Forging ahead

Over the last 18 months since WAG profiled her, petite powerhouse Josie Natori has rarely sat still. She’s traversed the globe two ways – in the flesh and over network television – began a new brand of youthful casualwear and sleepwear, further expanded lines in her lifestyle offerings and continued to wow with her Chinoiserie-inspired ready-to-wear collections. Considering the success of her entrepreneurial vision over the past 35 years, it’s no surprise she also received a lifetime achievement award.

Let’s start there. Back in February at the Femmy Gala 2013, the most prestigious annual awards event in the intimate apparel industry, Saks President and Chief Merchandising Officer Ron Frasch, also a dear friend of Josie and the Natori family, presented the designer with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Hosted by the Underfashion Club, which supports education in the lingerie industry through scholarships, internships and events, the accolade recognized Josie for her entrepreneurship and innovation in the field that launched her lifestyle brand as well as her strength of character and inspiration to rising designers.

Her outreach to fashion-savvy youth has never been so apparent. Earlier in the year, she also launched Josie, a fun line for modern, confident girls that features chemises, pajama sets, wraps and underwear in the brand’s characteristic East-meets-West flavor. Think Upper East Side slumber parties that forgo popcorn and soda for sushi and mocktails. The foray into a younger demographic couldn’t come at a better time. In July, Josie appeared as keynote speaker at the Her Campus Conference in New York, a gathering of more than 600 college-aged, media-minded women, of which Josie (the brand) was also a sponsor. In April, she was keynote speaker at Boston’s Simmons Leadership Conference for entrepreneurial women.

Josie has been in the international public eye as well when in March she appeared on CNN’s “Talk Asia” with interviewer Monita Rajpal. What aired was a glimpse into the company’s inception – how Josie, then a “bored” Wall Street VP, cold-called her way into Saks buyers’ hearts – plus a behind-the-scenes look at her factory in the Philippines, her creative motivations and dedication to her Filipino roots. She flew to Manila where TV crews captured views of her at her overseas workshop, and then – like a cooking show host mixing dough one minute and pulling a picture-perfect tray of tarts from her oven the next – toured them among racks of the fine, full-color finished product at her Filipino flagship.

Back in the States, things didn’t slow down. Josie continued to charm buyers with her seasonal ready-to-wear collections and expand her lifestyle offerings particularly for Natori Home with accents and bed linens. Her Fall 2013 bedding collection, she says on her Natori blog, “captures the joie de vivre of Chinoiserie glamour that really inspired me this season.” The gold lacquer screens that were backdrops at her ready-to-wear show are the same that frame her beds in store this fall.

Her vision translated from the boudoir to the runway, where her fall creations of rich hues and luscious textures mingled with metallics to achieve the look and feel of opulence. This season’s collection contrasts color and fabric on sleek, sophisticated silhouettes with feminine overtones – silky sheath dresses with cropped jackets, skinny pants with enveloping coats, embroidered cut-out cummerbunds and evening gloves, dragon prints and fur toppers. Her runway models donned under-eye blush and bright painted lips of Far East elegance with glossy Marcel waves and big earrings.

The collection exudes all the glamour, high style and power of Josie herself. And for the woman to whom the term was at one time a four-letter word, it’s quite “sexy” indeed.

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