Born in Tokyo, Japan in 1926. She studied at Tokyo Christian University and left, but returned some years later to study fashion design. This was after she had married Kei Mori and had two sons named Aki and Kei. She began dressmaking for the Japanese film industry. She opened her first shop in Tokyo in 1951. In 1955 she moved to the Ginza, the smart shopping area of Tokyo. Over the next decade, she designed costumes for hundreds of Japanese movies, including Ozu’s “Early Autumn.” In 1960, during a visit to Paris, she went to the salon of Coco Chanel to get fitted for a suit. She had the opportunity to chat with the great designer. She afterwards said that this moment changed her life, because from then on her dream was to design haute couture clothes. She took some training in the United States and in 1965 showed her first ready-to-wear collection in New York which she called “East Meets West”. It was held at the Hotel Delmonico and was a smash hit. Hanae actively sought to promote the interaction of East-West aesthetic values through clothing, and designed for operas like Madame Butterfly and Elektra, as well as ballets like Cinderella and musicals like Evita. Everyone who knew her admired how hard she worked in the early days to come to grips with Western culture and acquire an international reputation by extending her activities overseas. Her appeal to an international audience began in the early 70’s. In 1976 she opened a salon in Paris, leading to her appointment as a member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. She was the first, and so far the only, Japanese designer to be included in Haute Couture. Her first couture showing was in Paris in 1977. The French Government has awarded her the Legion d’Honneur, as well as the Croix de Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. Her ready to wear and couture lines, especially her Cocktail dresses and evening dresses, are popular worldwide. She has also created designs for shoes, stockings, gloves, ties, belts, handbags, umbrellas, sunglasses, aprons, carpets and lacquerware. Hanae was the first Japanese designer to be decorated by the French government and is grealy honoured in Japan too. When the Japanese Prime Minister visits Washington, she is invited to join the occasion at the White House. She is one of the few women in Japan who sit down with the Imperial family. Mori designed three consecutive uniforms for the stewardesses (flight attendants) of Japan Air Lines (JAL). The first uniform was worn from 1967 to 1970; the second, which created a sensation by featuring a miniskirt, worn from 1970 to 1977; and the third worn from 1977 to 1978. In 1989, Hanae Mori was awarded the French Legion of Honor by President François Mitterrand of France. In 1996, Hanae Mori was awarded the Order of Culture by the Emperor of Japan. In January 2002, she sold her ready-to-wear and licensed apparel business to an investment group composed of Rothschild of Britain and Mitsui of Japan. They will take over her directly operated shops, and plan to expand the Hanae Mori chain in the United States and Europe. She has 60 retail outlets in Japan and one each in New York and Paris, at present. Not having to worry about the business and financial side of her label, Hanae Mori was thus able to concentrate fully on the creative design couture side of her house. She has also shared a happy fashion partnership with her son’s wife Pamela, so that they jointly took bows at the end of a fashion show. Pamela brought her own ideas for zippered jacked and elongated cardigans which co-existed with Hanae’s graceful chiffon dresses fluttering with butterfly prints. In June 2004, Hanae Mori announced that after the Haute Couture Show for Fall 2004, to be held in Paris in July 2004, she will be retiring and closing her Couture house. Her ready-to-wear and accessory lines were bought by Mitsui and Co. Ltd., in 2002, and will continue to trade. A delicate sense of feminine beauty, stemming from Hanae Mori’s Japanese heritage, is married to an artistic use of color and fabric in all her work. She treads a careful line, balancing Eastern influences with Western ideals to produce consistently successful couture and ready-to-wear lines with international customers. If her clothes lack the more outrageous, attention-grabbing qualities of some of her couture counterparts, they compensate with the economy of their cut and base their appeal on the practical needs of the wealthy metropolitan women who wear them.
By stepping outside current trends and concentrating on conservative but always feminine daywear, Mori has established a niche for herself in the Parisian fashion arena. Integral to this is the sense of the longevity of her easy-to-wear separates, which even in the ready-to-wear line retain a delicacy of touch through the textiles used. Mori elaborates on the basic tenets of combining fine fabrics and flattering cut, adding her own feel for the dramatic to her eye-catching eveningwear. For this she makes optimum use of the lustrous printed textiles produced by her husband until his death in 1996. Although there is an air of restrained elegance to much of her design, symbolized by the fragile butterfly motif by which she is known, her eveningwear often breaks into more vibrant realms.
In 1981 Mori produced a languorous silk mousseline dress, the vampish leopard print and deep décolleté of which were balanced by the soft, sinuous fall of the fabric. Other examples used bright hot colors, juxtaposed in one ensemble to provide interest, bringing a strong Japanese feel to their narrow hues, frequently harking back to the kimono for their silhouette and cut. It is in this area that her work is most inspired, bringing together European tailoring and Japanese color and ideals of beauty. She uses the Japanese love of asymmetry to further develop her style and the linear patterns she prints onto her distinctive silks. She exploits the natural appeal of such fabrics with a well-defined sense of cut to illuminate her realistic styles. By doing so, Mori is providing both an alternative to and a definite rejection of the type of elaborate couture confections that mold the female form into fantastical shapes, ignoring the woman beneath the fabric.
The other main strand to Mori’s design is her close involvement in the arts. Her early costuming of innumerable Japanese films enabled her sense of color to evolve, using each primary-hued textile to represent a different emotion, and sharpened her sense of the dramatic effect of dress. This has grown in her work for opera and ballet, the clothing full of delicacy and poise counterpointed with strong coloration, the arresting mixes representing the two worlds her design principles straddle. Princess Grace of Monaco and Crown Princess Masako of Japan
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