By CATHI AYCOCK
I recently met famed designer Josie Natori when she visited Nashville and decided, along with every other woman in the room, that I want to be her when I grow up.
Not because she is stunningly elegant (she is) or because she has created a lifestyle brand that is wildly successful. I want to be Natori because she is, at once, fearless and determined without sacrificing a graceful, give-back ethos.
Natori, who grew up in the Philippines encouraged by a decidedly matriarchal society to be self sufficient. After graduating from college in New York with a degree in finance, Natori landed at Merrill Lynch as the first female vice president of investment banking. While at Merrill Lynch she had married Ken Natori, then executive managing director of Smith Barney, and had gave birth to son Kenneth Jr.
Juggling career and family, Natori decided to step away from finance and began looking at other opportunities. Son Kenneth Jr. says she looked at everything including a McDonald’s franchise. But a small gift, a silk blouse from her native Philippines, changed everything.
Natori tracked down the buyer for Bloomingdales and, with no prior retail or design experience, convinced the retailer to give her the opportunity to import beautiful silk garments and create lingerie for women who wanted sleepwear that was neither lewd or frumpy.
Today, the Natori brand has come to include lingerie collections (Josie Natori, Natori, Josie and N Natori), the Josie Natori ready-to-wear collection, home, fragrance and eyewear.
Natori doesn’t take her success for granted. She established facilities in the Philippines to handle 50% of all Natori production and received the Fashion Group International’s prestigious Humanitarian Award.
Natori says she wants to give back and make a difference in people’s lives.
With a lifestyle brand and give back ethos, mixed with timeless elegance and determined passion, she has succeeded on so many levels.