Japanese designer Hanae Mori dies at 96


Trailblazer of Japanese fashion design Hanae Mori, has died. She was 96.

According to local media reports she died of old age in her Tokyo home on 11 August and was given a private funeral.

Nicknamed “Madame Butterfly”, Mori was known for her elegant signature butterfly motifs and cross-cultural aesthetic of mixed elements from the East and West, such as dresses inspired by kimonos. She paved the way for the international breakthrough of other Japanese fashion designers such as Yohji Yamamoto , Issey Miyake and Kenzo.

Born on Jan. 8, 1926, in Muikaichi, western Japan, Mori was the daughter of a doctor (who hoped his daughter would follow him in the profession) and a homemaker. She graduated in 1947 from the Tokyo Woman’s Christian University with a bachelor’s degree in literature.

In 1951 she opened her first atelier above a noodle shop in Shinjuku, Tokyo, and started making costumes for hundreds of Japanese movies between the ’50s and ’60s, including Yasujiro Ozu’s ‘Early Autumn’ and Yoshishige Yoshida’s ‘Farewell to the Summer Light.’ She dressed star actresses like Mie Kitahara, Sayuri Yoshinaga and Shima Iwashita.

After visiting Coco Chanel’s Paris salon in 1960, she was inspired to design haute couture for women to stand out rather than fit in. In 1965, Mori was the first Japanese designer to show in New York while in 1977 she presented her first couture collection in France and was the first Japanese member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. She also created costumes for on-stage performances, including traditional Japanese Noh and Kabuki theatre and a performance of “Madame Butterfly” in 1985.

Over the years Mori’s name has been synonymous with Japan in women’s clothing and she went on to dress Princess Grace of Monaco, Crown Princess Masako of Japan for her marriage to Emperor Naruhito in 1993, Lady Bird Johnson, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, Sophia Loren and Renata Tebaldi. She also designed the official uniform for the Japanese delegation to the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and, the uniform for the Lillehammer Olympics in Norway in 1994. In 2002, she was awarded with the Legion of Honor by the French government.

Mori’s husband Ken Mori, died in 1996, and she is survived by two sons and eight grandchildren, Two of whom Hikari Mori and Izumi Mori, are fashion models.

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