Filing cabinets line the walls from Josie Natori’s studio and offices in Manhattan’s NoMad neighborhood. They are full of shiny fabrics and brightly colored samples from remote areas, such as Japan, Morocco, France, Turkey, and her native Philippines. There are also various porcelain engravings and figurines and bronze memorabilia.
Founder and CEO of her eponymous luxury lingerie and nightwear brand– a shopaholic who describes himself – uses an eclectic mix of textiles and other artifacts from her travels around the world as inspiration in her designs, not to mention her own wardrobe. Hence the fitted dress in shiny black fabric and the fitted belt she wears one recent afternoon.
“I’ve been wearing dresses since June,” Natori told WWD. “I dress just for myself. I don’t care if I don’t go anywhere.
“This is really the essence of what Natori stands for,” she continued. “You don’t have to go to a museum or travel to see art. You are not limited to just looking at the art. You can wear it; you can live there. Natori somehow brings the wonders of the world into someone’s life. This is Natori’s philosophy: to bring art to life with an East-West sensibility. I am an artist at heart.
That’s why this year, as the Natori company nears its 45th anniversary, the designer expands her vision – and assortment – across several categories.
There are swimsuits, sportswear, medical scrubs, jewelry and pet clothing, which have all been launched in recent months. Men’s shoes and loungewear are coming this fall. Handbags are also on the horizon, although the exact date has not been confirmed.
“Every business must continue to evolve,” Natori said. “Not everyone necessarily just wants pajamas. And it’s exciting to have that ability as a brand to expand into other categories. And the lifestyle of the younger generation is very different: how they train and how they live and what they like to wear and all that. For example, with sportswear, we’re gaining a whole new generation that doesn’t necessarily care about sleepwear.
“But whatever we have in the portfolio, we have it for a reason, things that have to do with brand awareness,” she continued. “We are very deliberate and we are very careful. We don’t rush into anything. We spend a tremendous amount of time in everything we do. People have no idea what to do. It’s not like I just bought something and put it together and produce it. No. There is so much love and work in everything we do.
Natori launched the brand in 1977, a career change coming from Wall Street, with her husband Ken Natori acting as a silent partner. At the time, it was only sleepwear. It wasn’t until the 90s that lingerie was added to the mix, followed by ready-to-wear.
“I showed – from our living room to our apartment – the 23 styles of nightwear [of the first collection to buyers]”said Natori.
“When we started in the company 45 years ago, we were very lucky to be so well received,” she continued. “When we started, we were nothing. And there were all these brands that were high-end brands and all that and they’re not here anymore. I never took this for granted. I always say, “Never say you’re successful. You can never think, ‘Oh, I’m so awesome.’ Because there is always someone who is better. The moment you say you’re dead.
Today, Natori is available in Nordstrom, Dillard’s, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, and Saks Fifth Avenue, among others, as well as specialty stores across the United States, shipped to over 15 countries via Natori.com and can be found at select third party retailers in the UK and Europe thanks in part to a partnership with Dana-co.
There have also been independent stores alalong the way, including a boutique in Paris that opened in 1986 and spanned 12 years, a boutique in Manila, the Philippines in the late 90s, and a boutique in the NoLIta district of New York City that was opened. during three years.
The website is Natori’s main store these days, although the CEO has said she isn’t opposed to opening a new brick-and-mortar location.ns if the timing and resources were right.
“The stores are not going away, as much as people say that the department stores are [going away], of course they are not, ”Natori said. “They just evolve, change over time. There may be too many stores. There will be fewer stores in the future. But there will always be stores. The stores need to be changed and a much better experience because no one has time to shop nowadays.
This is precisely what the designer said has been so difficult in recent years, in the age of the internet and increasingly fast-paced lifestyles, as dozens of digital brands appear every day, eager to share. . But Natori added that competition is a good thing.
“It forces you to keep working harder,” she explained. “And we do. There are so many brands trying to enter the market. It’s like that. So you should always be on your guard. We always know what [the competition] made. We are not ignoring them. I admire some of them. I see what Kim Kardashian West’s Skims does. But we can never be that.
“I hope we can stay true to who we are,” Natori continued. “But it’s difficult, because there isn’t as much loyalty today, either with stores or with consumers. So you have to keep fighting for your space, fighting for your customer. Because she has so many choices. So many choices. ”
It’s the brand’s flair for meeting East and West that could be what keeps it fashionable for the new generation of buyers.
“It’s something that we flaunt. We’re not hiding it, ”Natori said. “My Asian heritage is, undoubtedly, a foundation of a point of differentiation of the brand, in terms of sensitivity. If you want Americana, it’s not us.
Natori’s collections include bamboo-inspired bracelets and pendants in the shape of snakes and dragons, satin slip-on mules, floral kaftans, minimalist loungewear, leopard print swimwear and embroidered tops resembling kimonos.
“People know that prints from afar are Natori,” the designer explained. “There is a certain dose of glamor, color and exoticism that the brand brings to the table, regardless of its category, whether in men’s clothing, whether in nightwear. At the same time, fit and comfort is something that I think is a promise we keep. Even in our accents at home, it has that flavor. It’s an East-West thing, a combination of my two lives.
“I think that’s where we stand out, especially in sportswear,” she continued. “It’s not just about being athletic or athletic. It’s also about feeling feminine and glamorous. The Josie brand is much happier. It’s not so bad. Buyers keep coming back again and again because they know what they are getting is quality and that it fits well and that they are nice fabrics. I believe that today the consumer is king and the value is important. Whatever you offer, it must be worth the price.
“My goal is to be relevant to the next generation,” Natori said. “So we must continue to respond and hopefully grow with the consumer. And at the end of the day, we’ll be there. We’re here for the long haul. A brand that will live beyond me, I hope.
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