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THE LUXURY train that once shuttled the rich and famous from West to East, the Orient Express, became a fixture of pop culture thanks to its appearance in film and literature. On Nov. 14, internationally renowned Filipino fashion designer Josie Natori showed that the train’s history can show up in fashion too.
Presenting her Fall 2023 line at the Ayala Museum, the designer showed muted but rich colors of burnt amber, bordeaux, olive, and especially black. There were bone-white dragons and flowers embroidered on rich black coats, jackets, wraps, and dresses. These showed a view towards 1920s chinoiserie, but of particular interest was a loose jacket with wide sleeves, trimmed with faux fur (the press release calls it “environmentally sound vegan sheared minks”).
For this collection, she listed materials and techniques she used to include silk, tapestry, and embroidery. “It’s just the richness and the patterns. The Orient Express to me is exotic,” she said, adding that hopping on the revived Orient Express train is on her bucket list. Meanwhile, socialites buzzed around the display of her clothes, with some trying them on straight from the mannequins.
Born Josephina Almeda Cruz, Ms. Natori was set for a career in music, but studied economics in New York. This led to a logical career in banking, becoming a Vice-President at Merrill Lynch. In the 1970s, Ms. Natori ventured into fashion, becoming a (wealthy) household name thanks to her comfortable and luxurious lingerie sets.
While the collection has already launched in New York, Ms. Natori found it important to launch it in the Philippines a second time. “I love the Philippines. I’m from the Philippines, and Natori would not be around without the Philippines. I want to be able to share what we do with the Filipino people,” she said. “It makes me pleased to have Filipinos wear Natori.”
During the launch, she also showed off a new line for her jewelry collection (her first was in 2019). This showcased bold designs with big, big diamonds — which were lab-grown. “This allowed me to be able to do bigger stones,” she said. This marks another turn in her career (if you’ve been following: pianist, banker, fashion designer, and now jeweler). “I love accessories. I’m a jewelry maniac,” she told BusinessWorld.
Tracking the trajectory of her career, we asked the designer what’s next: “I keep going. You never can sit still. You have to keep on going.
“As long as I like what I’m doing, I’ll keep doing it. It’s a wonderful thing to make women happy.”
Since she started designing in the ’70s, Ms. Natori counts that the brand is approaching its 47th anniversary. More than what she has learned at work, we ask her what she’ learned about herself.
“I’m crazy,” she answered.
“To be in this business this long — I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to build a brand that’s made in the Philippines. I’m very proud of that.”
In the Philippines, Natori is available at Rustan’s. — Joseph L. Garcia