A 35-year fashion industry vet, Josie Natori can now add another accomplishment to her long list as she recently unveiled her first ready-to-wear shop-in-shop on Saks Fifth Avenue’s recently remodeled fourth floor in New York City. Always upbeat and incredibly welcoming – so much so that she once hosted a blogger event in her home – Natori hosted a breakfast to fete the new space. Dressed in her own designs, she opted for a particularly eye-catching red cocoon coat from her current collection (Josie told me she calls it “my fortune cookie” coat) and oversized clip-on earrings from her resort line.
While Natori has had ready-to-wear for a few season now, there has never been a dedicated space for it and when I spoke with her son, Kenneth Natori, the vice president of Natori, he told me that this marks a conscious push to turn Natori into a lifestyle brand. Josie, for her part, said that while undergarments are still at the core of her brand, she doesn’t see it being a long time before RTW comprises 50 percent of her business, adding that her goal is to “dress women from the inside out.” She also noted that while she loves “Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, and of course Alaia,” she wears her designs most of the time. “I am however conscious of the fact that the clothes are not just for me,” says Natori, “I want my designs to work for all ages and sizes.” The one thing Natori was wearing that was not her own design? Her sky-high Louboutin fringe boots. That said, shoes and handbags are to come now that jewelry has successfully been launched. Natori’s jewelry line is, in fact, fantastic (just look at this necklace!) and while many of the pieces look heavy, they are actually lightweight.
Though it has been over three decades that Natori has been in the business, her son told me, “Trust me when I say she’s involved in EVERY part of the business,” adding that that is why it took them so long to expand with swimwear, which is just now shipping to stores. Along with home, eyewear, and fragrances, swimwear is one of the Natori brand extensions that is being done via licensing agreements, but "nothing gets past step one without Josie’s approval."
As a final tibit before I left, Kenneth told me that his mother’s venture into fashion was quite accidental. After a successful career in finance she was looking for a change; she thought she might franchise a McDonald’s or open a car wash when a friend of hers sent her a peasant top from the Philippines. Josie took that top to Bloomingdale’s and they told her that if she designed a line around the top, they might be able to work with her and the rest, is history.