I Am The Wardrobe


Stubbs has worked with world’s best – but he’s no name-dropper

If he was so inclined, Robin Stubbs could be one of Queenstown’s A-list name-droppers.

Instead, he prefers to keep himself to himself at his secluded home in Dalefield.

But in his time, the retired showbiz costume designer has rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest names in TV, movies and music.

During a 30-year career with the BBC in London, Stubbs kitted out the stars on some of the most popular shows in TV history such as Only Fools and Horses, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Porridge and Tenko.

He also worked with the world’s biggest group, The Beatles, on their seriously weird 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour, which included their psychedelic song I Am The Walrus.

Stubbs even appeared alongside the Fab Four on the sleeve of the chart-topping soundtrack EP – dressed in a bizarre “eggman” outfit.

“The Beatles were easily the most famous people on earth back then,” he says. “I did the props for Magical Mystery Tour and had the privilege of first meeting them at their Abbey Road recording studios in London.

“I got on very well with John Lennon, even though he was off his head on pot or whatever most of the time, and George Harrison and Ringo Starr were great guys, too.

“But I didn’t like Paul McCartney very much. He was a bolshie big-head – and I wasn’t the only person to say that.”

After starting as a lowly dresser with the BBC in the mid-1960s, Stubbs worked his way up to become a leading costume designer. For three decades, he enjoyed being part of what he describes as the “golden age” of British TV.

His work continues to be seen by tens of millions of viewers the world over.

Stubbs designed the Batman and Robin suits worn by David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst as the Trotter brothers, Del Boy and Rodney, on Only Fools and Horses.

The 1996 classic has been voted in the Top 10 of memorable comedy moments on UK TV.

Last year the Del Boy and Rodney costumes sold for the equivalent of $NZ28,000 at an auction in London.

Stubbs also dreamed up the famous jailbird outfit worn by late, great funnyman Ronnie Barker in evergreen favourite Porridge.

“Again, it was an absolute privilege to be involved with people of that quality,” explains Stubbs. “I did 10 series of Fools and Horses and it was difficult to make, mainly because the crew kept falling about laughing during filming, it was just so bloody good.

“I still see many of the costumes I designed on TV today as these kinds of shows are still screened time and time again on all sorts of stations in New Zealand and overseas.”

And he jokes: “I only wish I’d worked out a deal for getting paid a few repeat fees.”

Stubbs and his wife Jacqui, who writes a weekly gardening column for Mountain Scene, first arrived in Queenstown from London in 2000 during a year-long trip around the world, before eventually settling here two years later. He now enjoys spending time pursuing his love of photography.

But he’ll get a blast from the past when Scottish joker Billy Connolly plays Queenstown’s Events Centre on February 7.

“I first worked with Billy many years ago on a tough drama set in Glasgow called Just Another Saturday,” Stubbs explains. “I remember taking him out shopping and he couldn’t understand why I’d bought him a set of clothes exactly the same as the ones he was already wearing.

“I then had to break it to him that his character was going to get slashed with a knife later that day so we needed some spare gear.

“Billy replied “Oh aye, right then” and just got on with it.”

But in typically low-key fashion, Stubbs adds: “I already have tickets for his gig in Queenstown but won’t be desperately trying to say hello.

“That sort of thing has never sat well with me. It’s not like I’m his long-lost best friend.”