|BEAUTY WITH PANACHE
A new fragrance, simply called Natori, builds upon two previous scent creations that date back almost two decades. The current version, a sparkling oriental floral, perfectly reflects Natori’s East meets West esthetic.
Josie Natori was born to push limits. "I come from a society in the Philippines where women are very strong, so I never had any hang-ups about success," explains the petite powerhouse behind the lingerie and lifestyle Natori brand.
The eldest of 33 grandchildren, Josie’s perfect blend of artistry, grace and entrepreneurial sprit connects directly to her matriarchal lineage, particularly her maternal grandmother, Josefa Almeda. "She was a feminist just by the way she lived her life, visiting 290 countries, and building her own business empire."
Josie’s own empire began some 33 years ago, when on a whim she brought an embroidered blouse from the Philippines to a buyer at Bloomingdale’s. But fashion wasn’t always her dream. In spite of a natural affinity for art and music—she performed a solo with the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra at the age of 9—she pursued an even more challenging path.
At 17, she moved to New York and enrolled in Manhattanville College, graduating with a degree in economics. Next, she joined the ranks of Wall Street, breaking the glass ceiling as the first ever female vice president of investment banking at Merrill Lynch. But soon the old entrepreneurial spirit emerged and she entered the world of fashion.
"You can’t stay still," attests Josie, a mantra embodied in her business and personal lives. The Natori fashion empire is in growth mode, branching out into new categories including home, eyewear and accessories, as well as revisiting an old favorite---fragrance.
"We have the most compelling reasons to be in fragrance, probably more than any other category. Like lingerie, it’s so personal. It’s a logical extension of the philosophy of the brand. The relationship between lingerie and fragrance is very intimate. And in general, both of them are affordable, a present a woman can give to herself for an instant lift."
"It’s been a journey getting here. Natori is the evolution of what I had in my mind 20 years ago. That scent had the essence of what has now been modernized. The original fragrance, formulated in the eighties, is too big for today. Then, Dynasty was dominating the air waves. No one wants that now."
In addition to rising to the challenge of meeting the fragrance expectations of women in the 21st century, Natori, the new fragrance echoes the well earned confidence and power that women embrace today, leading to a new easy practicality.
"I call it the "casualization" of our style. Women don’t have to dress like men anymore to get ahead. We want clothes that are more effortless…a little more practical. At the same time, women today are much more assertive, self confident and fit than twenty years ago."
"It’s all about evolution. The world keeps moving. I’m not in an ivory tower thinking I have the best thing since sliced bread. Getting feedback is one thing that keeps me going. You have to be constantly listening to what women want."
And the evolution of women’s wants and desires parallels their increased economic strength and confidence.
"Women no longer wait for their husband to buy them that special Christmas or birthday gift. They buy it for themselves. With so many women today juggling powerful positions with children and homes, they can afford and want to treat themselves."
Describing herself as half business woman, half artist, Josie knows that ultimately the test of the value of a Natori item is if it sells.
"I approach collections like music. You never play the same thing twice. I believe you have to give the customer new products. Whatever I create, I want to seduce the woman. Because honestly, none of us really need anything, we have to want and desire something to buy."
As for the future, Josie plans on a long lasting legacy.
"The fantasy and hope is that the signature fragrance will be here long after I’m gone. I know how challenging the fragrance industry is. That’s why I had to create something very authentic. You have to be truthful and create with conviction to survive. Returning customers are the key. We plan to keep it fresh with new extensions and introductions. We have a lot more legs with this."