Written by: Robert D. McFadden
Japanese fashion designer Hane Mori, who emerged from the ruins of World War II, the $500 million fashion house that popularized East-West styles and symbolized the rise of post-war Japan, died on August 11 at her home in Tokyo . She was 96 years old.
Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported his death on Thursday. NHK did not specify a cause of death, but said she had fallen ill two days earlier.
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From an American GI’s wives’ catering shop to a bomb-blasted section of Tokyo, Hane Mori (pronounced ha-na-eh moe-ree), the daughter of a surgeon, rose to global fame in a 50-year career that brought great wealth; 20 companies; palatial houses in Paris, New York and Tokyo; and remarkable status for a woman in a male-dominated profession and society.
After decades of struggle to refine and market her styles, she was admitted to the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, the first Asian woman to be inducted into the Paris Guild of the world’s top designers, in 1977. She was also the first Asian woman to join the ranks of Christian Dior, Chanel, Givenchy, Armani, Versace, Valentino and Karl Lagerfeld at a Paris show where the competition and stakes were just as high in fashion.
Her collection that year was a stunning array of gowns and other fabrics with a distinctive blend of Western-style designs in silk and chiffon imprinted with Japanese flowers, seascapes, calligraphy and her trademark butterfly. New York Times fashion critic Bernadine Morris declared that a new star is emerging in the industry.
“Paris still has its classics,” wrote Ms. Morris in 1977, “Chanel, who established her style in the 1920s and hasn’t changed much since, and Grace, who came along a decade later. They are joined this time by Hane Mori, who may become a classic over time. ,
She was right. In the years that followed, Ms. Mori’s haute couture graced the runways of Paris and New York and was lauded by the fashion press. In turn, as she rose to prominence and as her exported ready-to-wear styles became more widely available, she won the loyalty of millions of buyers around the world.
Her designs were actually quite conservative. Unlike her Japanese contemporary Issei Miyake, who died on August 5, and other avant-garde couturiers who used unconventional styles and fabrics, Ms. Mori tried not to break the molds of Western fashion. Instead, by combining Western designs with Japanese touches, he challenged stereotypes and influenced a generation of designers in both cultures.
Her creations were not for women who wanted to enter, as the editor of Vogue put it. They were for most women who didn’t seek the limelight, just the quiet pleasures of dressing in subtle colors and patterns: silk cocktail dresses with obi sashes; Chiffon Gown with Purple-Orange Mist; and skirts and dresses printed with rose petals, reeds or wispy clouds.
With her textile-executive husband, Ken Mori, as her business manager, Ms. Mori developed the lines of evening gowns; day wear; Business attire; men’s and children’s clothing; and a collection of shoes, handbags, gloves and scarves. They later produced lacquerware, fragrances for women and men, and even household items.
As Japan recovered from the ravages of wartime bombing and regained its economic status with a rush of enthusiasm, women once confined to the kitchen and wearing traditional kimono joined the workforce in large numbers, and bought Ms. Mori’s jacket, slacks, sweater and skirt. , Many also learned new ways to dress for evenings with Mori creations, and for weddings and other formal occasions.
And as Ms. Mori’s off-the-rack collections expanded to markets around the world, Princess Grace of Monaco has joined her list of personal clients; Crown Princess Masako of Japan; Lady Bird Johnson; Nancy Reagan; Hillary Clinton; Sophia Loren; Renata Tebaldi; the wives of national leaders in Europe and Asia; and society figures in New York, Paris, London and Tokyo.
“The name Hane Mori has become synonymous with Japan in women’s clothing, such as Toyota in automobiles, Sony in tape recorders and Nikon in cameras,” The Times reported as the Mori Year of the Year after Tokyo achieved $100 million in global sales in 1980. Had it.
With fame came contracts. Having previously designed costumes for Japanese films and uniforms for flight attendants for Japan Air Lines, she created costumes for the opera “Madame Butterfly” at La Scala in Milan in 1985; For Rudolf Nureyev’s Paris Opera Ballet “Cinderella” in 1986 (and its New York production in 1987), and in 1996 for the opera “Electra” at the Salzburg Music Festival.
By the 1990s, Ms. Mori was one of the most powerful business executives in Japan and the head of Tokyo society. She was a charity fund-raiser befriending ambassadors, entertainment stars, and corporate leaders whose wives had at least one Mori creation in their closets: daytime suits that sold for $9,000 and evening gowns that sold for $26,000. sold in
Ms. Mori’s international headquarters was the Hanae Mori Building, a glass and steel landmark in central Tokyo. He owned a French restaurant, and mansions in New York and Paris, where he hosted dinner parties for 250 guests. His Tokyo home was a modern five-story residence; Like her office building, it was designed by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange.
Traveling the world in her own jetliner, dining with royalty and CEOs, Ms. Mori was often as popular as the stars she dressed and often appeared in the news in Japan. Small and thin, with a heart-shaped smile, large round glasses and a soft voice, she was frequently interviewed by Western correspondents, who said she exuded calm confidence and an easygoing gentleness.
The Washington Post said in a 1990 profile, “For all her success, Mori is an accessible woman, low-key, gracious and restrained—a manner that results from a conservative upbringing, and has been vital to her success in Japan.” ” “In Tokyo’s male-dominated business culture, the woman with the more rigid driving would have been left out.”
Although no one knew at the time, Ms. Mori’s global annual sales peaked at nearly $500 million. In the mid-90s, her sales began to decline steadily, due to a protracted economic downturn and changing tastes, which forced many haute couture designers to retreat, including Ms. Mori.
In 2002, Ms. Mori sold her ready-to-wear retail outlets and licensed apparel businesses to an investment group consisting of Rothschild of Britain and Mitsui of Japan. Later that year, Hane Mori International filed for bankruptcy protection in Japan with liabilities of $94 million. Hana Mori’s name survived on a few Tokyo boutiques and continues to permeate her fragrance lines today.
Japan’s leading female fashion designer born Hana Fuji was born on January 8, 1926, in Muikaichi (now Yoshika) in Shimane Prefecture, southwestern Japan. She was the only daughter among six children of a surgeon.
Hana was 15 when the war in the Pacific began. Like many young Japanese women, she worked in a factory. When the war ended, she resumed studies at Tokyo Women’s Christian University and graduated in 1947 with a bachelor’s degree in literature.
In 1947, she married Mr. Mori. They had two sons, Akira and Kei, who helped run their business as adults. Her husband died in 1996.
Eager for a career, she studied dressmaking and in 1951 opened her atelier in Shinjuku, a shopping hub in Tokyo. After a filmmaker saw his work, he created costumes for hundreds of Japanese films in the 50s and 60s, including Yasujiro Ozu’s “Early Autumn” and Yoshida’s “Farewell to the Summer Light”. Film stars became customers. She wrote columns for a fashion magazine and opened boutiques in Tokyo and other cities.
In 1960, he had a life-changing experience. Visiting Coco Chanel’s Paris Salon, she emerged with an idea that inspired her to try Haute Couture. Believing that feminine beauty in Japan was based on the secret of concealment, she resolved to create garments that revealed women’s natural femininity—a revolutionary notion in a culture that had for centuries rendered women all but invisible. .
Putting his idea into practice, his business flourished in Japan. In 1975, he entered New York with rice paper invitations to fashion’s 300 American VIPs, including critics, designers, and department store reps, at his “East Meets West” show at the Park Avenue Hotel. It was a huge hit.
Times fashion critic Ms. Morris wrote, “They are certainly works of art.” “The landscape, butterflies, fans and flowers are beautifully painted on silk crepe and chiffon in the Japanese manner.
“But there are sure signs that Japanese designer Hana Mori is going western,” she said. “The combination of Western designs and Japanese prints is delightful.”
Neiman Marcus, a Dallas department store, was the first to market its wares in America. Bergdorf Goodman, Bonwit Taylor, Henri Bendel and Saks Fifth Avenue soon joined the party. Two years later, she rose to greatness in Paris, settling down that street of fashion dreams: Avenue Montaigne.
Ms. Mori designed the official uniform for the Japanese delegation at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and for the Lillehammer Olympics two years later.
Ms. Mori was honored with accolades and awards, most notably the Legion of Honour, France’s highest award, given to her by President François Mitterrand in 1989. His books include “Designing for Tomorrow” (1978), “A Glass Butterfly” (1984) and “Hane Mori: 1960–1989” (1989).
After declaring bankruptcy, she continued to mount fashion shows until 2004, when she retired at the age of 78 and held a farewell ceremony in Paris, calling it a tribute to the East-West fusion she pioneered. was raised.
The International Herald Tribune reported in 2004, “Applause greeted Hane Mori as the audience rose to salute the great Japanese fashion designer’s last Paris show.” With butterflies – a symbol of the house.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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