Hanae Mori was a Japanese couturier who built a multimillion-dollar fashion company and was the first Asian female designer to join Paris’ haute couture ranks. She died in Tokyo on August 11th at the age of 96.
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NHK, Japan’s broadcaster, reported her death on Thursday. NHK Japan broadcasted her death on Thursday. A funeral was held for her family members. In the coming days, a farewell party is planned.
Mori started her brand in Tokyo in 1951 and showed couture in Paris two decades later. She was the first Asian designer to join Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture.
Her work became synonymous with upscale subtle designs that blended traditional Japanese fabrics with Western-style clothing, attracting a conservative client base spanning from ambassadors’ wives to Japan’s Empress Masako, then the crown princess, who wore a Hanae Mori gown for her 1993 wedding to then-Crown Prince Naruhito.
The house’s symbol, the butterfly, was given the nickname “The Butterfly”. “Madame Butterfly”In Western media.
The Hanae Mori brand was a global brand that encompassed couture and ready-to-wear.
International Cosmetics & Perfumes Inc. also launched a fragrance line in the United States in 1996. It holds the worldwide license for her scents.
The designer is well-known for being a strong woman who was determined and able make her mark in a male-dominated postwar Japan. She was also a skilled businessperson. In the late ’70s, the family signed a license with Fairchild to launch WWD Japan, which continues to publish.
After news of Mori’s death broke on Thursday, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode paid homage to the late couturier on Instagram, lauding her emphasis on transmission of handcraft and handwork to younger generations, as well as her role as “a pioneer in the emancipation of women in her country.”
Former president Ralph Toledano described her as a “great lady,”And it will be cherished forever “tremendously impressed by her presence and influence” after visiting Japan.
“Ms. Hanae Mori was an incredible woman who will always be remembered for her contributions to the world of Paris couture fashion. We at International Cosmetics & Perfumes will forever be indebted to her trust in our company to launch her signature fragrance Butterfly over 25 years ago, which is still beloved to this day,”Thomas Saujet, chief executive of International Cosmetics & Perfumes.
Mori was a fixture on the Paris couture scene until 2004, when she quit. She had staged a final show and one of her grandsons took to the runway. Despite her retirement, she continued to design costumes for the stage.
Born Hanae Fujii in 1926 to an affluent family in southwest Japan, Mori studied literature at Tokyo Women’s University before veering toward dressmaking after her 1947 marriage to Ken Mori, a textile executive in Aishi who later became chairman of her eponymous fashion group.
She opened her first boutique in 1951 in Tokyo’s main shopping area Hiyoshiya, which rapidly became popular with Japanese women looking to dress up again after the end of World War II.
Japan’s film industry also was blossoming at that time,And Mori created costumes for hundreds of movies, including “Season of Violence” and “Crazed Fruit.”This work influenced her haute couture designs, and she launched her fashion company in 1963.
Two years later, the brand debuts in New York. It immediately gains popularity with American department stores.
WWD stated that Japan was the best country to visit before her New York show. “man’s country”And that Mori believed “women’s fashions, to be successful, must be designed not for the women who wear them, but for the men who behold them.”
Her goal was to bring about change. “Miyahiyaka”The U.S. has a Japanese word that refers to beauty, grace, elegance, orderliness, and, most importantly, femininity. It was the theme of Mori’s show, which took its inspiration from Japan’s Heian Era in the eighth to 12th centuries, one of the most peaceful in its early history.
“As a young girl, I was brought up during the turbulence and ugliness of the war and the post-war confusion,”In June 1965, she spoke to WWD. “I have always yearned for ‘Miyahiyaka.’”
She said that Chanel and Pierre Cardin were her favorite designers. “huge respect”Courreges was not only designed for the young but Balenciaga was number 1 and Norman Norell was #2. “the American Balenciaga.”
WWD reported that Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman were her top customers after her first show. Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bonwit Teller followed soon after. Vogue described Mori’s success as “East Meets West.”
“Neiman Marcus has a storied history with the remarkable Hanae Mori,”Geoffroy van Raemdonck was chief executive officer of Neiman Marcus Group. “Madame Mori leaves a lasting legacy in the world of luxury fashion as the first Asian woman with a prominent role in French haute couture. In the 1960s Stanley Marcus, president of Neiman Marcus, introduced the luxury house to the United States as the first multibrand retailer to sell her collections. As part of our longstanding relationship with Ms. Mori, she was the recipient of the Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion in 1973. Throughout the years, Ms. Mori’s silks and chiffons printed with butterflies and cherry blossoms were incredibly popular with our discerning customers.”
The book recalls the memory of Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, a Japanese actress. “Hanae Mori: Her Work and Life” that when Emperor Showa visited Washington, D.C., in 1975, many women who were invited to the party were wearing Mori’s dress, which made her “really proud of her work.”
Mori’s work was described as “styled in Western style, but it flattered as a kimono,”With the overall design representing Japan’s aesthetic and displaying the beauty of its culture to the world,
Even before she launched couture, her brand grew quickly and so did the pressures of managing an international business. In September 1970, just before opening her first store in New York in the Waldorf Astoria, she joked to WWD that she wouldn’t mind retiring, but then added, “Oh, no, I can’t really retire…I haven’t finished my work.”
At that time her brand had about 30 boutiques in Japan, a wholesale line called Vivid was carried in 100 Japanese stores and she had Ban-Lon designs for Joseph Bancroft, towels and sheets with West Point-Pepperell and packaging for what was then Shiseido’s Hanae Mori fragrance line.
“My inspiration comes from everything,”She spoke to WWD during that interview. “It can be beautiful food, people I see at such places as Byblos [Tokyo’s then-hot nightspot], movies…everything.”
Although she stated that during her second American television show, “the days of Paris [were] running out [as] the couture is getting smaller in numbers and too high priced,”After gaining marketing insight and success in New York, she moved to Paris where she opened a maison at Avenue Montaigne in 1977. The brand was able to sell $70 million worldwide at the time.
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“While working in New York with the department stores, the bespoke work she did there eventually convinced her that she needed to open her own couture house in Paris,”Henry Berghauer was a Pierre Cardin, Emmanuel Ungaro executive and became the first chief Executive Officer of her Paris-based firm.
She was a client of Princess Grace, Sophia Loren, and former first lady Nancy Reagan.
Mori, who revealed her plans for opening a Parisian maison, told WWD. “Ready-to-wear is like bread and butter to a designer. But a designer is also an artist, and I would like to do more art.”
Berghauer said that Mori’s couture success hinged on her ability to give “a Japanese climate”to create collections that are in sync with their time, blending textiles from her homeland with Western silhouettes.
According to Todd Hughes and P. David Ebersole who interviewed the Japanese designer in 2019 for the 2019 Film Festival, Pierre Cardin is believed to have played a key role in her induction to the Chambre Syndicale. “House of Cardin” documentary.
Cardin and Mori met for the first time in 1957, when Mori, a French designer, visited Japan. “[She] introduced him to many aspects of Japanese culture and most importantly to Hiroko Matsumoto, the model who would become his muse and the face synonymous with his house. They remained friends for the rest of his life,”They said.
By 1986, the Hanae Mori International company’s sales were between $250 million and $300 million internationally, between its wholesale business and its network of 60 boutiques globally, according to a WWD feature.
It was also responsible for ambitious projects such as a trinational joint venture involving the Chinese government and the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. This involved the construction of factories in Puerto Rico as well as China that could produce cashmere knits, apparel, and other products for the brand.
The brand launched the Hanae Mori Soft Sports division. This division offered a range of cashmere separates that were complemented by leather and silk.
There were also times of struggle. In 2002, the couture side was separated from the rtw/licensing business. The Japanese bubble economy collapsed hard and the company had to file for court protection under Civil Rehabilitation Law. Today, the trademark is “Hanae Mori”MN Interfashion, a Japanese textile manufacturer, owns it.
Following that, attempts were made to revive the brand, including the launch and promotion of a younger version. “Manuscrit” line, helmed by Tokyo-based designer Yu Amatsu, who had experience in New York working as a pattern maker for Marc Jacobs and Jen Kao before launching his own brand, and the 2018 appointment of 2014 Hyères Festival winner Kenta Matsushige, a Paris-based graduate of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture school, as artistic director until 2020.
Matsushige, then 93, was greeted by the couturier. “impressed by her sense of challenge and her sense of responsibility as a representative of Japan,”They were able to see this in their conversation.
“She’s a great designer who doesn’t look for a way but creates a way,”He sent an email.
Besides creating new collections every season, her passion for design extended to various works, including designing uniforms for Japan Airlines crews, singers’ costumes, the official uniform for the Japanese Olympic team in Barcelona, opera, ballet, Noh, and even kabuki. In 1993, she designed the iconic robe décolleté dress for Princess Masako’s wedding.
Mori received numerous awards, including the Asahi Prize as Pioneer of Japanese Fashion in 1988 and the French Légion d’Honneur in 1989. She was also the subject in 1989 “Hanae Mori: 35 Years in Fashion”Exhibition that traveled from Tokyo to Monaco, Paris and back in 1990.
Her works were also central in the history of the “Fashion in Japan 1945 –2020” exhibit held at The National Art Center, Tokyo, in 2021, the world’s first large-scale exhibition on the evolution of the Japanese fashion industry. On display were pieces from her haute couture collections as well as her cinema costume design. Some of her works are also on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Mori was not only an expert in design but also a prolific writer. She contributed numerous pieces to fashion magazines, particularly advice columns for readers looking to enhance their style.
She was also an author of several books on fashion and her own autobiography. “Goodbye Butterfly,”This was released in 2010.
Since 2012, Mori had served as the director of the Hakone Open-Air Museum outside of Tokyo, which is home to the country’s most famous sculpture garden featuring works from Joan Miró, Rodin and Picasso.
Akira Mori and Kei Mori were their two sons. They joined the family business and went on to lead the business in Tokyo, Paris, and Tokyo. Ken Mori, 84, died in 1996.
In 1970, Mori told WWD that her joy was in her family and sons, not painting, especially in oils.
Mori was once asked what she found most motivating in her 70-year-long career. She replied simply: “I wanted the world to know that Japan has a wonderful culture and aesthetic.”
Mori’s granddaughter, model Izumi Mori, posted a short video and message on Instagram, stating: “Thank you for all the amazing memories and experiences.”
— With contributions from Rhonda Richford, and Chizuru Muko, WWD Japan, with translation by Maya Elizabeth Thorne