Josie Natori, the head of the eponymous lingerie and accessories house, has always loved a challenge. At age 9, the young pianist performed a solo concert with the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra in her native country, the Philippines. By the time she moved to Manhattan for college, Natori decided to step outside her comfort zone and set aside her piano to pursue something entirely different—a career in business.
While at Merrill Lynch, Natori became the first female vice president of investment banking. The familiar taste of success didn’t stop her from thinking about what’s next. In 1977, a hand-embroidered blouse from the Philippines inspired Natori to start dabbling with sleepwear designs in her living room. Thirty-three years later, she’s now the CEO of an empire including lingerie collections, the Natorious ready-to-wear collection, plus home, fragrance, and eyewear products.
Returning to her creative roots also brought her back to her homeland, where her main focus is to give back. She has since received the prestigious Lakandula Award, considered the highest honor for a Filipino citizen, and Fashion Group International’s esteemed Humanitarian Award. Natori also sits on the boards of the Asian Cultural Council, Women in Need, and the Fashion and Design Council of the Philippines, among many more.
Here, the pianist-turned-banker-turned-designer tells us about her greatest influence and her most memorable gifts, including this very special keepsake.
Tell us how you came to own this precious object.
“My heirloom is an antique red lacquered Buddha that I discovered with my mother in Hanoi, Vietnam years ago. I’ve always enjoyed collecting antiquities from around the world. My passion for searching for these treasures was passed down to me from my mother, along with her passion for uncovering them in unlikely places. We often searched for them together. That trip in particular was a memorable one with her and that Buddha is one of our greatest finds!”
How do you live with your heirloom?
“The Buddha is such a special piece that I keep it in one of my favorite rooms in my home, and one that I spend much of my time in, the piano room.”
Who in your life has most influenced your personal style and taste?
“My mother’s style has most impacted my own. She always had a love for beautiful things and taught me to appreciate them from an early age. Lola, my grandmother, had that same love for art and beauty and passed it down to me as well.”
[Fill in the blank] Whenever I look at __“ One Thousand Buddhas”___I can’t help but smile.
“My favorite textile, One Thousand Buddhas, hangs framed in my dining room. It is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. It’s really a museum piece and I was very lucky to encounter it. I feel it’s so important to live amongst art. With this piece, not only do I appreciate its beauty, but it provides me with inspiration every day.”
What’s the best part of your day?
“Winding down at the end of a hectic day is the best part. It’s not only when I reflect back on the happenings of that day but also when I clear my mind for a new one as I get ready to go to sleep. I love my sleep!”
What was the most memorable gift you’ve ever given or received?
“The most memorable gift I’ve ever given was for both my parents and my husband on our 25th wedding anniversary. I played the piano in a concert with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Carnegie Hall. It was a night we’ll never forget! The best gift I’ve received is my grandson, Cruz Kai.”
What was your last purchase that you believe (or hope) will mean something to you 10 years from now?
“My Palm Beach apartment. It’s the perfect place to get away and spend time with family and friends. In 10 years, I’ll still be vacationing there, enjoying some down time with family, maybe even more grandchildren!”
Tell us whose heirloom you’d like to read about next at firstname.lastname@example.org.