourite Afghan stone, and has resonance for me.

Lalaounis earrings

Lalaounis earrings

The earrings were a gift from my husband. I tend to wear them on air, and I also have a smaller pair I wear in the field. Because I have spent so much time on the road, where often there isn’t even a bathroom so you can take a shower, people got used to seeing me one way, and now that I’m in the studio, with hair and make-up, I look a different way. I’m lucky because I have very good hair for a war zone. It’s Iranian hair; it keeps its shape for several days. Now, though, I get emails from people saying, “When are you going to change your earrings?” and, “When did you get your facelift?” I have to tell them, “I didn’t have a facelift, I just have better lighting.”

Christiane Amanpour in Mogadishu, 1992©Corbis

Amanpour in Mogadishu, 1992

Things are relatively loose now in terms of what you can and can’t wear on air but I do feel that it’s not a cocktail party, and you shouldn’t dress like you are going to one. You dress in part to communicate to viewers who you are. It’s why I don’t cover myself when I am in the Muslim world unless the law of the land requires it. I am who I am.

www.lalaounis.gr

. . .

Bracelet by Robert Lee Morris

Watch by Bulgari

Necklace by 10 Thousand Things

The bracelet I am wearing was the first piece of jewellery I ever bought myself – I bought it in 1989 in New York to celebrate a personal occasion. It’s carnelian, which is a very Persian stone.

The 10 Thousand Things necklace I also bought myself in New York, and the small necklace I bought in the airport on my way home from covering the tsunami in Sri Lanka. It’s tiny sapphires, which is also my engagement stone, and I wear it every day.

Christiane Amanpour interviewing Hosni Mubarak, 2011©AP

Amanpour interviewing Hosni Mubarak, 2011

The watch was a very generous gift from Mr Bulgari on my wedding, which was in Italy, and he gave a matching one to my husband; we never could have afforded them otherwise.

I travel with a lot of my jewellery. I’m like a TSA [Transportation Security Administration] nightmare, because every time I got through security it all has to come off. But I would not deprive myself of my little luxury, and comfort.

www.robertleemorris.com

www.bulgari.com

www.tenthousandthingsnyc.com

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To watch the latest episodes of Amanpour on CNN, visit www.amanpour.com

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