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By Royal Appointment - Yumi Katsura at Tokyo's Akasaka Palace

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.

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