Japanese fashion designer Hanae Mori dies at 96

Oscar Holland, CNN | Junko Ogura, CNN

Hanae Mori, the first Asian fashion designer to enter the world of haute couture, has passed away at the age of 96.

The Japanese designer, whose elegant pieces were worn by celebrities from Hillary Clinton to Empress Masako, died last Thursday, her office told CNN in an email. was not listed, adding that the funeral had already been held by close relatives.

Born in Shimane, Japan in 1926, Mori opened his first atelier, Hiyoshiya, in Tokyo in 1951, and a studio in Tokyo three years later. Much of her early career was devoted to making costumes for the film industry during what is now considered the golden age of Japanese cinema.

But her ambitions were global. Even at a time when Asian designer names were barely registered in the fashion capitals of the West. Her visits to New York and Paris in the 1960s proved formative, as did her encounter with Coco, where the French designer suggested trying on a particularly bright orange suit.

According to a 1990 profile in The Washington Post, Mori reflected years later, “It helped take the scales out of my eyes,” adding: My dress makes women stand out. “

She did just that, often blending Western silhouettes with Asian motifs, like the butterfly that would later be called “Madame Butterfly.” Mori staged her first overseas show in New York in 1965 with the theme “East Meets West”. From there, she began paving a path followed by successful Japanese designers like Rei Kawakubo for decades.

Together with her husband and business partner Ken, she has grown the brand in step with Japan’s booming economy. She opened her 7th Avenue showroom in New York in 1973, and four years later an atelier on Paris’ famous Avenue Montaigne, counting many of Europe’s fashion masters as her neighbors. . She is also the first Asian designer to be recognized by the Parisienne and is allowed to use the term “haute couture” to describe her handcrafted garments. She became one of a handpicked group of people.

Over the years, her designs have been seen on major runways and worn by stars from Grace Kelly to Princess Grace of Monaco. She also produced costumes for her major stage productions such as ‘Cinderella’ for the Paris Opera and ‘Madame Butterfly’ for La Scala in Milan.

Despite her international status, Mori continued to receive prestigious assignments in her home country. The most notable of which is her boldly short polyester knit dress, worn throughout the 1970s.

Mori also dressed Japanese athletes at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. The following year, the Empress of Japan – then Crown Princess Masako – wore Mori’s custom white gown at her wedding.

Despite starting a successful fragrance company, Mori’s company faced major financial difficulties in the 1990s. According to The New York Times, in 2002, the year she was appointed to the board of the French Legion d’Honneur, she sold some of her businesses and filed for bankruptcy protection, two years after her Paris Maison. closed down, effectively retiring. However, she continued her activity in her later years, designing opera costumes and collaborating on various exhibitions honoring a career that spanned decades.

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