She ruled the rough roads of Wall Street and by the time she reached 30 years old, she served as the first female vice president of Merrill Lynch. But in 1977, Josie Natori left the business suits behind for her turn on Fashion Avenue.
Natori arrived in America in 1964, studying economics at Manhattanville College. From there her degree took her to Bache Securities, and later to Merrill Lynch. Unfulfilled, she courageously decided to invest $150,000 into the launch of the Asian-inspired lingerie design firm, Natori Co. Identifying that entrepreneurship runs in her family—her father founded F.F. Cruz & Co., a construction and engineering company—Natori originally began producing her line in the Philippines, and refused to heed the advice of starting out small. She sold her products to the best of the best in luxury retail, including Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. In 1979, she moved her production factory to its current location in Pasig, just outside of Manila, where she employees more than 300 workers.
Today, those in the know estimate that the family-held company could be reaching the $100 million mark in annual sales. Products include silk embroidered kimonos that can cost $2,700 and the fall launch of her first fragrance. Recently the New York Post caught up with the divine designer about the renovations projects in her East 62nd Street co-op building. “The doorman used to play with my son when he was a baby,” Natori, who has been living there since 1975, told the Post. “And now he’s playing with my grandson. We even have the same super all these years. It’s like a family.”
As far as the design and floorplan, the Post reports that “Of the 20 rooms between the original units, Natori and her architect/interior designer, Calvin Tsao, cut the number to 11 and greatly enlarged them. The 5,000 square feet of space now features two large bedrooms (there had initially been six), five bathrooms, two kitchens (one just for the family, the other for entertaining), a living room, a family room, a dining room, a den for Natori’s husband and a music room for her.
The Post reports that Natori’s favorite things about her New York apartment are:
● A 14th-century tapestry with rows of tiny Buddhas sewn in 14-karat gold
● The music room
● A lacquered wooden Buddha that Natori found in Vietnam
● A photo of Cruz (her maiden name) Kai Natori, her grandson
● Small sculptures from the T’ang dynasty (left); they are soldiers that guard the deceased
● A Calvin Tsao-designed bronze desk
● Her closet: a full room with shelves of shoes