As founder and CEO of Natori Company, Josie Natori literally reconfigured an industry, erasing the boundary between innerwear and outerwear and bringing elegant, sensuous lingerie into the light of day. Born Josefina Almeda Cruz, the eldest of six children in a close-knit Filipino family, Natori grew up surrounded by strong, supportive role models. In 1964, at 17, she left Manila for New York, to study economics at Manhattanville College. After graduating, Natori began an astonishingly quick ascent up the corporate ladder. In 1971, she moved to Merrill Lynch as an investment banker. Within a few years, Natori was married, had been named the first woman vice-president in investment banking, and given birth to her son. But, by 1976, Natori was ready to move on to something more creative.
“I was really looking for something that would allow me to take advantage of being Filipino and a woman,“ she explains. An old friend sent her a variety of hand-embroidered clothing, including some blouses that Natori took to a buyer at Bloomingdale's. When the buyer suggested lengthening them and turning them into nightshirts, an empire was born. Natori boldly quit her job, and set up shop in her living room. She soon became known for vibrant colors, bold patterns, and designs so sophisticated they begged to be worn beyond the bedroom. Her hallmark- the signature detailing, embroidery, and appliqué work of the Philippines- remains integral to Natori's designs, translated into a collection that now includes four distinctive lines of lingerie- Natori Black Label, Natori White Label, Natori Underneath and Josie.