Hailing from rural Japan, Hanae Mori was born in 1926. Her surgeon father was fashion savvy, always on the lookout for new trends and it was no wonder that Hanae Mori aspired to become a fashion designer after the World War II ended and wives of American soldiers brought clothes for her to sew. With a degree in Japanese Literature, Mori graduated from Woman’s Christian University in Tokyo and got married to a wealthy textile mill owner’s son, Ken Mori. In 1951, Mori took classes at a local dressmaking school and began designing atelier in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo.
After gaining three years of hands on experience in designing clothes, Hanae Mori opened her own boutique in Ginza at Tokyo where she started off her career by designing clothes for Japan’s growing film industry. Mori was the designer of costumes for over three hundred Japanese movies. It was 1961 when Mori went to Paris and visited Coco Chanel that completely changed her take on fashion. Mori soon started designing her first ready-to-wear clothing line which she presented in New York at Hotel Delmonico. It was her signature butterflies that caught Vogue’s eye and soon Mori’s designs appeared on the cover of Vogue Magazine. In 1967, she was delegated the task to design uniforms for Japan Airlines’s air hostesses. The Hanae Mori Fragrance was launched in the US in partnership with Shiseido which was called gently devastating by Vogue.
With groundbreaking success of her first perfume, Mori went international with her first boutique in New York located at Waldorf Aristoria. By 1975, Hanae Mori’s contemporary mix of western-Japanese designs had gained so much popularity that she was invited by Grace of Monaco to present her collection. She opened her shop at Paris’s Montaigne Avenue in 1977 and became a part of Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne later that year. She teamed up with Japan’s famous architect, Kenzo Tange to open the Hanae Mori shopping complex in Tokoyo. In 1985, Mori tried her hand at costume designing for Madama Butterfly for Milan’s La Scala theatre. With her intricate designs and attention to detail, Mori designed over 150 costumes for Cinderella, a ballet of Paris Opera.
In October 1989, Mori received the highest honor, Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur by Francois Mitterrand, the President of France. Back in her former homeland Japan, she celebrated thirty five years of being a designer by holding an exhibition in Tokyo. In 1992, Mori was the official designer of costumes for Japanese contestants at the Barcelona Summer Olympics. In 1993, she designed kimonos and wedding dress for Japan’s Princess Masako. Mori also received the Order of Culture Award from the Japanese empire in 1996. In the same year, she designed costumes for Salzburg Festival’s opera called ‘Elektra’. Mattel Inc.’s collaborated in 2000 with Hanae Mori to create a Hanae Mori Barbie Doll.
In 2004, Mori presented her last couture collection on the runway before retiring and in the start of 2005; Hanae Mori Foundation was founded to help creative youth. Her retirement was a great loss to the fashion industry. Later in 2009, an exhibition called ‘Made by Hand: Hanae Mori and Young Artists’ was launched in the cities of Mito and Tokyo by the Hanae Mori Foundation.