by Yvonne Heinen-Foudeh, Senior International Correspondent
Fashion creator Hanae Mori has died. The trailblazer of Japanese design in the international world of couture passed away on August 11 in Tokyo. She was 96 years old. The cause of death was announced by Mori's office as old age. Born in 1926 in the western Japanese prefecture of Shimane, the fashion designer became famous above all for her butterfly motifs - which is why she was also known as "Madame Butterfly".
Prints were always a strong means of expression in Mori's designs. She used not only Japanese motifs, but also silk and kimono fabrics, even though the kimono was worn less and less: "I can't force the ladies to wear the kimono, but I can create the atmosphere of the kimono," she said in 1983. It was her gift to design beautifully crafted dresses that had the appeal of the "other" for women in both the West and the East.
Her Majesty Empress Masako wore in 1993 for the marriage to Emperor Naruhito (the Crown Prince at that time) a dress designed by Hanae Mori. Among her fans and customers were also actress Grace Kelly, later in her role as Princess Gracia Patricia of Monaco, former US First Lady Nancy Reagan, Bianca Jagger, and countless members of the high society.
In 1951, with two assistants and three second-hand sewing machines, she set up what would today be called a start-up in a former noodle store, initially designing and making film costumes. That same year, she opened her first fashion store in Tokyo.
In 1965 the couturier gave her first show in New York under the title "East meets West". In the 1970s, Mori established herself as the first Asian fashion designer in the Paris fashion market and was the first Japanese member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. In addition to her haute couture designs, she also designed the uniforms for the flight attendants of Japan Airlines and outfitted the Japanese team at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
In 2004, she retreated after her last couture show in Paris. Hanae Mori is survived by two sons and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Her husband and business partner, entrepreneur Ken Mori, died back in 1996, and numerous of her descendants are also active in the fashion world. Her granddaughters Izumi and Horaki Modi followed their grandmother into the fashion world and are successful as models.