During her five decades as a designer, Hana Mori was simultaneously a translator of fashion: transforming traditional Japanese fabrics into clothing that would not be feared by the West, and making Western cut, fit, shape and ways of dressing understandable to Japanese women. At the time, she was one of the only families in the town who wore western clothes and was the only girl in kimono school who wore skirts and skirts, so she was a unique talent.
Mori, who has died aged 96, never thought of becoming a designer. A dressmaking course she took in Tokyo after the war in her early 20s was just to equip her to make clothes for herself and her future children. But she was fascinated by Western technicalities—irregular shapes, with lots of curved lines, darts and darts, and curtains, all combined with a simple Japanese tubular construction that covered the body.
In 1951, she started a small atelier above a noodle bar in Shinjuku, Tokyo. The district was destroyed during World War II except for the railway station. For Americans and Japanese people. Mori, with two assistants and three second-to-one sewing machines, created bespoke and made-to-order fashionable Western women’s clothing for both cultures.
The area had a large new cinema that attracted film industry professionals; First, a producer asked her to supply costumes, then she designed costumes for movies – she did hundreds of them over a decade – and she also created her own wardrobe for movie stars. At the same time, with her husband Kenzo Mori – the CEO of a textile manufacturing family – as manager, she expanded from a cover workshop to a boutique with the national economy.
Mori quickly came to represent fashion in Japan, promoting the latest trends in a newspaper that grew into the magazine Raiko Toshin. She counseled women on the difficult transition to Western wardrobes, which made them uncomfortable exposing more than the neck and arms, were marked by foreign accessories, and could not kneel on the floor of a house without a chair.
She was so rich that she took an unconventional approach to studying French couture; In the year In 1960, she traveled to Paris to meet the designers she admired, Hubert de Givenchy and Coco Chanel, and to order clothes – Mori shocked her by suggesting she wear orange for her entrance. Japanese women were not expected to stand out: subtlety, modesty, what Mori called “refined concealment,” were their ideals.
On her return to Japan, her color flourished, and she worked in a bold, fusion mode, Western in cut, Eastern in fabric and pattern, which she suggested as an unrestricted “kimono atmosphere.”
In 1965, Mori’s first couture-class international exhibition of East Meets West in New York was the time to wear silk floating in jet-set era taste and appeal in exotic destinations. She created the glosses, which were stocked in high-end department stores and later stocked a client list that included Bianca Jagger, Lady Bird Johnson, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton and Grace, Princess of Monaco. Mori wore Masako Owada for her 1993 wedding to Crown Prince Naruhito.
She also learned a lot about quality ready-to-wear in the US, new concepts in Japan, and licensing. With these, she established her name and butterfly logo in Japan and around the world.
Unlike most travelers, she was financially secure and internationally famous when she opened her salon in Paris in 1977, and was appointed to the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne.
Mori attributes her independence and curiosity to her father, Tokuzo Fujii, a progressive surgeon in Muikaichi (now Yoshika) in Shimane, southwestern Japan. When he, his daughter, and four sons return to the big cities wearing western clothes made from imported fabrics, Hana’s mother, Nobu (nee Matsuura), wears fine kimonos ordered from department stores. Both her parents were rich families.
Nobu moved to Tokyo so that his children could study there; During the war, the entire family was displaced except Hana; She was drafted into the factory, and bravely stayed behind as the city collapsed. During the war, like other women, she adopted peasant work clothes – loosely rolled jackets over loose tie-waist trousers; Mori knew that it was time for western clothing to be their future.
She married in 1947 after graduating from Tokyo Women’s Christian University with a degree in Japanese literature. “I was a good housewife for about a month, but I didn’t like being at home,” she said, and started studying dress design and construction.
Her husband supported her career and for decades was the public face of communications and contracts in the all-male business world. It wasn’t until 1986 that Mori was invited to become the first female member of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives. At that time, she was showing her clothes in Tokyo, New York and Paris, and was fully involved in cosmetics, perfumes, furniture – a whole brand-business with a multi-million dollar income.
The shift in the East-West balance that ensured her success determined her destiny. Mori inspired young designers like Kenzo, Issei Miyake, and Rei Kawakubo to create a new vision of Japanese design in the West that was sharper and more elegant than Mori’s, and that Japan was fully integrated into world fashion and more likely to wear Ralph Lauren. Jeans woven in Japan, like a mori chiffon skirt.
In the year She sold her stores and licensing businesses to an investment group in 2002, and with ¥10bn in debts, the rest of her empire was close to bankruptcy, which led to her last Paris collection in 2004 and her retirement. But her image in Japan, from fashion pioneer to dowager empress, has consistently shined. In the year She was made a Chevalier of the Legion d’honneur in 1989 and awarded the Order of Culture of Japan in 1996.
Kenzo died in 1996. She is survived by their two sons, Akira and Kei, who worked in Mori’s business.