Madam Yumi Katsura holds an esteemed position in the pantheon of Japanese fashion designers. For over 50 years, she has established herself as the pre-eminent wedding dress designer for discerning Japanese and international couture clients. She has also been a champion of the Kimono and the traditional fabrics, skills and craftsmanship associated with its creation. As Japan's 'Queen of Couture', it was therefore appropriate that she hold a landmark show at Tokyo's Akasaka Palace. Built in 1909 as the Imperial Palace of the Crown Prince and fashioned in the Baroque architectural style of 18th-century France, it is designated a national treasure and used as one of two state guest houses in Japan.
However, not surprisingly, such a regal venue has never before been used for a runway show. In being the first designer to be allowed to do so, she sealed her reputation as being both a pioneer and exclusive couturier. The opulent interiors of Akasaka Palace proved to be a stunning backdrop and setting for the equally beautiful couture work of Yumi Katsura. Under the theme “Beyond East and West,” Katsura presented not only Western-style ball gowns suited to royalty, but also injected traditional Japanese art into many of her pieces, such as copies of woodblock prints by the master of ukiyo-e himself, Katsushika Hokusai. Hokusai’s instantly recognizable piece “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” was featured on a series of shibori- and yūzen-dyed dresses that opened the show, setting the tone for an unabashed merging of art and fashion.