The Invention of an Icon

“Fashion captures the sense of the times and gives it form”

The most famous Japanese designer Hanae Mori passed away this summer at the age of 96. Almost a century to write one of the greatest sagas of international fashion! A figure of elegance, Hanae Mori opened the way for Japanese fashion in Paris in 1977, well before Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto in the 80s. Kenzo and Issey Miyake visited her studio as young design students. In New York too, as early as 1965, she made a name for herself in her first fashion show.

Hanae Mori says that as a child, she was the only one with her parents to dress in Western style. After graduating in Japanese literature, she married the son of a textile professional, Kenzo Mori. "I was a model wife for a month, but I didn't like staying at home. I wanted to work, so I asked my husband, a Japanese man, who was bossy but understanding, and we discussed it for a month. I then entered a design school in Tokyo".

It all starts in a tiny workshop of second-hand sewing machines in front of a movie theater. A few years later, a Japanese director spotted her short skirts in the window and asked her to create the costumes for his next film. Hanae Mori creates for the new wave of Japanese cinema and is famous in a hundred films. Her small business flourished and she decided to travel to spread her wings.

The meeting with Coco Chanel was decisive - "She reactivated my desire for haute couture, I immediately wanted to open a boutique in Paris". Coco Chanel recommended a bright orange ensemble to enhance her black hair. This experience was a revelation for Hanae Mori, who was used to the Japanese concept of beauty based on hiding. "I suddenly realized that I had to change my approach and make clothes that help women stand out.

Hanae Mori is fond of working with silk and patterns. "I can't force these ladies to wear kimono, but I can recreate the vibe of kimono". Her memorable designs appeal to both Western and Eastern women. Her first collection unveiled in New York in 1965 celebrated the meeting of East and West. Over the decades, Hanae Mori has become known as "Madame Butterfly" as butterflies are her signature motif. Hanae Mori has dressed many international celebrities - from Grace Kelly to Masako the Empress of Japan - making refinement her trademark.

Hanae Mori appears on the arm of her granddaughter Izumi Mori in the wedding dress in 2004 for her last Parisian fashion show. The designer has had at heart to transmit the importance of artistic creation and craftsmanship and to show the way for the emancipation of women in her country and beyond. An icon who crosses time and resonates with young generations around the world.