Josie Natori

AFTER SCHOOL WITH JOSIE: As the keynote speaker at this year’s undergraduate commencement at her alma mater Manhattanville College, Josie Natori was in for a few surprises.

Saturday’s stormy weather in New York caused the commencement to be moved indoors to the campus’ chapel where Natori had graduated 50 years ago. That morning-of change of plans was something she only learned about upon her arrival and the new location made the occasion even more memorable. “For me, selfishly, it was very nostalgic,” she said Monday.

Another surprise was the honorary degree that Manhattanville bestowed on the founder and chief executive officer of The Natori Company. “Of course, I burst into tears,” she said. Her former dean Elizabeth McCormack, who became president of the school in 1966, was in the crowd, as were Natori’s husband Ken and her son Kenneth. In her remarks, the designer said, “Change is the only constant — and right now, it happens in the blink of an eye. Embrace change or be left behind.”

Some of her other guideposts included:

  • You must love what you do. Because, if you don’t love it, you’re not going to succeed. 
  • Be open to all possibilities and listen to your inner feelings.
  • Even in the darkest moments, something good is going to come from it. Never regret.

“What was interesting was that a lot of adults came to me afterward and said how inspired they were. I guess it was because I had examples of how you can change. What you begin as is not how you end,” Natori said. “I always feel that, with all this giving back, you can inspire people. That, to me, is so important. Just by sharing your story, that can happen by giving them a positive spirit. Anything is possible, right? You have to want it.”

Natori said, “Today the possibilities are even more. Even though it is a complicated world with the digital age, the Internet and the global-ness. Just get going. Don’t belabor how the hell you’re going to begin. Just do it. It’s just going to unfold.”

Off to her homeland of Manila tonight, Natori said, “Preparing for resort — it never ends.”

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