Designer Yuki Torii celebrates 60 years in the fashion business

Veteran designer Yuki Torii is commemorating her 60-year career in which she made her mark on the fashion world and gave traditional styles a playful, modern spin.

Few others in her trade worldwide have remained active leaders of their own brands for such a long time.

“I have always been looking toward the future, such as with the new works I will be presenting next,” Torii said. “So, those 60 years have passed in the twinkling of an eye. I believe I will remain like that in the years to come, too.”

Her works are bound by the themes of comfort, stylishness and youthfulness. She always strives to capture the spirit of the times through her choices of colors, patterns and fabrics, and places them against the backdrop of classic styles–all contributing to her signature touch.

Her repertoire has ventured out from her original turf of Western-style ladieswear into the broader realms of menswear and the Japanese-style dress.


Torii was 19 when she debuted by presenting several pieces of work at her mother’s fashion show in 1962. Her mother operated a Western-style dressmaker’s shop in the posh Ginza district of Tokyo, which dated back to her grandmother’s generation.

Since she was handed the torch, Torii has exhibited new works in Tokyo and Paris twice a year.

She said a desire to make something that “fits the state of mind of those like myself who are living in this age, something that looks stylish, and something that I would want to wear myself” has always been, since she debuted, at the root of her dressmaking.

Torii has developed original, raw fabrics with yarns of her own selection, including a tweed mix with subtle hues and other textiles carrying colorful floral patterns, to go with each fashion season. She has used those fabrics with a contemporary sense of balance and charm in her works across a variety of tastes, which have included a sailor style and a more masculine look.

“When I work on sporty clothes, for example, I zero in on a territory just inside the limit so they can also look urbane and stylish,” the designer said.

Starting in the mid-1960s, Torii took charge of doing costumes for many singers and actresses appearing on TV and onstage, including big names such as Chiyo Okumura, Rumiko Koyanagi, Mariko Kaga and Shima Iwashita. The costumes she designed to match their individual characteristics helped bring out their personas.

Torii participated in Paris Fashion Week from 1975 through 2008. Her Paris debut show provided much fodder for talk. Many of her novel works, including a jumpsuit that combined patterns from “yukata,” an informal Japanese cotton kimono, with floral patterns, made it into the pages of Western magazines.

Only a handful of Japanese fashion designers had made names for themselves by that time in Paris, such as Kenzo Takada and Issey Miyake.

“I learned I had to be true to what I am, and I put that into practice” in Paris, a melting pot of the world’s talents, the designer said.


In the early 1980s, Torii teamed with textile maker Toray Industries Inc. and other parties to release fashionable, modern kimono.

She blended the “Edo Komon” fine dyeing patterns used in traditional kimono and motifs from the “Taisho Romantic” Japanese-Western eclectic style of the 1910s and 1920s with elements of the Western dress, such as chiffon fabric.

The idea was to make an all-inclusive style, complete with an obi and accessories. She was one of the pioneers of a new type of Japanese dress that lives on to this day.

“Those were pieces of kimono that you can wash on your own and wear casually for fun,” the designer said. “That meant more to me than the intricacies and tradition of the Japanese dress. I took care to strike a balance between a contemporary sense of beauty and a feeling of Japanese-ness.”

A men’s collection that Torii operated between 1994 and 2000 could be called one of the landmark episodes that prompted a change in fashion consciousness for middle-aged and elderly Japanese men.

She hired several well-known figures across a broad range of age brackets to be models for her men’s line. They included a writer, a journalist, a businessman and an athlete.

“I wanted to say out loud that there is nothing wrong about men dressing up when they are no longer young,” Torii said. “Well, people are finally saying these days that men who despise fashion are behind the times.”


Last September, she lost her husband, Takao Torii, who was president of her brand operator, Torii Co., to an illness. At the time, she was in the final runup to release her new works for the spring/summer 2022 season, which would commemorate her 60-year career and her 120th new release since her debut.

Torii respected the dying will of her spouse, who said he did not want anybody to learn about his death. She kept it a secret to herself, as well as to a handful of others–including her own family members–for three weeks. During that time, she carried on her business as usual, including the fitting of her new works and the selection of models.

“He was my good partner, in both my official and private lives,” she said of her late husband. “He understood me better than anybody else did. I thought I would break down if I told my employees, or anybody else, about his death.”

Torii’s rigorous attitude toward her longtime profession appears to be underpinned by the sensibilities she has cultivated, be they Japanese or Western, the experiences she has accumulated, and an innocent, optimistic outlook that allows her to stay positive about pretty well everything.

“May my clothes make their wearers feel happy and excited,” she said. “In the years to come, I hope to keep having fun at my own pace and use my energy to express the ‘here and now’ that we are living in.”






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