Hanae Mori, the fashion pioneer who brought Japanese motifs to global haute couture and created Empress Masako’s wedding dress, has died at the age of 96.
Famous for her de ella butterfly designs de ella, Mori, who was born in rural Shimane Prefecture, later recalled how the fancy clothes her doctor father ordered for her as a child at Mitsukoshi, a popular Tokyo department store, made her feel “embarrassed, ashamed.”
However, she later moved to the city, where she attended university and then design school, and in 1951 opened her own studio in the still partially war-torn downtown.
Working as a designer for film directors helped her hone her style, but the turning point came in 1961, when she went to Paris to research designer Coco Chanel and then visited New York.
“I felt very aware of my roots as ‘Japanese,'” Mori, who died on August 11 of her according to her office, said in an interview with the Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo website.
“The cheap Japanese products that are sold in the bases of department stores, … the representation of Madame Butterfly in the opera ‘Madame Butterfly’, which I saw in New York,” she said. “‘This is not Japan!’ I decided to try my luck with creations made in Japan.”
In 1965, she presented her first collection of her in New York, which was noted for its mix of Eastern and Western themes.
In the following decade, catwalk shows in Europe followed and she opened a fashion house in Paris, becoming the first Asian woman to be admitted to a French haute couture association.
“I chose the theme of the butterfly, which symbolizes the Japanese woman who spreads her wings around the world,” she adds.
Among the most important commissions she received before her retirement from her in 2004 was the dress worn by Empress Masako at her wedding to then-Crown Prince Naruhito in 1993.
He also designed uniforms for Japan Airlines stewardesses and for Japan’s Olympic teams at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Games and the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games.
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