My Style: Toni Street’s Journey Through Fashion, From Canterbury Jerseys To Frothy Frocks

By Dan Ahwa
Toni Street for Canvas magazine, September 2021. Photo / Babiche Martens

Toni Street — the Coast radio star, sports commentator, professional MC, TV personality and the nation’s sweetheart — shares her story in style. She speaks with Dan Ahwa about her relationship with fashion and how she uses clothes as a tool to communicate in her various media roles.

The term

The names and faces of people who front our media — whether it’s on the radio, a podcast or television — require a certain charisma not everyone is fortunate enough to be born with. To be a media personality already assumes that you, indeed, have a personality.

Approachability, then, is even more important when you’re trying to engage with people nationwide, and it’s something Toni Street has done particularly well in her almost two-decade-long career.

Having turned 40 last year, Toni’s ability to speak to a diverse range of New Zealanders is a testament to her wide and varied personal and professional life experiences.

She grew up on a Taranaki farm and represented Taranaki and Canterbury in netball and Central Districts cricket. She studied commerce at Lincoln University and gained a journalism diploma from Canterbury University. She fronted high-profile news and current affairs shows Breakfast and Seven Sharp. In 2017 she won Television Personality of the Year at the New Zealand TV Awards.

Toni Street wearing a signature floaty dress at the ASB Classic Tennis Launch in 2023, with tournament director Nicolas Lamperin.
Toni Street wearing a signature floaty dress at the ASB Classic Tennis Launch in 2023, with tournament director Nicolas Lamperin.

On paper, she’s the pitch-perfect New Zealand daughter — a fact that has played a part in shaping her public persona, and trust with audiences.

In 2021, my colleague Greg Bruce interviewed Toni upon the release of her book Lost and Found, which was a local contribution to the celebrity memoir canon and placed the spotlight on growing up with grief and loss, and being diagnosed with a rare immune disease, Churg-Strauss syndrome. The book also explored finding hope in surrogacy, a process that resonates with thousands of New Zealanders.

Accompanying that story was a shoot with photographer Babiche Martens, where we worked with Toni on a series of portraits. Collaborating with Toni on some of the looks was an opportunity to hear firsthand how she has used clothing to convey a sense of approachability as a very public figure.

“When I’m feeling fashionable, my demeanour changes,” she says, “and I become more confident. I use fashion to focus on my job at hand, which might be radio, TV, or MCing. A bad fashion choice can completely deplete my confidence.”

There’s a certain strategy to ensuring you aren’t too unapproachable as a public figure, but still allowing yourself the right to self-expression — which Toni has done consistently over the years.

From bright colours to unrestrictive dresses that allow her to move easily on the job, there is a method to knowing how to read a room with the right ensemble, one that Toni has expertly navigated down to a fine art.

How would you describe your personal style?

Classic, colourful and comfortable.

Toni Street wears her pink Staud dress.
Toni Street wears her pink Staud dress.

What is your favourite item of clothing?

A pink Staud dress from Muse Boutique I wore to MC the New Zealander of the Year last year. It is bright pink, sheer and full, with a high neck. It’s so much fun! I’ve recently seen it has come out in navy and I’m very tempted!

What was your relationship with fashion growing up?

Initially, I wore the clothes Mum put out for me, and in the late 80s that was a variety of bright tracksuits she made herself. When I developed my own personal style, I was influenced by sports. I loved a Canterbury rugby jersey, Canterbury pants, tearaways and my Charlotte Hornets NBA jacket. As time went on I started to incorporate a more girly vibe around the time the Spice Girls were big — skirts over bootleg trousers, for example, were everywhere at the time.

How has your style evolved over the years and what are some of the key lessons you’ve learned?

I certainly know what suits me better nowadays. When I was younger and mustard was in, I’d want to wear mustard — but I look awful in that colour, and I know that now.

I feel like the gap between my day-to-day style and my going-out style has really widened too. Day-to-day I am much more casual, but when I go out, I will really dress up because it doesn’t happen very often. Plus, I really love a good dress.

“Day-to-day I am much more casual, but when I go out, I will really dress up because it doesn’t happen very often,” says Toni.
“Day-to-day I am much more casual, but when I go out, I will really dress up because it doesn’t happen very often,” says Toni.

What was the last item of clothing you purchased, and why?

I bought a playsuit from Chiffon Boutique because I saw it on Instagram. It pulled me in because it’s so colourful and fun, and makes me feel like summer is going to keep on going.

What are your favourite New Zealand fashion labels?

What are some of the challenges you find when it comes to shopping for fashion?

Finding the time to actually enjoy my shopping — I always feel like I’m in a rush.

You’ve had the opportunity to work with a range of different stylists over the years. What are some of the tips and lessons you’ve learned along the way?

To go with cuts and shapes that flatter you, not just what’s trendy. Also, no pair of heels is worth the pain that goes with standing for four hours, and sometimes having someone else choose your clothes is the best thing for you because we often revert to the safest option.

What has fashion taught you about yourself?

When I’m feeling fashionable my demeanour changes — I become more confident and I can focus on my job at hand, which might be radio, TV or MC’ing. A bad fashion choice can completely deplete my confidence.

Is there something sentimental you have in your wardrobe that you will one day pass on to your kids?

I have several jackets I wore when I first presented 1 News back in 2007. I’d love to show my girls these one day, maybe they’ll even come back in fashion!

What wardrobe items make you feel confident on camera?

A great blazer in a vibrant colour. I love how a blazer squares your shoulders up and gives a classic, timeless vibe.

What’s the best style advice anyone has ever given you?

Shop for your shape, not the latest trends.

Shop Toni’s look

A bright blazer, a frothy frock and a fun playsuit are three essentials from Toni’s style playbook.

A bright blazer

Toni’s array of brightly coloured blazers is an easy way to bring colour back into your complexion when you’re looking for something to throw over a shirt or a dress.

A frothy dress

Toni has this dress in pink, the ultimate whimsical go-to dress for when the dress code is extra special.

A fun playsuit

Jumpsuits are an easy way to feel relaxed and comfortable, something Toni requires when on a job where she has to do a lot of the talking and hosting. Wear this with a blazer for the office or layered over a fitted white T-shirt for the perfect autumnal weekend outfit.

More personal style

True style comes from within, as these stylish souls prove.

My style: Rising designer Laurence Sabrine on how Vivienne Westwood and Filipino folklore shape their style. Laurence Sabrine is a Pōneke-based designer and stylist with a unique fashion sensibility. They talk to Madeleine Crutchley about their distinct style and the role of clothes in self-expression.

Style Liaisons with blogger Meagan Kerr. The 39-year-old writer and influencer Meagan Kerr has garnered a tight-knit community through her passion for reporting on plus-size style and “life as a fat chick”.

Style liaisons with MP Chloe Swarbrick. After years spent fashioning change, the Green Party MP for Auckland Central talks sneaker subtlety, unpacking threads of representation and wearing values on your sleeve.

Style liaisons with photographer Yvonne Todd. “There’s something of a dichotomy between what I wear and the clothing I use in my photographs.”

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