Approaching its 30th anniversary, the Natori Co. and its portfolio of expanding brands is embarking on a new era of glamour and luxury in lingerie.
Josie Natori often describes her lingerie as a necessary luxury, but over the past year, she's taken it to new heights of luxe, whether in the form of home accessories, such as hand-embroidered and appliquéd silk bedcovers and throws that coordinate with one-of-a-kind silk kimonos; caftans woven with gold or silver thread, or a trousseau collection lavishly embellished with the Chantilly and guipure laces of the Paris couture.
"It's never been so glamorous and luxurious," Natori said.
Among the projects for next year are four new categories: a line of ready-to-wear that will be produced in-house, and licensees for fragrance, jewelry and tabletops. Last year, the company launched a line of men's luxury sleepwear and loungewear made in-house and a lifestyle-oriented line of home accessories licensed to JLA Home. Distribution for all categories is aimed at 25 countries.
The milestone on Nov. 1 has its roots in the decision of chief executive officer Natori to change careers in 1977 — leaving her job as the first woman vice president of Merrill Lynch & Co. to be a designer of unique and upscale apparel and lingerie. Natori, whose closets are filled with couture pieces by Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier, Chanel and other top fashion names, said she needed an outlet to express her appreciation of beauty and fashion after the rigors of Wall Street.
For starters, she developed a signature collection of peasant-inspired blouses embroidered in her native Philippines with handmade appliqués. That was a quick hit with top retailers such as the late Lee Fabris of Bloomingdale's, who would later become the flagship's fashion director, and Sally Frame Kasaks, who was at Saks Fifth Avenue and is now chairman and ceo of Pacific Sunwear of California Inc.
"Sally even offered to do a full-page ad in the New York Times," Natori recalled. "I was so naive about the fashion business, I didn't realize how important it was and what an honor it was. Would you believe there was even a contemporary lingerie department at Saks in '77, separate from the regular lingerie department? Lee suggested I make the peasant blouse longer, into a nightshirt. It was really her idea to name the company Natori. I said 'Oh, no, that's so presumptuous.'"
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