Known for her exquisite craftsmanship and east-meets-west design aesthetic, international Filipina fashion designer Josie Natori hits another milestone—her 40th anniversary in the fashion industry.
For four decades, Natori crossed continents, navigated varying careers, and surpasses countless obstacles, to create her eponymous global brand Natori.
“I have always believed there are no boundaries,” Natori shared during her brand’s fashion event on May 26 at the Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.
Born Josephina Almeda Cruz, she credits her entrepreneurial nature to the matriarchal society she grew up in along with the support of her close-knit Filipino family.
“Women are encouraged to be entrepreneurs here in the Philippines. My grandmother always said ‘Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to depend on anyone,” The Natori Company founder shared.
The designer further revealed that growing up in Manila not only instilled in her the motivation to become an entrepreneur but also gave her the inspiration for what would become her successful lingerie collection. Using Asian aesthetic and visual appeals of both the east and the west, Natori created and launched the now internationally distinguished hand embroidered Filipino blouse.
However, the 70-year-old did not always want to be in the fashion industry. In fact, it was never even in her plans.
As a child, Natori displayed interest for the piano, performing a solo concert with the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra at age 9. Born with an ear for music and eye for art, Natori did not pursue a career in what came so naturally. Instead, she decided to challenge herself with a career in business.
At the age of 17, Natori left Manila for New York where she studied economics at Manhattanville College. Following graduation, she landed at Merrill Lynch—the wealth management division of Bank of America—and through hard work and dedication, became the first female Vice President of investment banking.
By 1976, the passionate corporate bigwig found her match when she married Ken Natori, then executive managing director of Smith Barney—a corporation specializing in retail brokerage. Thereafter, a new role came for Natori with the arrival of her son Kenneth Jr.
By 1977, however, she got bored with her corporate position and looked for a new challenge. She was eager to start something new.
According to the designer, she considered a number of entrepreneurial ventures, but none of them seemed to take off that is until she brought an embroidered blouse from the Philippines to a buyer at Bloomingdale’s—a luxury department store. The buyer encouraged her to turn it into a sleep shirt. Luckily, she took the advice and it became her pass to enter the business.
More than three decades later, the company has grown into a lifestyle brand that includes lingerie collections (Josie Natori, Natori, Josie and N Natori), the Josie Natori ready-to-wear collection, home, fragrance and eyewear.
“I love my work, but success in fashion is not enough,” Natori shared.
As proof, the world-renowned designer not only busies herself with her brands, she is also part of the boards of the Asian Cultural Council, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Women in Need and the Fashion and Design Council of the Philippines.
If that’s not impressive enough, Natori is also a member of the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designer of America) and the Committee of 200.
In 1988, Natori was honored for her achievement with the Galleon award, presented by then President Corazon Aquino. In 2007, she was given the prestigious Lakandula Award from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, considered the highest honor of a Filipino citizen. She also received Fashion Group International’s prestigious Humanitarian Award.
“I want to be able to give something back, to make a difference in people’s lives,” she added.
As such, the designer established facilities in the Philippines to handle 50-percent of all Natori production.
Indeed, what started as creating lingerie in her living room floor has evolved into a lifestyle.
“Natori is a total concept, a way of life. I just happened to start at the back door with lingerie. Now as the company grows, we grow our sensibility too, taking our concept and making it a whole world. As we say, Natori is ‘where life meets art’,” Natori finally noted.
Marking her 40th year, Natori today shares with Rustan’s her Spring 2017 ready-to-wear collection. It includes dresses, tops, wraps, kimono sash, gowns, robes, pajama sets, among others. The textured cottons, poplins, raffia, challis, and straw-like weaves add a casual edge, complementing the relaxed and playful, yet glamorous sensibility of the collection.
Josie Natorie RTW, Natori, and Natori RTW are available at Rustan’s Ayala Center Makati and Rustan’s Shanri-La while N Natorie is exclusively available at Rustan’s Gateway Mall Cubao and Rustan’s Ayala Center Cebu.