OBITUARY | Style Designer Hanae Mori Pioneered ‘East Meets West’

OBITUARY | Style Designer Hanae Mori Pioneered ‘East Meets West’

“After we cease making issues with our arms, I really feel our existence turns into insubstantial.”  

Hanae Mori was a pioneering Japanese dressmaker and Vice-Chairwoman of the Japan Artwork Affiliation, which sponsors The Praemium Imperiale worldwide arts awards. 

Mori has all the time emphasised the significance of transmitting the artwork of handwork to future generations. She was the one Japanese designer to be formally listed as a member on the earth of high fashion in Paris — the platform the place the final word in handcrafted creations come collectively.

From exquisitely beaded embroideries and feather decorations to elegant drapes, Mori launched Japanese magnificence – like kimono and the butterfly sample she grew to become identified for – to the normal French style tradition. And as she stated, for 27 years she “blazed on solely wanting forward.” 

Earlier than she knew it, each the high fashion business and the Japanese handicrafts sector – which supported kimono tradition – had been faltering. Mori usually introduced consideration to the menace confronted by these sectors. Till 2021, she additionally used her arms to create costumes for the opera. 

Hanae Mori, Picture from Sankei Archives, 1969.

A Rebellious Butterfly

The designer graced the world like a butterfly, however was really a lady with a rebellious spirit. 

Behind Mori’s pursuit of magnificence had been her harrowing experiences in the course of the conflict. Whereas residing in worry of demise as a result of air raids in Tokyo, she and her school buddies doing service as laborers would learn a tattered copy of Gone With the Wind. They longed for the elegant ballroom robes of the story. 

“I wished stunning garments to put on, so I used a stitching machine and did my finest to be inventive.” Her style was inherited from her father, a medical practitioner and lover of artwork and trendy style. 

After the conflict, Mori grew to become tired of being a housewife and began on her path as a designer. From the mid-Fifties to the mid-Sixties, together with famend movie administrators and widespread film stars, Mori’s costume creations additionally performed a key function within the golden age of the Japanese movie business. 

One time, she needed to create a fancy dress for a horny geisha character. Following the movie director’s orders, Mori intently noticed bar hostesses as they labored on the streets of Ginza. Reflecting on the episode she stated, “It was an expertise that taught me the significance of people-watching for a designer.” 

She additionally defined that it got here in helpful on events when she crossed paths with VIPs from world wide from varied cultures, religions, and political backgrounds. 

Haute Couture assortment Hanae Mori, Autumn Winter 1995-96 (Kyodo Information).

Humiliation in New York

Mori’s rebellious streak was additional ignited after a humiliating expertise throughout her first journey to New York in 1961. One set off was the poor-quality made-in-Japan so-called “one-dollar blouses,” which had been offered within the basement ground of a division retailer. 

One other was a efficiency of the opera “Madame Butterfly” that she noticed whereas in New York. As she watched the opera star taking part in Madame Butterfly stroll on the tatami mat in sandals, she felt disgrace and anger. (It’s thought-about uncouth and unclean to put on footwear or sandals on tatami mats in Japan.) Later, she stated, her thoughts was made up: 

I used to be going to have garments constituted of Japanese cloth, designed by me, a Japanese designer, sewn by Japanese seamstresses, and delivered to america in a Japanese jet, the place they’d be offered on the highest ground luxurious items part of an American division retailer. 

Sure, we misplaced within the conflict, however I wished to point out the world the beautiful aesthetic of the Japanese individuals. That hope grew to become my driving pressure. 


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True to her phrase, in her first assortment that she confirmed in New York in 1965, Mori used an in depth number of kimono materials, resembling Onishibo Chirimen, a Japanese twisted crepe cloth. The “butterfly” grew to become Mori’s trademark, because it symbolized the Aristocracy and energy, not the unlucky Madame Butterfly. 

Director Keita Asari’s rendition of “Madame Butterfly,” carried out in 1985 at La Scala Theater in Milan, Italy, offered a brand new picture of Giacomo Puccini’s lead character –  purer and stronger. Hanae Mori created the costumes for the character, and in doing so, was capable of precise her revenge. 

Works exhibited throughout “Hanae Mori: Madame Butterfly, Flying to the World,” Artwork Tower Mito in 2020, (Sankei).

Tackling ‘East Meets West’

Mori endured a number of challenges all through her long-standing profession,  such because the collapse of her Hanae Mori style enterprise, and the demise of her husband, who was her life-long work companion. 

Nevertheless, in 1996, Mori grew to become the primary dressmaker to obtain the Japanese Authorities’s Order of Tradition Award. She stated delightedly on the time, “For a very long time, style had been handled like uncared for flowers floating in a stream, so it’s like a dream come true.” 

Her agency perception was that “A chunk of clothes is tradition nearest to our personal physique.” 

Mori’s remaining present in Paris was held in 2004. Titled, “East Meets West”. The headline was impressed by an introductory article in a US newspaper on the time of her debut in New York. It grew to become the theme all through her life as a designer. 

Slender and with a superbly straight posture, Mori had a stupendous determine. Though she designed beautiful attire that performed to the strengths of those that wore them, her personal signature apparel was a delicate black pants go well with. 

The fashion alternative appeared to signify her self-discipline and pleasure. 


(Learn the article in Japanese at this hyperlink.)

Creator: Ayako Kurosawa

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