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Designer Hanae Mori Says Goodbye to the Fashion World (December 6, 2004)

Hanae Mori
Hanae Mori (Jiji)
Legendary designer Hanae Mori held her final fashion show at the Haute Couture Show in Paris in July 2004, bringing an end to a career that has spanned about half a century. Taking the butterfly as her symbol, Mori created both haute couture for the fashion runway and prêt-à-porter (ready-to-wear) for the masses, as well as clothing for movies and stage productions and wedding dresses. She was a pioneer of the Japanese fashion industry and a designer who achieved celebrity both at home and abroad. She became renowned as an "ambassador of beauty" whose influence transcended national borders.

Madame Butterfly
Mori was born in Shimane Prefecture in 1926. She married after graduating with a degree in Japanese Literature from Tokyo Woman's Christian University. She then learned dressmaking and in 1951 opened up a studio in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward. Using this studio as a base, Mori provided costumes for hundreds of movies in the golden era of Japanese film that spanned the 1950s and early 1960s, including Taiyo no Kisetsu (Season of the Sun), based on the novel of the same name by Ishihara Shintaro, now governor of Tokyo. Mori founded a company called Vivid in 1963 and established herself as a major player in the as-yet-undeveloped field of prêt-à-porter.

In 1965 Mori revealed her first overseas collection in New York. Her collection was heralded as an example of "East meets West" and was taken as a symbol of Japan's economic revival. Following up on this success, Mori held exhibitions in London in 1972 and Paris in 1975. She also opened a shop called Hanae Mori New York in 1970, and then expanded her sales operations to London in 1974 and then to Switzerland, Germany, and Belgium. In 1977 she opened a haute couture fashion house on Paris's Avenue Montaigne and released her first haute couture collection. Making use of her well-known butterfly motif, Mori released print dresses that evoked yuzen, a method of dyeing silk for kimono, and was hailed as "Madame Butterfly." That same year Mori came to be the first Asian to become a member of the Paris Haute Couture association. In 1978 she was invited to China to assist in the development of that country's fashion industry.

Mori also enjoys a stellar reputation as a creator of stage costumes. She produced costumes for Madame Butterfly when it played at La Scala in Milan, and for the ballet Cinderella at the Paris Opera. In Japan she has produced costumes for the Shiki Theatre Company. In addition, Mori has seen her work represent the nation as a whole, designing official Olympic uniforms for Japan's team, as well as uniforms for flight attendants of Japan Airlines.

Wedding Dresses Desired by Japanese Women
Mori, who has won countless awards both at home and abroad, boasts a client list that includes many of the world's most famous women, including former Princess Grace, Nancy Reagan, and Sophia Loren. Mori's wedding dresses are also highly sought after by Japanese women. She raised her already-high profile in 1993 by designing the wedding dress for Crown Princess Masako.

At the fall 2004 Haute Couture Show, though, Mori announced her retirement from the fashion world. With the idea of getting back to her roots, the theme of her last exhibition was "East Meets West." Mori released roughly 30 new creations, including a cashmere dress with a large butterfly design, and a long dress featuring a drawing of a kabuki actor. Many of her works showed an overt Japanese consciousness, such as a belt that evoked a Japanese obi, Japanese hairpins, and geta (wooden clogs worn with kimono). Mori appeared at the end of the show along with her granddaughter Izumi, who was wearing a wedding dress. The collection received a rare standing ovation, a fitting send-off for the ambassador of beauty.


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Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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