Hanae Mori
Hanae Mori Image Credit: AFP

Tokyo: Designer Hanae Mori, known for her elegant signature butterfly motifs, numerous cinema fashions and the wedding gown of Japan's empress, has died, her office said Thursday. She was 96.

Mori symbolised the rise of Japan as a modern, fashionable nation and the rise of the working woman. She died at her Tokyo home August 11, a few days after developing a mild fever, according to the Hanae Mori Office. She had been examined by a doctor at her home, but no specific cause of death was given.

Empress Masako wore a Hanae Mori wedding gown adorned with rose-petal patterns when she married Emperor Naruhito, then the crown prince, in 1993. Mori also designed uniforms for Japan Airlines flight attendants, bank clerks, high school students and the Japanese team at the Barcelona Olympics. The uniforms were not flamboyant like her runway designs, but tastefully professional, appropriate for their roles.

With her motto, "You feel decent, no matter where in the world you wear them," Mori wanted to give confidence and dignity to those wearing her designs. Her umbrellas and scarves, often decked with colorful butterflies, were a status symbol with working women.

She opened her studio in 1951 and was a pioneer of a generation of Japanese designers who became globally prominent. Her first New York show, held in 1965, was acclaimed as "East meets West."

She opened her Paris studio in 1977 and built an international business that extended to perfumes, handbags and publishing as well as fashion.

Reputed for infusing Japanese elements inspired by the kimono, Mori designed costumes for hundreds of Japanese films, in the 1950s and 1960s, dressing star actresses like Mie Kitahara, Sayuri Yoshinaga and Shima Iwashita, in some of the most renowned cinematic pieces the era produced.

The elaborate costumes she designed for singer Hibari Misora are also well-known among fashion buffs. She also designed for the opera, including "Madame Butterfly" in Milan in 1985, and the Noh theater. In 2002, she was awarded the Legion of Honor from the French government.

She is survived by two sons, who have their own business, seven grandchildren, and several great-grandchildren, the Hanae Mori office said. Her husband Ken Mori died in 1996. Her grandchildren Izumi Mori and Hikari Mori are fashion models. A funeral service was held among family. A public memorial service may be held, but details are undecided.