Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Dr. Christiaan Barnard and his wife Barbara Zoellner.

Wedding photo.

I met Barbara Barnard for the first time when I was asked by the South African fashion magazine "Fair Lady" to design a gown for her.She was going to be photographed by Lord Litchfield in Spain, so I decided to create a simple gown in a bright color but to add something with a Spanish flavor to it.
We made a  hot pink gown of silk faille and trimmed with matching cording covering the whole bodice. I found a beautiful embroidered antique Spanish stole  to go with it.They added a flower to her hair- and the photo was used for their cover.

Barbara on the cover of "The Saturday Evening Post"

"Fair Lady" cover.

The magazine flew me  to Cape Town to fit her and she came back from Mala Mala -the safari lodge- where she and Dr. Barnard was hosting  Peter Sellers and his wife.We met at  their home in Groot Constantia where we did the fitting.

The Barnard's home in Groot Constantia. Cape Town.

She was in a very agitated state as there were race riots in Johannesburg the previous day and -as many South Africans- she was very worried about the future. We all knew apartheid had to end- but no one knew what would happen ,and if the country will explode into a civil war.
She was married to Dr Barnard  then for about 6 years and I found her to be beautiful but rather shy, kind and a sweet person.




Dr. Chris Barnard was the South Africa cardiac surgeon who performed the first human to human heart transplant in the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town  on December 3 1967.

He became very famous overnight .His boyish good looks made him a big success with woman and they called him the "doctor of hearts" and "the film star surgeon".
He had divorced his first wife and he married Barbara when she was 19 and he was 48. They had two sons by this time.

Barbara and Chris's daughter Deidre- from his wife Louwtjie- started a women' s boutique in Cape Town. I received a call from my dear friend Gloria Craig .She was the Sales Director of Hellas - the company I worked for after I graduated from Fashion School .She asked me if Barbara could visit my studio and buy from my ready to wear line. She also asked me to introduce Barbara  to some other young designers in Johannesburg  that she could  purchase clothes from them for her store.I told her I would love to do it but I have a beaten up old Volkswagen and if Barbara  was OK what that- it would be my pleasure.


Barbara, Gerhard and Gloria.

I had to pick her up from Fanny Tenderinni's home- who was a big socialite in Johannesburg.
Barbara did not mind my little beetle  and we had  two days of fun driving around and buying clothes for her boutique . I got to know her much better then and was even more charmed by her kind and unassuming  personality.Years later a customer of mine in New York showed me one of my blouses that she bought from Barbara's boutique when she visited Cape Town.
After I left South Africa for New York- Barbara divorced Chris and moved to Johannesburg where she later met and  married Joe Silva. I remember a dinner in Johannesburg one night after I arrived from New York that morning. Gerhard and I had  dinner with Joe and Barbara  in Sandton City. My head was spinning from the jet lag- but I found her more calm- and very happy with Joe.She did not enjoy the limelight and I think that was one of the reasons she divorced Chris -who loved all the attention. They had two sons , Frederick and Christiaan  during their 12 year marriage. . 


  Barbara and her  boys Frederick and Christiaan.

Barbara died in 1998 of breast cancer- at the age of 37. It was a great loss to all that loved her.
Three years later Chris Barnard also died .He was in Cyprus on vacation where he died of a severe asthma attack. He was 79 years old.

Princess Grace of Monaco and Dr. Chris Barnard at Red Cross Ball in Monte Carlo


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  3. Remember Barbara as elegant as ever in a photograph in a newspaper at her parents' home, in 1969