Obituary of Hanae Mori | Fashion

Hanae Mori was a simultaneous translator of fashion during her five decades as a designer: turning traditional Japanese fabrics into garments that weren’t scary to Westerners, and making Western cut, fit, shape, and ways of dressing understandable to Japanese women. . She was uniquely qualified, being from the only family in her town that had dressed in Western clothing at the time and the only girl in a skirt and blouse in her school wearing a kimono.

Mori, who has died aged 96, never intended to be a designer; the dressmaking course he took from her in postwar Tokyo when he was in his early 20s was only to prepare her to make clothes for her and her future children. But she became absorbed in Western technicalities: irregularly shaped pieces, many with curved contours, darts, gathers and drapes, all joined together to wrap a body closely where simple Japanese tube construction wrapped it.

Silk evening dress, 1974, by Hanae Mori.
Silk evening dress, 1974, by Hanae Mori.
Photograph: Chicago History Museum/Getty

He opened a small workshop above a noodle bar in Shinjuku, Tokyo, in 1951. The district had been razed during World War II except for its train station, around which, during the American occupation, a large black market grew. and an entertainment economy. for Americans and Japanese. Mori, with a couple of assistants and three second-hand sewing machines, created fashionable Western women’s clothing to spec and tailor-made for both cultures.

The area had a large new movie theater that attracted professionals from the film industry; First, a producer asked him to provide clothing, then he designed costumes for movies (he worked on hundreds over a decade) and also designed costumes for movie stars. At the same time, with her husband, Kenzo Mori, an executive in a family of textile manufacturers, acting as manager, she expanded along with the national economy from makeshift workshops to boutiques.

Mori quickly came to represent fashion in Japan, presenting the latest trends in a newsletter that became a magazine, Ryuko Tsushin. She counseled women on their difficult transition to Western wardrobes, which made them uncomfortable by exposing more than their necks and hands, bewildered by strange accessories, and unable to kneel on the tangled floor of a house without chairs.

He prospered so much that he took an unusual approach to studying French haute couture; in 1960, he traveled to Paris to meet and commission suits from designers he respected, including Hubert de Givenchy and Coco Chanel, who shocked Mori by advising him that he should wear orange for an entrance. Japanese women were not expected to stand out: subtlety, reticence, what Mori called “refined concealment,” were his ideals.

Upon his return to Japan, his coloring brightened and synthesized a bolder mode of fusion, with Western cut and Eastern fabric and pattern, suggesting “the atmosphere of a kimono” without its restrictions.

A model presenting a wedding dress from Hanae Mori's fall-winter couture collection in Paris, 2000.
A model presenting a wedding dress from Hanae Mori’s fall-winter couture collection in Paris, 2000. Photo: Pierre Verdy/EPA

Mori’s first international couture show, East Meets West, in New York in 1965, was the perfect time to appeal to the high-society era’s taste for flowing silk in exotic destinations; she made the magazines, was stocked by high-end department stores, and began amassing a client list that later included Bianca Jagger, Lady Bird Johnson, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, and Princess Grace of Monaco. Mori also dressed Masako Owada for her 1993 marriage to Crown Prince Naruhito.

He also learned a lot in the US about ready-to-wear quality, a new concept in Japan, and licensing; Through these, he established his name and his butterfly logo in Japan and throughout the world.

Unlike most couturiers, she was already financially secure and intercontinental famous when she opened her salon in Paris in 1977 and was made a member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne.

Mori attributed his independence and curiosity to his father, Tokuzo Fujii, a progressive surgeon in Muikaichi (now Yoshika), Shimane, in southwestern Japan; he, his daughter, and four sons wore Western clothes, made from imported textiles brought back from their visits to the big cities, while Hanae’s mother, Nobu (née Matsuura), wore fine kimonos ordered by catalog from department stores. ; Both of her parents were from wealthy families.

Nobu moved to Tokyo so the children could be educated there; during the war, the entire family except Hanae was evacuated; she had been recruited from a factory and she defiantly stayed in the city during her destruction. Like other women during the war, she adopted peasant work clothes: loose double-breasted jackets over soft, tie-waist trousers; Mori knew that this was the moment when Western dress became her future.

Hanae Mori's autumn-winter collection exhibited in Paris, 2004.
Hanae Mori’s autumn-winter collection exhibited in Paris, 2004. Photograph: Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP/Getty Images

She married in 1947 after graduating with a degree in Japanese literature from Tokyo Women’s Christian University that same year. “I was a very nice housewife for a month, but I didn’t like being at home,” she said, and she started the course in clothing design and tailoring.

Her husband supported her work and was her public front for decades in a business world of all-male contacts and contracts. It was not until 1986 that Mori was invited to be the first female member of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives. By this time, she was earning several million dollars, showing haute couture in Tokyo, New York and Paris, and expanding entirely into cosmetics, perfumes, home furnishings – the entire brand-gamut business.

A shift in the east-west balance that had established his success also determined his fate. Young designers like Kenzo, Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo, who had been encouraged by Mori, created a new vision of Japanese design in the west, sharper and less elegant than Mori, while Japan was fully integrated into world fashion and would probably wear Ralph Lauren. denims, knitted in Japan, like a Mori chiffon dress.

He sold his licensed shops and businesses to an investment group in 2002 and, with debts of 10 billion yen, declared bankruptcy for the rest of his empire, showed one last Paris collection in 2004 and retired. But her image in Japan shines forever, from trendsetter to empress dowager. She was knighted in the Légion d’honneur in 1989 and in 1996 she received the Order of Culture of Japan.

Kenzo died in 1996. He is survived by his two sons, Akira and Kei, who worked in Mori’s businesses.

Hanae Mori, fashion designer and business executive, born January 8, 1926; died August 11, 2022

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