New Zealand camp icons who helped inspire the latest issue of Fashion Quarterly

In Fashion Quarterly’s latest ‘Brave’-themed issue, we celebrate all things extravagant, fabulous and camp.

As we discover in our historical deep-dive, the origin of camp was centred around the spirit of extravagance. Being able to not take yourself too seriously, theatricality and humour are also key components.

It represents a much bigger cultural conversation that is happening in 2019, a fearlessnes and liberating movement, as can be evidenced by this year’s Met Gala theme, Camp: Notes on Fashion.

Drawing inspiration from local ‘camp’ icons past and present, we celebrate these all-time fabulous figures.

Scroll our gallery to see how many you know:

Hudson & Halls

Described as “in the closet with the doors wide open”, celebrity chefs Peter Hudson and David Halls were the vivacious stars of iconic cooking show Hudson & Halls, which screened on New Zealand television between the years 1976-1986. Their OTT cooking style, banter and bickering had viewers hooked up and down the country for a decade.

The Topp Twins

Lynda and Jools Topp are Kiwi icons – some might even call them “national treasures” – whose country-inspired music made them famous in the 80s and landed them several TV shows throughout the 90s and 2000s. Camp Mother and Camp Leader were just two of their alter egos that are forever etched in our minds. The twins were appointed Dame Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2018 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to entertainment.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa is a world-renowned soprano opera singer, who currently resides in London. Her recording of the ‘Nuns’ Chorus’ from the Strauss operetta Casanova was the first gold record produced in New Zealand and she went on to have a successful international career performing and teaching until her official retirement in 2017.

Xena: Warrior Princess

Xena: Warrior Princess was an iconic fantasy American television show filmed in New Zealand which gave actress Lucy Lawless her big break.

Chris Parker

Known for his work on TV shows Jono and Ben, Funny Girls and The Great Kiwi Bake Off: An Extra Slice, comedian Chris Parker is fast becoming a local entertainment icon. His live show at last year’s New Zealand International Comedy Festival, Camp Binch, won him the prestigious Fred Award, honouring the best Kiwi show of the festival season. His idols growing up included Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, Dolly Parton and Patti LuPone, not “All Blacks who could eat a thousand Weetbix”. Read more about Chris Parker here.

Connan Mockasin

A New Zealand musician, composer and record producer who has made his name with his non-conformist way of dressing and performing.

Yvonne Todd

The iconic New Zealand artist is known for her striking photography and styling, working with models and “real people” on intricately posed and styled portraits. Subverting the ideas of traditional portraiture, Yvonne’s work combines a dark humour with style; she often draws on her collection of vintage fashion pieces from Versace, Pierre Cardin and Bob Mackie.


Icons of New Zealand camp fashion, the brand has continuously championed the ideas behind the aesthetic since it began in 1989 – irony, humour, parody, pastiche, artifice, theatricality, and exaggeration.

Taika Waititi

The Kiwi actor, comedian and film-maker is known for his heart-warming films Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople – with a fabulously camp sense of humour, and style that includes pastel suits and pineapple print onesies. His take on the Marvel universe, Thor: Ragnarok, was definitely camp.

Billy T James

A New Zealand comedy icon, Billy T James became a household name in entertainment and acting – most famous for his comedy sketches and contagious laugh – before his untimely death from heart failure in 1991, aged just 43.

Rose Matafeo

The comedian, actress and TV presenter is best known for her role on television skit show Funny Girls as well as her live comedy shows, which she’s been doing since she was 15. For the past four years she’s been living in London, making her mark on the international comedy circuit. Last year she performed in front of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at the Royal Variety Performance, where Rick Astley opened the door for her while she was backstage.

Peta Mathias

“New Zealanders need to lighten up, flirt a bit and not think it’s the end of the world,” Peta told Now to Love. “I think we need to play more and have more fun together.” The vivaciousness food writer and TV presenter is also the author of books Beat Till Stiff: A Woman’s Recipe for Living and Can We Help It If We’re Fabulous?

Richard O’Brien

Known best for writing The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Richard is also a TV presenter, performer and writer.

Jimmy D

Established by designer James Dobson in 2004, he describes the brand as “deconstructed, androgynous, oversized silhouettes with a dark sense of humour”. His latest range features Swarvoski crystal detailing, with past collections including a fried chicken print and another titled Gloom Rules – what we’d describe as wry camp.

David Hartnell

If there was ever a best- and worst-dressed list worth reading, it was David Hartnell’s. The journalist and media personality was New Zealand’s first full-time celebrity gossip columnist and was famous for his catchphrases “my lips are sealed” and “I’m not one to gossip but…”. The larger-than-life figure was runner up in the dance pairs at the World Roller Skating Championships in Christchurch in 1959 and was Australia’s first in-store male makeup artist when he worked for Revlon in Sydney. In 2016 he was made patron of the Brotherhood of Auckland Magicians Inc.

Mike Hosking

A die-hard fan of Gucci loafers, statement blazers and certainly a diamante or two, this radio broadcaster has personal style up the wazoo. The host of the Mike Hosking Breakfast on Newstalk ZB, and former co-host of Seven Sharp, is married to fellow ZB broadcaster Kate Hawkesby, and followers of Kate on Instagram will know that Mike is just as enamoured with his beloved Maltese Lulu (pictured) as he is with the Dyson stick vacuum.

Lyn of Tawa

Famous for her gum chewing and grating Kiwi vowels, the comedy character Lyn of Tawa was created in the late 1970s by actor Ginette McDonald. Think of her as New Zealand’s answer to Gina Riley’s Kim Day of Kath & Kim fame; Lyn satirised the lower middle-class suburban lifestyle of the ’70s and ’80s.

Photos: Getty Images, Comedy Festival, Bauer Syndication, Yvonne Todd.