Hanae Mori: Fashion is to see changing of the times

November 23, 2012

By MAKIKO TAKAHASHI/ Senior Staff Writer

Pioneer fashion designer Hanae Mori first established a pret-a-porter (ready-to-wear) collection in Japan in the 1950s. Setting her sights on an international career, she later succeeded in introducing her designs in Europe and the United States and today is one of the world's few Paris haute couture designers.

Having retired from the forefront of the fashion business in 2004, she now works in costume design.

Mori, 86, recently sat down for an interview with The Asahi Shimbun. Excerpts follow:

Question: Why do you support young designers through the Hanae Mori Foundation?

Answer: Fashion reflects a country's strength as a nation and its momentum in moving toward the future. I was impressed the other day with works by up-and-coming Asian designers, especially by Chinese and Vietnamese designers.

I was also encouraged to find Japanese designs successfully showing a "new Japanese black" after the 1980s, when people wore black. I believe it is necessary (for designers) to value the Japanese cultural undercurrent.

Q: In terms of Japan's traditional expressions, what is different between now and the 1960s, when you set your sights on the world?

A: I had a hard time transcending national barriers, which were much higher in those days. When I was watching "Madam Butterfly" in the United States, I felt like saying, "Japanese women aren't like this. Don't treat us like that." That passion became a source of energy.

Barriers are much lower now, but appreciation of the human touch has deteriorated. This makes it difficult for people to distinguish clothes that have been carefully handmade based on tradition. Some people who looked at my works from 20 years ago asked me if they had really been made by hand. That makes me sad.

Q: Are there changes in awareness and attitudes among those who follow fashion?

A: Along with the change in the relationship between men and women, people have come to seek clothes as a medium to express their human attractions, rather than attracting members of the opposite sex.

I have tried hard to express elegant femininity in my dresses. But boundaries between sexes, ages and nationalities have become blurred these days. In this sense, we do not see attractive men and women as often as we used to do.

Q: In what direction do you think fashion will go?

A: Fashion is something that is used to react to keenly and understand the changing of the times. Days when people are happy simply owning a large number of things will be gone, I think, and clothes crafted through the vision and insight of artists will become influential.

Q: Why have you decided to use cranes as a motif, instead of your signature butterfly motif?

A: I had an opportunity to design cranes for a costume for an opera. I used to picture my life as a butterfly flying over the waters with all its heart. But I have fought it out with butterflies.

Cranes are more slender and elegant. They seem like cool, contemporary women.

By MAKIKO TAKAHASHI/ Senior Staff Writer
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Hanae Mori (Photo by Makoto Kaku)

Hanae Mori (Photo by Makoto Kaku)

  • Hanae Mori (Photo by Makoto Kaku)

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