A restless housewife with a sewing machine and a big dream built $4 billion Hanae Mori International.
by Tom Burkett




sense of place is essential to the creative process. When an artist finds an inspiring milieu, she may erupt with masterpiece after masterpiece.

     Where but in Tahiti could Gauguin have painted his vibrant landscapes? Why did Mozart, though born in Vienna, call Prague his spiritual home? How is it that Tokyo-born Yamagata produced his most admired canvasses in his Malibu studio?

     A city can embody a mood, a spirit or, as the Behaviorists say, a quality of the psyche. Hanae Mori has found it in Paris with its riot of art, culture and libertine lifestyles.. That's why Mori divides her time between Paris and Tokyo.

     In her atelier on the upscale Avenue Montaigne Mori designs the couture that wraps the former Princess Grace of Monaco, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, the French actress Sophie Marceau and Japanese Princess Massako.

     In Paris she concocts costumes for operas like Cinderella, musicals like The Cat Who Wished to be a Man and French films like L'Amante. Here she also details her accessory designs--chinawear for Yamaka Shoten, belts for Ono Co, scarves for Kawabe Co and most recently Hanae Mori Paris Lunettes, her eyewear line.

     While the continent hosts this explosion of creativity, Tokyo is the commandpost from which Mori and her husband direct the business side of her fashion empire. Sleek, efficient and busy, the Japanese capital offers the ideal setting for growing Hanae Mori International's annual turnover of more than $4 billion.

     From a slick glass Kenzo Tange-designed building on fashionable Omotesando, Mori oversees the worldwide distribution of her ready-to-wear lines, her interior furnishings, fashion accessories and Haute Couture boutiques in Paris, Tokyo and New York.


     She thrives in cities but Mori traces the roots of her artistic inspiration to the gentle Japanese countryside where she frolicked as a girl. She was born in 1926 in a small village in Shimane Prefecture, the only daughter in a family with five sons. "The winters were very cold," she recalls, "and the summers very hot with fields full of flowers and multitudes of butterflies."

     The family was very traditional. Her mother was a homemaker. Her father was a surgeon with a taste for literature, sculpture and fashion. Conscious of clothing trends in Tokyo and Osaka, he would order his suits custom-cut from Russian tailors he personally knew. He clothed his family in the latest European styles. Little Hanae, clad in Parisian outfits, would sometimes squirm with embarrassment as she shuffled into the village schoolroom full of peasant children garbed in rags.

     At ten Mori was sent to a private school in Tokyo, where her father hoped she would develop the skills to become a doctor. Throughout high school, Mori fought this fate. Her passion was painting canvasses, not cutting cadavers. PAGE 2

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"Her passion was painting canvasses, not cutting cadavers."

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