Born: Tokyo, 8 January 1926. Education: Graduated in literature from Tokyo Christian Women's University, 1947. Family: Married Kei Mori; children: Akira, Kei. Career: First atelier in Shinjuko, Tokyo, 1951; costume designer for films, 1954-circa 1961; first New York fashion show, 1965; showed in Monaco and Paris, 1975; established haute couture collection and fashion house in Paris, 1977; member of Le Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Parisienne, 1977; opened Hanae Mori Boutique in Faubourg St. Honor, Paris, 1985; designed costumes for La Scala, Milan; designed costumes for Paris Opera Ballet, 1986; launched Hanae Mori Boutique, Monte Carlo, 1989; shows in Paris, Budapest, Moscow, and Kuala Lumpur, 1990; shows in Lausanne and Taipei, and member of Japan Olympic Committee and chairman of Cultural Affairs Promotion Committee of Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 1991; eyewear added, 1993; fragrances added: Butterfly, 1995; HM (for men), 1997; Haute Couture, 1999; also designed accessories, home furnishings, textiles, and skiwear. Exhibitions: Avant-garde Japon, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 1986; Hanae Mori: 35 Years in Fashion, Tokyo, 1989, Monte Carlo, 1990, and Paris, 1990; Diana Vreeland: Immoderate Style, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1993-94; Japonism in Fashion, Kyoto Costume Institute, 1994; Japanese Design: A Survey Since 1950, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1994; Orientalism, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1994-95. Awards: Neiman Marcus award, 1973; Medaille d'Argent, City of Paris, 1978; The Symbol of Man award, Minnesota Museum, 1978; Croix de Chevalier des Arts et Lettres, 1984; Purple Ribbon Decoration, Japan, 1988; Asahi prize as pioneer of Japanese Fashion, 1988; named Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur, 1989; Person of Cultural Merit, Japan, 1989; Order of Culture, Japan, 1996. Address: 6-1, 3 Chome, Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan. Website: www.morihanae.co.jp .
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I design primarily to enhance our lifestyle and make it richer and more enjoyable. Expression changes with the times; but the essence does not change. The history of the world is the story of men and women—how men relate to women and how they live. I would like to express that great sense of existence in clothing. I have been in pursuit of that all through my life.
I am true to my identity; I keep trying to be myself. I am Japanese, in Japan there is this beauty by itself which has been nurtured by tradition—fashion is an international language. What I have been trying to do is to express the wonderful beauty of Japan using international language.
A delicate sense of feminine beauty, stemming from Hanae Mori's Japanese heritage, is married to an artistic use of color and fabric in all her work. She treads a careful line, balancing Eastern influences with Western ideals to produce consistently successful couture and ready-to-wear lines with international customers. If her clothes lack the more outrageous, attention-grabbing qualities of some of her couture counterparts, they compensate with the economy of their cut and base their appeal on the practical needs of the wealthy metropolitan women who wear them.
By stepping outside current trends and concentrating on conservative but always feminine daywear, Mori has established a niche for herself in the Parisian fashion arena. Integral to this is the sense of the longevity of her easy-to-wear separates, which even in the ready-to-wear line retain a delicacy of touch through the textiles used. Mori elaborates on the basic tenets of combining fine fabrics and flattering cut, adding her own feel for the dramatic to her eye-catching eveningwear. For this she makes optimum use of the lustrous printed textiles produced by her husband until his death in 1996. Although there is an air of restrained elegance to much of her design, symbolized by the fragile butterfly motif by which she is known, her eveningwear often breaks into more vibrant realms.
In 1981 Mori produced a languorous silk mousseline dress, the vampish leopard print and deep décolleté of which were balanced by the soft, sinuous fall of the fabric. Other examples used bright hot colors, juxtaposed in one ensemble to provide interest, bringing a strong Japanese feel to their narrow hues, frequently harking back to the kimono for their silhouette and cut. It is in this area that her work is most inspired, bringing together European tailoring and Japanese color and ideals of beauty. She uses the Japanese love of asymmetry to further develop her style and the linear patterns she prints onto her distinctive silks. She exploits the natural appeal of such fabrics with a well-defined sense of cut to illuminate her realistic styles. By doing so, Mori is providing both an alternative to and a definite rejection of the type of elaborate couture confections that mold the female form into fantastical shapes, ignoring the woman beneath the fabric.
The other main strand to Mori's design is her close involvement in the arts. Her early costuming of innumerable Japanese films enabled her sense of color to evolve, using each primary-hued textile to represent a different emotion, and sharpened her sense of the dramatic effect of dress. This has grown in her work for opera and ballet, the clothing full of delicacy and poise counterpointed with strong coloration, the arresting mixes representing the two worlds her design principles straddle.
Mori's wedding dresses are in particular demand and are always made to order. The designer is also a favorite of the Japanese royal family and Thailand's Queen Sirikit. A new influence is beginning to work its way into Mori's collections with the addition of her daughter-in-law, Pamela, as creative director of the ready-to-wear line since 1999. The younger Mori favors simpler, more understated clothing. She helped usher in the newer Studio Line to reach the next generation of Mori customers, both in Japan and internationally. Hanae Mori, despite her advancing years, remains actively involved with the company's daily affairs and still heads up the couture line and the more expensive ready-to-wear.
A firm grasp of the value of these cross-cultural reference points has enabled Mori to establish herself in Paris couture and develop an international market. Her understanding of the needs of contemporary women has lent a practical slant to her simply shaped, wearable clothes, while her theatrical preoccupations and Japanese background have inspired her love of rich, tactile fabrics in the vibrant prints and colors that are the hallmark of her design.
updated by Carrie Snyder