By Isaiah Negron
Fashion queen and entrepreneur Josie Natori has created an empire beyond even what she set out to accomplish, crossing continents, navigating various careers and surmounting countless obstacles to create her global brand, Natori. Founded in 1977 and one of today’s most recognizable fashion brands, each of the Natori collections – Josie Natori, Natori, N Natori and Josie by Natori – reflect the designer’s distinct influences from her life on both the East and West sides of the world. Starting with designing intimate apparel, the company has grown into the global fashion house it is today. “Natori is a total concept, a way of life,” Josie says. “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 here, Natori is ‘where life meets art’.”
Growing up with the support of her close-knit family in the Philippines, Josie set her sights high at a young age and wanted to accomplish great things in her life. “I came from a very matriarchal society and a very strong family. I was surrounded by strong women who were independent and my father was a self-made man,” she remembers. “It was a background where you could be what you wanted to be and express yourself, and it formed a lot about my thinking and the possibilities of what I wanted to be and my strong sense of self.” At 17, Josie left her hometown of Manila for New York where she studied economics at Manhattanville College. After graduating, she entered the world of Wall Street and began to climb the corporate ladder, landing at Merrill Lynch as the first female Vice President of investment banking. By 1976, the rising finance star had married Ken Natori and had given birth to her son Kenneth Jr. It was around that time when Josie decided that she was eager to start something new.
“I wanted to be in business and finance and went to work on Wall Street two weeks after I graduated. I really had a wonderful career but got bored after nine years,” the designer confesses. “I guess the entrepreneurial urge came then to go into business and, by accident, we ended up with four different businesses and started Natori 37 years ago.” On a whim, she brought an embroidered blouse she got from the Philippines to a buyer at Bloomingdale’s. When the buyer encouraged her to turn it into a sleep shirt, Natori took the advice and her fashion business was born.
More than three decades later, the company has grown into a true lifestyle brand available in the world’s leading retailers and specialty stores, including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, and Dillard’s. Her newest creation is her sensual and exhilarating fragrance, JOSIE. “I wanted to create a fragrance for JOSIE that exudes charisma. I am thrilled with the scent. It truly captures the essence of the brand,” Josie explains. “Today’s woman knows that there is value in expressing her true self and the JOSIE fragrance gives her one more way to express her irrepressible individual style.”
With a mind to create and a truly indomitable spirit, Josie is far from finished and continues to spread beauty and vibrancy all over the world.
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