Hanae Mori who changed Japanese women’s fashion

Hanae Mori who changed Japanese women’s fashion

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Japanese designer Hanae Mori, who enjoyed considerable success in the 1980s and 1990s with her creations that combined exquisite Japanese motifs with a more Western taste and attitude, died at the age of 96. Mori was the first Asian woman to be accepted into the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, the association that manages haute couture in France and determines which designers can and can’t show in Paris, and her clothes – as well as her life – symbolized the rebirth of women in post-war Japan. News of his death, which occurred on August 11, was released today. The causes are unknown.

Unlike his compatriot Issey Miyake, one of the most important designers of the twentieth century, who died on August 5, Mori did not try to use new materials or technologies, but was inspired by traditional Japanese clothing and motifs such as kimonos and flowers, which he used for the Example in wide silk and chiffon tunics, but also in collections of work or evening dresses, scarves, umbrellas and various accessories.

Mori was nicknamed “Madame Butterfly” because of the butterfly motifs she often incorporated into her creations. In 1993, Mori designed the wedding dress of then Princess Masako of Japan for her marriage to Crown Prince Naruhito, the current Emperor. In her career she has also dressed Grace Kelly, Nancy Reagan and Sophia Loren as well as high society women from New York, Paris, London and Tokyo. As his motto went, he wanted his clothes to make the women who wore them feel “decent” and confident “no matter where they wore them”.

Hanae Mori who changed Japanese womens fashion

Hanae Mori at the conclusion of her Paris show in July 1997 (AP Photo / Michel Lipchitz, File)

Mori was born on January 8, 1926 in Shimane Province, southwestern Japan, the only girl of six children. She worked in a factory during World War II and graduated in literature from the Christian Women’s University of Tokyo in 1947 before continuing her studies in fashion.

After opening his first studio in Tokyo in 1951, he designed costumes for dozens of Japanese films and uniforms for the flight attendants of Japan Airlines between the 1950s and 1960s. Also in the 1960s, she traveled to France, where she visited Coco Chanel’s Paris boutique, and described the experience as “a turning point” in her career: at a time when Japanese women were beginning to abandon traditional dress and emerge into society convinced that he wanted to make clothes that showed the natural femininity of women but also their autonomy.

She herself has managed to achieve enormous success as an entrepreneur in what was then a predominantly male-dominated field, both in Japan and abroad.

His first show in New York in 1965 with the theme “East Meets West” (East Meets West) was a huge success and his garments were sold in both the most famous US luxury department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman, both in boutiques. Ten years later he organized his first show in Paris, where in 1977 he opened a high fashion showroom on Avenue Montaigne, the main avenue of Parisian fashion. In the same year, his company was admitted by the Chambre Syndicale (to be considered a high fashion company, a company must meet certain parameters, for example, have a workshop in Paris with no less than twenty full-time employees and present two collections there. year, in Paris, of course).

In the years that followed, he designed, among other things, the costumes for the opera Madama Butterfly at La Scala in Milan in 1985 and the uniforms of the Japanese delegation to the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, ​​Spain, and the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games in Norway. He also received numerous awards and recognitions, including the Legion of Honour, the most prestigious award of the French Republic.

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A model wears a Mori creation during the runway show in Tokyo in September 2003 (Koichi Kamoshida / Getty Images)

As the New York Times wrote in a 1980 article, Mori’s name “had become synonymous with Japan in fashion, as had Toyota for automobiles, Sony for tape recorders, and Nikon for cameras.”

With the help of her husband Ken Mori as a business consultant, her fashion brand grew, established and expanded: Mori amassed a large fortune not only thanks to her fashion collections but also through twenty other ventures, such as the French restaurant near his headquarters in central Tokyo . In the meantime, he got involved in various charity activities and enjoyed throwing big parties at his luxury residences in New York and Paris.

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Hanae Mori shows Madame Yukawa (right), wife of the Japanese ambassador to London Morio Yukawa, some of her creations during a private exhibition in 1972 (Douglas Miller/Keystone/Getty Images)

In the early 1990s, worldwide annual sales of the Hanae Mori collections reached approximately $500 million in profit. then the brand’s popularity gradually waned and as a result the business also started to go wrong. In 2002, the fashion company went bankrupt, and two years later, Mori organized her last show in Paris. However, the brand continued to survive mainly thanks to a few boutiques in Tokyo and their line of fragrances.

Mori’s husband, Ken, died in 1996. Their two sons, Akira and Kei, also ran fashion at the company. Two of the designer’s granddaughters, Hikari Mori and Izumi Mori, are quite well-known models.

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A model in a Hanae Mori dress at the fall/winter collection show in Tokyo in September 2004 (Junko Kimura / Getty Images)

– Also read: Small guide to Haute Couture