Designer Hanae Mori on stage again with costumes for opera ‘Yuzuru’

by Megumi Kudo

Kyodo

Hanae Mori, a revered Japanese fashion designer with a career on world catwalks since the 1960s, showed her unflagging creativity when she designed costumes for a recent revival of the Japanese opera “Yuzuru.”

The opera, whose title translates as “Twilight Crane,” was written by Junji Kinoshita (1914-2006) and composed by Ikuma Dan (1924-2001), based on a Japanese folk tale of the tragic love of a young villager Yohyo, who helps a wounded crane, and his wife Tsu, an incarnation of the crane.

“I hope to convey the zeal of the story, human lust and the purity of the crane to audiences through the costumes,” said the 88-year-old designer in a recent interview.

The opera has been repeatedly staged since its premiere in 1952, with the latest performance, directed by Ukon Ichikawa, staged across Japan from January to April.

Mori designed a silk dress with gold and silver flower-patterned sashes as the main costume for Tsu in the latest performance. The sleeves were designed to allow the audience to see the movements of Tsu’s arms, which express the image of an elegant crane.

Over the years, Mori, in addition to running her own fashion house, has designed costumes for traditional Japanese noh and kabuki plays, as well as films, musicals and ballets, including the innovative “Pink Floyd Ballet” and “Rokumeikan” staged by the renowned Shiki Theater Company.

Born in Shimane Prefecture, western Japan, Mori started to design clothes in 1951.

“I joined a fashion school because I couldn’t find clothes I wanted to buy in any stores and so I decided to make them,” Mori said. “Down the line, I started to think that I wanted many people to wear what I design.”

In 1977, Mori became the only Asian listed as an official haute couture designer in Paris. She continues to stick to the this traditional style, as if fighting against the changing times.

“I feel sad to think that human hands are atrophying as so many things are made by computer,” Mori said.

She said she enjoys making clothes with care, thinking how to express the personalities of those who will wear them. “I make clothes for people who will cherish them.”