Japanese fashion designer
Born: Tokyo, Japan, 3 January 1943. Education: Studied at the Bunka College of Art, Tokyo, 1958-61. Family: Married Takao Torii, 1974; children: Maki. Career: Freelance designer, working in Torii Ginza Boutique, Tokyo, founded by her grandmother, 1952 (now belonging to Yuki Torii); presented first designs within her mother's collection, 1962; established Torii Company Ltd., ready-to-wear firm, Tokyo, 1972; first Paris collection, autumn 1975; launched Yuki Torii Deux label and Yuki Torii International, 1983; opened Yuki Torii Design Studio, Tokyo, 1984; established Yuki Torii France S.A., 1985; designed costumes for theatre and television; designs include ready-to-wear for men and women, printed fabrics, kimonos, lacquerware, accessories, interior design items, and childrenswear; member of NDC (Nippon Designer Club), from 1984. Awards: Fashion Editors Club award, Paris, 1976; Japan Fashion Editors Club, Best Designer of the Year, 1988. Address: Yuki Torii Design Office, Daito Building, 1-5-1 Minami Azabu Minato-ku, Tokyo 106, Japan.
The Tokyo Collection: Graphic Sha, Tokyo, 1986.
Monique, "They Have a Yen for Traditional Japanese Styles," in the New York Daily News, 1975.
——, "Paris' New Household Word: Yuki," in the New York Daily News, 1975.
de Turckheim, Héléne, "Le Travail c'est la Santé de la Mode," in Le Figaro (Paris), 9 December 1975.
"Yuki Torii," in WWD, 19 December 1975.
"Mais Qu'est-ce qui fait courir les Japonais?" in Gap, December/January 1977-78.
Klensch, Elsa, "Cool Kimonos: Torii's Creations are Feminine and Fun," on CNN, 25 November 1998.
Saito, Mayumi, "Yuki Torii," in Japan Today, 19 April 2001.*
I create clothes which make women beautiful, happy, and gay. My clothes are easy to wear. They are made in beautiful colors, vivid or tender. Reflecting well the air du temps, [my clothes] are trendy and modern, but never provocative. I like femininity and le charme based on nature and harmony.
There is no age to wear my clothes; they are for women of any age. At first sight, my clothes give the impression of being destined for the very young, because of the bright colors. But they give successfully a young and modern allure to any woman. My philosophy—the clothes should make the person who wears them beautiful and happy as well as the people who look at her.
As a child, Yuki Torii had ambitions of becoming a painter. Pattern and color had always excited her, and when she became a professional designer in the early 1960s, her approach always began with the textile or color, with a defined choice of palette that ranged from pastels to brights. These bold, vivid color have been an enduring and recognizable quality in Torii's work. One distinctive collection was autumn/winter 1986, which mixed rigorously colored tartans and checks for menswear, womenswear, and childrenswear. The collection consisted of lively, wearable separates; oversize tartan shirts, tartan trousers, and comfortable cardigans for men; long tartan flounced skirts for women, teamed with long, skinny rib jumpers or oversized Argyle patterned sweaters; tartan pinafore dresses for girls and a weatherbeaten, mountaineering look for boys, layering tartan overshirts over tartan Levi-style jackets.
The vibrant Yuki Torii collection sold as part of Liberty of London's Japan at Liberty promotion in 1991 and displayed a more sophisticated air, paying homage to the style of Coco Chanel combined with the color combinations of Christian Lacroix. Vibrant tweeds in unities of orange, lime green, red, grass green, yellow, pale pink, and fuchsia were made into neat, boxy suits, and separates. Much of the fabric was fringed at the hems of garments, and flower-shaped tweed emblems were interesting details appliquéd on pockets and trims.
Torii was the youngest student to have enrolled at the Bunka Gakuin College of Art in Tokyo when she was 15. This precocious talent led her to sell her first creations in her grandmother's haute couture boutique Ginza in Tokyo. By 1972 she had established her own ready-to-wear business, Torii Co. Ltd., and by 1975 had shown her first collection in the prestigious Paris ready-to-wear collections.
Torii has often been told her clothes look best on herself, and it is from this perspective that she begins designing. The approach is similar to that adopted by many other female designers, in particular Jean Muir, who is renowned for producing clothes women really want to wear and feel comfortable in. Torii thinks it natural that female designers conceive ideas from themselves and their roles and needs as women. She likes to project an overall image of sweetness in her clothes, a sweetness retained in images of childrenswear but is often lost in adult fashion. She achieves this by never presenting themes that threaten or provoke controversy. Her look instead is a harmonious combination of contrasting color and fabric that is wearable and flattering but often incorporates the unusual detailing found in children's clothes, for instance, Western cowboy detailing on children's shirts or the naïve flower emblems in her tweed collection.
In 1983, two new brands were created, Yuki Torii Deux and Yuki Torii International. Licensed products like scarves, furs, gloves, belts, eyewear, neckties, and umbrellas were produced from the Yuki Torii Design Studio established in 1984. By the following year, the company was operating from both Japan and France when Yuki Torii France S.A. was established, together with the opening of the boutique at 38-40 Galerie Vivienne in Paris.
A continuing theme in Torii's work has been the kimono. Kimonos and obis have been included in her lines and influenced items in her collections for decades. Typically, she bases these designs on the traditional kimono, which is a complicated and rule-governed garment, but adds a flexibility that allows today's women to adapt them to their lifestyle. She also incorporates modern fabrics, such as polyester, which does not wrinkle.
Torii told CNN in 1998 that "the classic, traditional kimono, with all its detailing, sometimes frightens women. They're not sure exactly how to wear a kimono. So I try to push the idea that they should start simply, wear a kimono casually, and not get too bogged down with the traditional implications." Her kimono designs often combine unusual pattern combinations or unexpected fabric choices, such as creating sleeves from a men's pinstripe. Yet her kimonos, like all her designs, are as feminine as they are comfortable.
Torii's haute couture and ready-to-wear similarly feature unique mixes of fabrics and patterns, such as checks with velvet or leather with gold lamé. Her collections are often critically acclaimed, with the term "classy" frequently used. The fashion press and customers alike find them innovative yet wearable. In addition to her collections, Torii designs school uniforms, as well as licensed accessories.
updated by Karen Raugust