Sarah McIntyre caught up with TV presenter Amanda Byram, who is the ambassador of this year's Dublin Festival of Fashion, to chat about her career, style essentials and beauty tips.
Sarah McIntyre: Are you excited to be the face of the Dublin Festival of Fashion?
Amanda Byram: I’m the ambassador which is actually really exciting for me because I used to be a model in Dublin many, many, many moons ago. I’m a big follower of fashion since my days in the fashion industry, and obviously I’m a big fan of Dublin because I’m from here and I’ve lived away from Dublin for 12 years believe it or not. It’s great to be able to incorporate both fashion and being back in Dublin.
The point of the fashion festival is to get people to come back into the city centre and to start exploring the city centre again, and to start spending money in the city centre. We’ve lost the art of shopping in Dublin, for me it’s the chance to be able to say to people ‘Look come back into town’. There’s no such thing as ‘town’ in London or LA, there’s town in Dublin and I think we’ve lost sight of that completely. As a model we always used to come into town and we’d go shopping every single day and we’d go to Bewley’s for our coffee and go for drinks in Hogan’s that night and we just had the best time, and it doesn’t happen anymore. So for me to be part of a festival that is trying to pull that back is incredible. And it’s not just fashion either, there’s about 250 retailers including hotels and bars within the 6th and the 9th of September that are also going to have these special pop-up fashion nights and fashion cocktails, which will be lovely.
What are your events to watch in the festival?
For me it’s all about the fashion, I know Arnott’s are opening up a big shoe department which is supposed to be absolutely fantastic. For me the pivotal one which I’m hosting on the steps on the back of the Powerscourt Centre, there’s going to be a big big fashion show there for the Creative Quarter. So that’s one I’m really looking forward to. I’m just looking forward to being around town at that time because some roads will be shut off and there’ll just be a great buzz around town, so it’ll be really exciting.
Do you have any favourite Irish designers that are your ‘ones to watch’?
I’ve only just discovered her, but Dawn Fitzgerald is amazing. In my day we had Ciaran Sweeney and Peter O’Brien and you’ve got Sharon Hoey, there are many Irish designers that we don’t appreciate enough. And then they have to go off to other countries in order to make a stamp, Peter O’Brien went to Paris to do couture. We need to start driving it back home that we have our own identity, let’s stop looking abroad for inspiration, we’ve got it right here on our doorstep so why would you want to do anything else.
Do you think Dublin is one of your favourite places to shop?
Well for me, it’s not just a case to shop but to be in. I’m from here and I don’t get home that often so when I do get home, there’s just such an air. For me Grafton Street is where it’s at, you think of Christmas on Grafton Street, you think about summers on Grafton Street. Over the years I’ve seen so much change because I come and go a lot. Of late, not so great with the recession, things are shutting down, but things are starting to open back up again and I think that’s why this is such a pivotal time for us to be able to say “Lads come back into town, get the footfall back into the city centre and start shopping in town and appreciating it for what it is”.
Could you ever see yourself moving home permanently, would a job take you back?
A job, probably not at the moment because there’s so much going on for me everywhere else between Los Angeles and Sydney and London it’s kind of a bit overwhelming and exhausting. But I am definitely looking into doing more shows over here and we’re talking to some networks tomorrow and some production companies, so yeah if the project’s right absolutely, I would never ever close my doors to doing work here at all. And I’ve always said, you never know an Irish man might bring me back here, so you never know. I’m very much a romantic, I’m so blessed that I’ve been able to have properties in a few different countries now, so none of them are specifically home, every one of them is more of a ‘base’. So I’m looking forward to finding out where home is but I don’t know where that is just yet.
Do you have any particular areas you could see yourself moving into, you’re obviously a huge fashion fan, would that be something you’d like to pursue more?
I am, and actually I’m looking into that this year believe it or not. I think it’s quite crucial with so much stuff going on now, I think if you can’t monopolize on that, becoming a commodity and a brand, when can you do it. I’m a huge fan of people like Elle Macpherson who’s come out with the Intimates range and it’s a very sexy business and she’s a very brilliant businesswoman and I’ve never thought to do that because I’m not really business-minded. But, I’ve just hosted this show called The Angel and it’s all about entrepreneurs and that really inspired me, and I thought maybe it is about getting a team of people to create some sort of a brand. There’s as few different arenas, I’m huge into health and fitness and sports and swimwear and hosiery and all that stuff, so that’s hopefully somewhere we’ll start looking into first.
Speaking of sports, how do you keep in shape?
I’m careful with my diet for the most part and I work out. I work out almost every day, maybe 5 days a week. But then like everything in moderation. I like to mix things up, I love to do Pilates but I’m a gym bunny, I do a lot of weights. And I run, I love to run, it’s that feeling of freedom. So yeah, I work hard at. But I have my fat days, we’re never happy. Then you look back at photographs in a year’s time and think 'I actually was in shape then and I was miserable because I thought I was fat!' The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve tried to appreciate my body for what it is. There’s nothing you can do about it, I’ve got stretch marks and cellulite like the rest of us, you just have to embrace it and be confident. I think sexiness and good body shape is all about owning it. You’ve got lumps and bumps here and there, that’s fine, as long as you own it and you feel confident within yourself.
Do you think you felt more pressure when you lived in LA to look perfect?
Yeah, I think it kind of happened subconsciously, it happens because over there so much emphasis is put on the way you look and you think that you’re not a part of it until you come home and people go ‘Oh your teeth are very white’ and ‘Oh my god your hair’s really perfected’ and ‘Oh gosh your tan is so even’. I think when I came home I had to knock it out of myself, I wasn’t going for manicures every day and I wasn’t going for facials all the time, and I was panicking. And then I thought, it doesn’t actually matter, you don't have to keep yourself in tip-top condition.
For our readers, what would be your top beauty tips?
Drinking lots of water and sunfactor. I take facials quite a lot. Getting enough sleep is vital. And trying to live a stress free life. I’ve got a really high powered job where I’m always thinking of the next thing and I’m always quite stressed and I battle with it on a daily basis, but I try to not be stressed. Because it ages you and it makes you fat and it does all the things that you spend so much money trying to negate, whereas the stress is the killer.
From working on The Swan did you more open to plastic surgery, or question it?
It kind of made me realise how much of a circus it had all become, in particular in Los Angeles. You walk down the street in LA and women have bandages on their nose, and their lips are just done, and they all look the same, that’s what really turned me off, that element. I’ve always said a subtle nip-tuck here and there when you’re older is fine, and I’m not someone to say you shouldn’t have surgery because it’s all about how you feel, nothing else matters. If you get surgery and it makes you feel a million euro, fine, do it, because at the end of the day who cares what anybody else thinks.
Fashion wise, how would you describe your style?
I’ve got quite an eclectic style, I love my fashion magazines and I look at them consistently, and I try to copy bits and pieces from every one and everything. I tend to dress quite gypsy boho, just from my days in California. It’s easy, it’s me, I like to keep things loose and free and fancyfree. A friend of mine, Fearne Cotton, she dresses for herself, and she’s taught me so much about fashion. She’s got the biggest wardrobe and for her, every day it’s fun to go ‘What shall I wear today?’ I don’t think she wears the same thing twice, ever. And she mish mashes things so much and gets away with it. I can’t do that, I need things to be a little bit more structured.
Do you have any style tips through the years you’d like to pass on?
Never match. Anything matchy matchy for me is a big no-no for me especially if it’s a label. Keeping things simple is also key, less is more, people try to go overboard and it never really works. And also, if you’re bigger and you’ve got curves, try not to hide them. I think the more you try and hide a curve, the bigger you look. I think it’s about embracing your curves. I mean you look at Monica Belluci and she’s just so voluptuous and gorgeous and she wears tight clothes, now not mutton dressed as lamb tight clothes, but clothes that accentuate her figure, and I think that’s key.
You travel a lot for your work, what are style essentials for your carry on bag?
Moisturiser for planes anyway because it’s always long haul and have to moisturise. I pack food, always. I never eat plane food. That’s probably my top travel beauty tip, because there’s so much salt in those little meals so I pack five to six lunches of Tupperware full of brown rices and salads and quinoa, so whenever I’m hungry I reach for it. You’re always hungrier on a plane than on land!
You’ve found your style now, but do you think you’ve had a lot of fashion disasters through the years?
God yeah. I’ve not had too many, thankfully, because I don’t go to too many openings or red carpets so I always have time to think about what I want to wear. But there were definitely moments, I think when I was younger more so I used to backcomb my hair and I had a fringe that was out to here, and yeah stonewashed denim, which is actually back in now so I was way ahead of my time!
Do you think your career has in any way gotten in the way of your private life?
I’ve been really lucky in that I’m not massively famous, I’ve got a profile, and that’s great but I don’t court the tabloids, I don’t go out with celebrities, I don’t talk about my life really. I’m no a media whore in that sense. I do press when I have something that I’m really passionate about and want to talk about. So in that sense, I’m a lot luckier that others. Sure there’s stuff like I broke up with my fiancé last year and of course it’s the question that everybody asks you about, and I understand that, because if you are in the public eye it’s nice for people to be able to connect with you and it’s also important for me at 39, now single without kids, to almost be a role model for career women that think ‘oh my god I’m never going to meet the guy of my life’. I can sit there and go ‘you need to be happy with yourself before you can be happy with anyone else anyway, so it’s really nice to be able to send that message across.
The Dublin Festival of Fashion takes place from September 6th-9th.