Mar. 3rd, 2014 | Comments 0 | Make a Comment
Robert Procop, Fred Leighton, & Roberto Cavalli
Last night’s Oscars award ceremony may have been a bit predictable when it came to the film winners, but the red carpet was so dazzling it almost didn’t matter. Our favorite celebrities came out dressed to the nines—we may have seen them looking their best throughout this awards season, but yesterday they totally brought their A-game. Nude gowns were heavy on the red carpet as well as bare makeup for a barely-there glow—from the palest of pinks to deepest beiges, Cate Blanchett, Angelina Jolie, Lady Gaga and Kristen Bell were all lovers of the look. Even the Vanity Fair after party was filled with celebrities wearing the skin-tone gowns—if there was ever an obvious trend on a red carpet—this is it.
Photo Courtesy of Fred Leighton Gold Jewelry
Lupita Nyong’o took home the award for Best Supporting Actress, but that gorgeous blue gown was easily her first win of the evening. We knew the reigning queen-of-the-red-carpet would look stunning, and she didn’t fail to impress. Breaking away from the sea of beige-colored gowns around her, Nyong’o wore a custom-made blue Prada dress with antique Fred Leighton gold jewelry including a 19th century yellow gold and diamond coiled snake bracelet, yellow gold and rose-cut diamond spiked crescent earrings, and 18k yellow gold and diamond headband.
Photo Courtesy of Roberto Cavalli
We’ll confess we’re totally in love with the Oscar-winning movie Frozen so when Princess Anna Kristen Bell took to the red carpet we just knew she would look like a picture of perfection. But despite her gorgeous appearance, Bell had no problem letting a little of her spunky personality peek through by tweeting a picture of her clutch and saying, “when you see me on the red carpet of the oscars tonight, just know…there’s a burrito in my clutch.” She wore a nude Roberto Cavalli gown, Brian Atwood shoes, Salvatore Ferragamo clutch, and Piaget Rose Empress necklace and Rose earrings both in white gold with diamonds.
Photo Courtesy of Robert Procop Gold Jewelry
Angelina Jolie always looks beautiful, and with such an amazing figure we loved that she bore a bit of skin in this elegant, sheer-paneled dress; it was easily one of our favorite looks of the evening. Wearing a silver embroidered Elie Saab couture gown and Robert Procop Exceptional Jewels Collection yellow gold round diamond drop earrings, Jolie looked like an ethereal beauty floating down the red carpet on the arm of Brad Pitt.
Photo Courtesy of Tiffany & Co. Gold Jewelry
She might not have been wearing a nude dress, but Amy Adams has been totally rocking the red carpet this awards season. From plunging necklines to this navy blue strapless gown, the American Hustle star looked gorgeous—and the deep navy shade popped on a red carpet of pale colored dresses. She wore a Gucci dress and Tiffany & Co. Blue Book Collection 18k yellow gold rhodochrosite, lapis and turquoise earrings with diamonds, a diamond bracelet, a ring with fire opal, pink sapphire, yellow diamond and spessertite beads and a gold Tiffany Metro diamond band ring.
Photo Courtesy of Lorraine Schwartz Gold Jewlery
In the palest of pinks, Brazilian model Camila Alves wore one of the most beautiful gowns we saw last night. There to support her husband Matthew McConaughey, she brought sexiness to a whole new level by choosing to don a figure-embracing silhouette rather than reveal too much skin. Mrs. McConaughey wore a Gabriela Cadena gown and Lorraine Schwartz rose gold and pink diamond earrings with a rose gold and diamond ring.
Photo Courtesy of Lorraine Schwartz Gold Jewlery
We don’t know what we love about this dress more, the intricately detailed beading or that it’s not made of meat. Lady Gaga took us completely by surprise with an almost bare face (glitter is totally a neutral for her), a simple updo and a pale pink, event-appropriate gown. It seems her campaign with Versace is helping her to step up her fashion game—and we totally dig it. She wore a metallic Versace dress and Brian Atwood shoes paired with Lorraine Schwartz rose gold and 20 carat diamond studs, diamond bracelet, and grey diamond ring surrounded by pink diamonds.
Photos Courtesy of Jeanine Lobell Beauty & Lancôme
Bare-faced beauties also made appearances on the red carpet with light makeup, nude lips and just the right amount of sparkle to keep everything simple. Cate Blanchett and Julia Roberts were both rocking a fresh-faced palette, looking more elegant than some other bold-lipped celebrities. We love this look for spring and the actresses (both in their mid-forties) look youthful and bright. Cate Blanchett wore an Armani Privé gown; Julia Roberts wore a lace Givenchy couture dress and Bulgari jewelry.
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Style File scoped out track side fashion at the TV3 Derby Day races at Ellerslie. In accordance with a centuries old Derby Day tradition, the dress code was black and white. Not everyone stuck to the rules, but Style File were stoked to find a fine collection of frocked up fillies making an effort to respect.
We asked them the question: If you owned a racehorse, what would you call it?
- www.nzherald.co.nzRead More »
Fancy a new you this year? Body lifts are booming in popularity as people opt for increasingly extensive plastic surgery.
The body lift involves tightening the front of the stomach, the back, the buttock and the upper thighs, and costs from about $9,000 for a simple procedure to $30,000 for more complex surgery.
Remuera plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr Zachary Moaveni says he expects to do about a dozen body lifts this year.
His first was in 2007 and for years did no more than three or four each year.
“The body lift is becoming more popular, and probably mainly driven by some of the weight loss surgery that’s available nowadays,” he said.
Patients improved their general health and well-being with weight loss surgery but could become depressed or uncomfortable with flabby skin.
“They’ve lost a significant amount of weight but they end up looking deflated, with a lot of spare skin.”
That made exercise difficult and could also cause heat rash and chaffing.
One of Moaveni’s clients weighed up to 225kg before having a gastric bypass in 2006. He lost about 90kg after the bypass but was left with an unsightly “apron” of loose skin hanging from his stomach.
Six years later, he opted for a body lift after saving up about $30,000.
“It’s definitely made a huge difference to my life and my body,” he told the Herald on Sunday.
The man, who declined to be named, said his body lift was worth every cent and benefits went far beyond the aesthetic.
“I’ve got medical insurance but that wasn’t covered, because it’s considered to be cosmetic, but to me that’s probably not exactly correct.”
Other popular surgical procedures in New Zealand continue to be breast augmentation, blepharoplasty or eyelid surgery, rhinoplasty (nose jobs), liposuction, tummy tucks and facelifts.
Meanwhile, gynaecomastia or man-boob reductions are becoming increasingly popular.
They cost from as little as $1,000 for a simple job under local anaesthetic to $15,000 for complex operations.
- Herald on SundayRead More »
It’s called showrooming. Brent Cooper reckons he sees it at least once a day in his shop in the Albany mall, where fashion-conscious 20-somethings come in to try on a trendy Superdry T-shirt, which he sells for about $69.
Once they’ve chosen a style and checked their size, they walk out and buy it up to 30 per cent cheaper online.
It’s one of the main reasons Cooper will close his doors tomorrow afternoon after more than 30 years in the rag trade and nine years running his family-owned Jet brand.
“Some of them are blatant enough to tell us,” says the 53-year-old. “It’s gut-wrenching. We’re the ones paying the rent and the wages. We’re not providing a service and a showroom for you to go and buy from someone overseas.”
Cooper closed his other store in Sylvia Park last year. He pays close to $250,000 a year to lease his shop at Westfield’s Albany mall. It didn’t help that his Australian wholesaling partner went under, forcing him to pay more for stock, but he says the growth of internet shopping has had a huge effect.
Six years ago, he says, his store was the only place to buy fashionable brands like Superdry but now they are everywhere online.
“So we’ve become that showroom for the kids to come to. They’ve got 100 different options now to buy with the click of a mouse and it’s the cool thing to do.”
The competition doesn’t come only from the big overseas sites. Cooper says two young women whose shop in the mall went under now sell the same clothes on a Facebook site from a garage. “They’re buying brands and product that we’re buying from Australia and because they’ve got no overheads, they just undercut us.”
We’ve become that showroom for the kids to come to. They’ve got 100 different options now to buy with the click of a mouse and it’s the cool thing to do.
- Brent Cooper, who has shut his clothing stores
Other local retailers have also given up. Last month, wedding dress designer Sera Lilly shut down, saying she could not compete with online shopping and cheap imports from China. National children’s clothing chain JK Kids went under in November, with the loss of 125 jobs at its 22 stores and online operation. Owner Ben Sproat said he could not compete as younger mothers bought their children’s clothes freight-free online from Britain and America.
The closure prompted First NZ Capital retail analyst Sarndra Urlich to wonder aloud about the future of clothing stores.
“I have thought for a long time that their business is structurally under threat from the internet, mostly because I see young women in their 20s or teenagers buying stuff from (online retailers) Asos or Boohoo or whatever and circumventing the likes of Glassons,” she told NBR. “Unless you have got a strong international brand, I think that whole physical store concept is very much under threat.”
The damage is already widespread outside New Zealand’s big cities, where traditional shops have been battered by shopping malls and the economic downturn. Whangarei-based web design consultant Dave Smyth blogged last year that he had been trying to warn local retailers of “the approaching online shopping tsunami” for the past 14 years but very few were prepared to bring their business online. He knew of two stores that had closed and an importer-wholesaler who had started selling direct to the public online because local shops didn’t move his stock fast enough.
Smyth says small retailers have to start selling online and get more realistic about their prices. “To give you an example, there was a local boutique shoe store that recently closed after being a well-known presence for many years … My wife liked a pair of boots in this store but they were $520. Choking on my lunch, I told her that the boots were overpriced for the brand and she should try online … An hour later, she had purchased the same pair of boots from an online store in the UK for $85.”
For fashion-conscious young New Zealanders who have grown up with the internet, shopping online is already a no-brainer. As Alex Gray, a 25-year-old Auckland public relations manager puts it: “Every single one of my friends shops online … Why would I pay this price for a product in New Zealand when I know without even checking that I’ll get something better online?”
Online shopping in New Zealand can be measured in different ways. If you include electronic downloads, such as movies and music, it could be worth about $5.5 billion a year, according to the Retailers Association. Under the more conventional measure of physical goods, it has jumped in the past five years, from just over $2 billion a year in 2009 to $3.7 billion by the end of last year*.
That’s still only about 7 per cent of overall retail spending but the clincher for industry watchers is the growth rate.
Online spending is increasing at about 15 per cent each year, compared with 3 per cent for traditional shops or “bricks and mortar”. Spending on overseas websites is lower than local sites (40 per cent to 60 per cent) but growing much faster (21 per cent to 7 per cent). Overseas goods under $400 are GST-free and look likely to stay that way – despite claims of unfairness by the Retailers Association – as the Government has pushed a review out beyond the next election.
In January, a Forsyth Barr report, Online Retail; What makes Kiwis click?, predicted online spending would rise to 9 per cent of all purchases by 2016. Author Chelsea Leadbetter says online spending will continue to outpace stores, thanks to growing local and international competition, the continued strength of the New Zealand dollar, increased use of mobile phones and the introduction of high-resolution imagery that allows consumers to see products much more clearly.
She says consumers are becoming more comfortable with security issues and reliable delivery, partly because of innovations such as “click and collect” (ordering online and collecting from a local store) and the introduction of pick-up kiosks or lockers to avoid the frustration of a missed home delivery.
Another breakthrough is NZ Post’s YouShop service, which gives shoppers a British or American delivery address for websites that don’t ship to New Zealand. NZ Post then arranges delivery from the US or British address.
The growth of online shopping led to fears of a “High Street Armageddon” in Britain, where online spending has hit 12 per cent of all spending and is forecast to reach 22 per cent by 2018. In May last year Britain’s Centre for Retail Research predicted this increase would force one in five shops to close. In the US, where online shopping take-up is just ahead of NZ at 8 per cent, store closures have already begun. Sears department store announced in January it was closing its flagship store in downtown Chicago, the latest in about 300 store closures since 2010.
America’s problem is worse because stores overexpanded in the boom leading up to the 2008 crash. But this has only highlighted a long-term trend towards fewer and smaller stores as shoppers head online. Shopping centre mogul Rick Caruso even predicted in January that traditional malls could soon become extinct, as no major indoor mall has been built in the US since 2006.
Commercial property analysts here say the outlook for New Zealand shops is brighter. Retail Consulting Group director Paul Keane, who thinks online sales have been vastly overstated, says the most likely effect on shopping malls is lower rents, as landlords realise their tenants have other options.
Metro Commercial director Nathan Male believes New Zealand will cope better than Britain because our centrally owned shopping malls can respond more decisively and Auckland, in particular, needs more shops for a growing population.
Independent shops in provincial centres are a different story. “They have to change their business model to survive.”
He predicts many fashion stores will retreat to the best and biggest shopping centres and be replaced by fast-expanding takeaway food chains.
Leadbetter thinks some New Zealand companies will benefit from online sales growth. She cites Kathmandu, which is expanding in Britain using only three stores to showroom its products and drive internet sales.
Leadbetter believes some fashion chains are most at risk from internet retail giants like Asos, the British-based operation that has become the most-visited clothing website in Australia and New Zealand. It has features no local retailer can hope to match – all stock held in one place and sold globally (avoiding the losses from unseasonal weather patterns and fashion misses that plague the New Zealand industry), about 65,000 items for sale including its own labels and almost 1,000 other brands, and £35 million ($70 million) invested in technology to make its website and customer service world class. It even has a new add-on, which allows customers to compare the fit of a garment to something they already own.
Leadbetter says New Zealand retailers have to mix online and physical stores – known as “omnichannel” – to give customers what they want. She cites The Warehouse, which has launched or taken stakes in several clothing, sports and beauty sites, as a fast learner.
Richard Bush and Simon Furness run Hyperdrive, which sells car accessories and Hyperride, which sells mainly surf, skateboard and snowboard gear. The pair have converted a large chunk of their Penrose store into a warehouse for Hyperride gear – which customers collect from the front counter after ordering online – plus a dispatch centre for courier deliveries four times a day. But the Hyperdrive showroom in the middle of the shop allows customers to physically inspect tyres and mags before buying them and car stereos still have to be installed out the back.
Bush firmly backs the omnichannel model as the future of shopping. He says the company has spent millions of dollars on its website, including tens of thousands of dollars a month on new features. Half their business is now online and virtually all their customers decide what they want from the website before visiting the store.
“The consumer expectation in NZ is way ahead of what the retailers actually offer. The consumer expects to be able to go on their website, see every single item they’ve got in stock, photographed professionally, with a description, then hop in their car and drive down to that store, pick it up off the shelf and take it to the counter and fork out. Or order online and get it delivered.”
Bush says many customers “walk in pretty much with their iPhone in their hand” and check products against overseas websites as he talks to them. He’s has had his share of showroomers too, as snowboarding gear can sell for a third cheaper on US sites.
“People will come in and try on six pairs of snowboard boots for about an hour and then say, ‘okay, I’ll go away and think about it’. And you know exactly what they’re doing.”
Bush and Furness offer a global price match (excluding GST and freight), which makes them unpopular with some suppliers. But Furness maintains local retailers and wholesalers can no longer “make up” their profit margins in a transparent worldwide market.
As an example, he picks up a skateboard helmet with a $90 price tag. “Maybe you could sell this for $70 – but sell 20, not 10.”
Brent Cooper is starting a new career in the horse racing industry.
He believes chain stores that have their own clothing brands – and therefore make a much bigger margin on what they sell – will survive the next few years. He used to run a wholesale division but closed it because half his retail customers shut down. He mentions a well-known independent retailer in a prime Auckland location. “I don’t see how long he can stay there … He’s finding the same sort of issues.”
And yes, he does understand that online shopping has been great for the average New Zealander. “That’s fine. It’s never going to go away and I can’t do anything to stop it, but all I’d say to those consumers is, ‘Don’t expect the best of both worlds’.”
*January figures released yesterday differ slightly but show the same trends.
Wardrobe by mouse click
Alex Gray spends up to $300 a month buying clothes online. He reckons that’s not a huge amount when gets so much more for his money.
“If I bought a pair of chinos from (United States-based menswear site) topman.com, I can get that pair for $60, whereas I could look to pay upwards of $120 to $130 in a standard shop from a New Zealand label.”
The 25-year-old public relations executive – described by friends as New Zealand’s “number one online shopper” – knows his fashion trends and clothing quality inside out. He shrugs off concerns about getting the right fit, saying it doesn’t take long to learn your size on a few favourite sites. If you get it wrong, it’s cheap to return goods or even get them tailored here at a cheaper overall cost than the New Zealand price.
He is also scathing about high price mark-ups and poor quality in local stores.
While price and product range are obvious drawcards, Gray also raves about the convenience and customer-friendly attitudes, especially from British-based Asos, where no one grumbles if you send clothes back. “So many shops question you so much on why you want to return it and you have to have an instore credit. It makes you so much more hesitant to buy in the first place if there’s so much risk involved.”
Gray occasionally misses the social experience of shopping but overall prefers to spend the time at the beach instead of spending hours in a mall. “Six years ago we did it because we had to but now there’s no need to.” He thinks New Zealand retailers need to change fast if they want to survive. Otherwise he predicts the clothing business will go the way of video and music stores, which are fighting to survive the combined impact of illegal downloads and legal services such as Netflix and Spotify.
The trend setters
• Asos: The new Amazon of the online fashion world. Cheap prices, huge up-to-date range (65,000 items), free worldwide delivery and a four-hour turnaround time for all customer inquiries. A New Zealand retailer’s nightmare.
• Boohoo: Smaller, trendier. Focused on female fashion but developing a men’s line. About to launch on the British sharemarket and aiming to beat Asos at its own game.
• The Iconic: Sydney-based online fashion store, with a growing following on both sides of the Ditch.
- NZ HeraldRead More »
I personally have some light sensitivity issues that are heightened by acute astigmatism, which means I have to wear prescription eyeglasses most of the time or risk light-triggered migraines. This is especially true when driving during daylight hours and dealing with the sun’s multiplicative reproduction off the sea of cars ahead of me. The UA Alloy Satin Gold sunglasses have completely eliminated this issue for me, which is likely from a combination of the light-brown color and polarization of the lenses.
Similarly, I’ve had issues with other sunglasses in the past where light would bounce from either the side or behind me and off the inside of a lens, causing visual discomfort. But the relatively flush design of the UA Alloys combined with excellent peripheral coverage has removed that facet of wearing sunglasses. As I live in San Diego where it’s constantly sunny, addressing that reflection is a key feature.
The aforementioned stability and hinge strength make wearing the UA Alloys complication free. The inside of the temples, temple tips and nose pads are all rubberized, which has meant very little (if any) adjustment has been necessary to keep the frames positioned to my liking. Maintaining Under Armour’s moisture-wicking idealism, the rubber has numerous perforations that minimize rubber-to-skin contact surface area and keep the wearer from sweating even after having worn them in the sun for hours on end. However, the fairly straight design of the temple and temple tips sometimes leave an uncomfortable feeling that the sunglasses might fall off at any moment. While this concern has proven to be superficial due to the excellent friction of the rubber and the strength of the hinges, the phantom worry could a problem for some users.
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Photo / Thinkstock
Women spend 335 hours, or about two weeks each year, doing their hair and makeup, a new survey has revealed.
The Today/AOL ‘Ideal to Real’ body image survey asked more then 2000 adults and 200 teens aged over 16 how much attention they dedicate to their looks.
It revealed women dedicate an average of 55 minutes each day focusing on their face.
The online study also delved in to deeper, more concerning aspects of appearance and self-worth. It found 67 per cent of women had negative thoughts about themselves each week.
Worse, 78 per cent of teen girls get caught up in self-criticism weekly. Eighty per cent of girls admitted they compared themselves to celebrities and nearly half were left feeling bad about the way they looked.
Adult women were more worried about the way they looked than finances (62 per cent once a week), health (49 per cent), relationships (46 per cent) or professional success (40 per cent).
On average, a woman fret about six parts of their body – their biggest concern was their belly, followed by their skin, thighs, hair, cellulite and butt.
Of the men polled, 53 per cent admitted to worrying about the way they look each week. They had three main concerns – their stomach, thinning hair and skin. However, their number one worry was money (59 per cent).
“It is not a bad thing to be invested in our appearance,” Jonathan Rudiger, a clinical psychologist in Nashville, told Today.com.
“Our physical appearance is very much a part of the ‘self’.
“However, we must avoid investing in our appearance for self-worth. Appearance is only one aspect of the self. In our culture, we spend too much time focused on the external while neglecting the internal.”
Check out details about how the study was conducted here.
- www.nzherald.co.nzRead More »
Owning shares in a racehorse can cost just $10 a week, provide some heart-stopping moments and involve year-round social events.
Racing syndicates, which own shares in racehorses, are out to change old-fashioned customs and attract new punters to the industry.
This year’s Auckland Cup carnival, which begins on Friday, is a chance for the industry to harness new fans, and it is coming up with novel ways to do so.
New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing ambassador and Kiwi model Kylie Bax is among those putting a modern twist on age-old horse racing with her and husband Spyridon Poros’ new venture, Hermes Syndications.
“New Zealand was rugby, racing and beer and I think we need to bring that back, but racing needs an upgrade and there are many, many ideas Spyros and I can bring from overseas,” she said.
One was a novel approach to syndication with events like champagne breakfasts and stud tours.
“We’ll hold different events for all our shareholders and owners so they can be part of their horse, get to know their horse and form a bond,” she said.
Matamata husband and wife team Graeme and Rochelle Richardson, of Richardson Racing, have founded His and Hers, a syndicate that pitches men against women. The duo are selling 1 per cent shares in two horses – one for women and one for men. The horses were purchased at Karaka last month with an investment of $161 for women and $172 for men, with on-going costs of $40.25 a month.
“It’s a bit of fun, a bit of banter,” said Mr Richardson. “There are a lot of people out there that love the game that have never been able to afford a horse before.”
Gone were the days of ownership meaning just getting a bill in the mail, he said. “That’s old-school stuff, it can’t happen any more. In this day and age there is no excuse for a trainer to not let people know.”
Owners receive emails, social media updates and videos of their horse’s progress from the Richardsons and will be able to enter a competition to name their animals, too.
Albert Bosma has headed his Go Racing syndicate for 10 years and has wins under his hat including the Karaka Million last year. This year, his horses will be present across much of the Auckland Cup carnival.
“It’s about making sure the horse is fast – it’s not much fun if your horse is running around back of the field all the time – but it’s also about looking after people.
“If people have a good experience they will reinvest and they will bring other people along with them.”
How they work
* Racing syndicates pay for shares or lease shares in racehorses, but typically have no role in the day-to-day training and upkeep of the animal.
* Syndicates reap the financial benefits of horse races and participate in racing events.
- NZ HeraldRead More »
Alice Herz-Sommer, believed to be the oldest Holocaust survivor, died at age 110 on Sunday, a family member said. The accomplished pianist’s death came just a week before her extraordinary story of surviving two years in a Nazi prison camp through devotion to music is up for an Oscar.Herz-Sommer died in a hospital after being admitted Friday with health problems, daughter-in-law Genevieve Sommer said.Jewish Holocaust victims ‘remembered always’: Stephen Harper Photo gallery: Remembering the Holocaust “We all came to believe that she would just never die,” said Frederic Bohbot, Montreal-based producer of the documentary The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life. “There was no question in my mind: ‘would she ever see the Oscars.”‘The film, directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Malcolm Clarke (also based in Montreal), has been nominated for best short documentary at the Academy Awards next Sunday.Herz-Sommer, her husband and her son were sent from Prague in 1943 to a concentration camp in the Czech city of Terezin — Theresienstadt in German — where inmates were allowed to stage concerts in which she frequently starred.An estimated 140,000 Jews were sent to Terezin and 33,430 died there. About 88,000 were moved on to Auschwitz and other death camps, where most of them were killed. Herz-Sommer and her son, Stephan, were among fewer than 20,000 who were freed when the notorious camp was liberated by the Soviet army in May 1945.’Always laughing’Yet she remembered herself as “always laughing” during her time in Terezin, where the joy of making music kept them going.”These concerts, the people are sitting there, old people, desolated and ill, and they came to the concerts and this music was for them our food. Music was our food. Through making music we were kept alive,” she once recalled.Alice Herz-Sommer and Frederic Bohbot, producer of the film The Lady in Number 6. (Paul Parsons/Canadian Press) (The Canadian Press)”When we can play it cannot be so terrible.”Though she never learned where her mother died after being rounded up, and her husband died of typhus at Dachau, in her old age she expressed little bitterness.”We are all the same,” she said. “Good, and bad.”Caroline Stoessinger, a New York concert pianist who wrote a book about Herz-Sommer, said she interviewed numerous people who were at the concerts who said “for that hour they were transported back to their homes and they could have hope.”"Many people espouse certain credos, but they don’t live them. She did,” said Stoessinger, author of A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World’s Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor.”She understood truly that music is a language and she understood how to communicate through this language of music.”Herz-Sommer was born on Nov. 26, 1903, in Prague, and started learning the piano from her sister at age 5.As a girl, she met the author Franz Kafka, a friend of her brother-in-law, and delighted in the stories that he told.She also remembered Kafka saying, “In this world to bring up children: in this world?”Alice married Leopold Sommer in 1931. Their son was born in 1937, two years before the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia.’A very, very hard time’ for Jews”This was especially for Jews a very, very hard time. I didn’t mind, because I enjoyed to be a mother and I was full of enthusiasm about being a mother, so I didn’t mind so much,” she said.Jews were allowed to shop for only half an hour in the afternoon, by which time the shops were empty. Most Jewish families were forced to leave their family apartments and were crammed into one apartment with other families, but her family was allowed to keep its home.Herz-Sommer poses in 2007 with Caroline Stoessinger who compiled Herz-Sommers’ memories in a book, A Century of Wisdom. (Polly Handcock/Associated Press) (The Associated Press)”We were poor, and we knew that they will send us away, and we knew already in this time that it was our end,” she said.In 1942, her 73-year-old mother was transported to Terezin, then a few months later to Treblinka, an extermination camp.”And I went with her of course till the last moment. This was the lowest point in my life. She was sent away. Till now I don’t know where she was, till now I don’t know when she died, nothing.”When I went home from bringing her to this place I remember I had to stop in the middle of the street and I listened to a voice, an inner voice: ‘Now, nobody can help you, not your husband, not your little child, not the doctor.”‘From then on, she took refuge in the 24 Etudes of Frederic Chopin, a dauntingly difficult monument of the repertoire. She laboured at them for up to eight hours a day.She recalled an awkward conversation on the night before her departure to the concentration camp with a Nazi who lived upstairs and called to say that he would miss her playing.She remembered him saying: “‘I hope you will come back. What I want to tell you is that I admire you, your playing, hours and hours, the patience and the beauty of the music.”‘Other neighbours, she said, stopped by only to take whatever the family wasn’t able to bring to the camp.”So the Nazi was a human, the only human. The Nazi, he thanked me,” she said.Artistic sideThe camp’s artistic side was a blessing; young Stephan, then 6, was recruited to play a sparrow in an opera.”My boy was full of enthusiasm,” she recalled. “I was so happy because I knew my little boy was happy there.”The opera was Brundibar, a 40-minute piece for children composed by Hans Krasa, a Czech who was also imprisoned in the camp. It was first performed in Prague but got only one other performance before he was interned.Brundibar became a showpiece for the camp, performed at least 55 times including once when Terezin, which had been extensively spruced up for the occasion, was inspected by a Red Cross delegation in June 1944.The opera featured in a 1944 propaganda film which shows more than 40 young performers filling the small stage during the finale.In 1949, she left Czechoslovakia to join her twin sister Mizzi in Jerusalem. She taught at the Jerusalem Conservatory until 1986, when she moved to London.Her son, who changed his first name to Raphael after the war, made a career as a concert cellist. He died in 2001.Anita Lasker-Wallfish, a friend, said Herz-Sommer was still lively during a visit last week.”She was a real optimist,” she said, adding that the pair used to play Scrabble together frequently until Herz-Sommer’s eyes failed her. “She was feeling very unwell and she went to the hospital last Friday. I think she had enough.”She added that Herz-Sommer lived a modest life, and would probably balk at the media attention directed at her death.”She didn’t think of herself as anybody very special,” she said. “She would hate any fuss to be made.”
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