Fashion designer Hanae Mori, architect of an era

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Hanae Mori, center, appears with her granddaughter Izumi, at right in a wedding dress, after her last haute couture runway show in July 2004.

Active on the world stage from the days of Japan’s postwar reconstruction period, Hanae Mori was the architect of an era, bringing Japanese fashion to a global audience.

Mori was motivated to expand internationally by the shock she experienced while in New York in 1961. Blouses that had been made in Japan were sold in department stores as “one-dollar blouses,” synonymous with cheap, shabby goods, while the opera “Madame Butterfly” presented Japanese people as pitiful beings.

“I wanted to change the image of Japan with my clothes,” Mori said. At her first runway show in New York four years later, she drew enthusiastic praise for her gorgeous dresses adorned with butterflies. Mori expanded her client base overseas and grew her business to include household goods as well as clothes.

Her success as a global pioneer paved the way for the generation of designers who followed her, including Issey Miyake.

In her personal life, Mori raised two sons and was a trailblazer for working women. She was also a gentle grandmother, appearing on TV with her granddaughters Izumi, a model, and Hikari, a TV personality.