“I just don’t like to settle. Good enough is never good enough.” – Josie Natori
Josephina Almeda Cruz, also known in fashion circles as Josie Natori, is considered one of the most outstanding women business owners in the Philippines. This Filipino-American entrepreneur runs The Natori Company, an international women’s fashion brand. Her products retail in the U.S.’s most prominent department stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, and Neiman Marcus. Her products are available worldwide today through her brand’s website.
All in the family
Josie grew up in a matriarchal society surrounded by her close-knit Filipino kin. “Women are encouraged to be entrepreneurs,” Josie says of her family. This encouragement stayed with her throughout her life. Even when she was a child, her grandmother would remind her that she should never be in a position where she had to depend on anyone. This upbringing gave her the motivation and inspiration to start her own business.
When she was younger, Josie didn’t plan to enter the fashion industry. Artistically talented and naturally inclined to play the piano, Josie performed in a solo concert with the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra. She was only 9 years old. At 17, she left for New York and pursued an economics degree from Manhattanville College.
From banking to fashion
After graduation, Josie embarked on a career in banking. Eventually, she became the first female vice president of investment banking at Merrill Lynch. There, she met and married Ken Natori, a fellow executive in the banking world. She then gave birth to her son Kenneth Jr. in 1976,
The following year, Josie found herself looking for new challenges and wanting to start her own business. Before entering the fashion industry, Josie opened several different ventures, from a McDonald’s franchise to a carwash.
Josie’s namesake company began when she brought an embroidered garment from the Philippines to a buyer in Bloomingdales. The buyer advised her to turn it into a sleep shirt; the rest was history.
In the early years of The Natori Company, many of Josie’s friends and relatives pitched in to help her make her vision a reality. For example, an uncle pitched in to sew labels onto clothes. Other family members once gathered to help make a small trim cut on a special order of a thousand blouses. In 1985, Josie convinced her husband, who was still working on Wall Street, to help run her growing business. He became chairman of The Natori Company.
An international empire
More than four decades later, The Natori Company has transformed into a lifestyle brand that includes popular lingerie collections, ready-to-wear apparel, home items, eyewear, and fragrance. Aside from being the founder of an internationally successful fashion business, Josie works to give back to society. She sits on the board of several organizations, including the Asian Cultural Council and the Fashion and Design Council of the Philippines. Her factory in the Philippines handles over 60% of her company’s production and employs 500 workers.
Josie Natori is an admirable example of a woman who pursued her dreams and achieved success with the help of family and friends. From a single sleep shirt, she has built an international empire now seen as one of the world’s top lifestyle brands. “Now, as the company grows, we grow our sensibility too, taking our concept and making it a whole world. As we say here, Natori is ‘where life meets art,’” she shared.
Sacred Fire Creative honors visionary women who forged their own path to success in this #WomenWhoMatter series. If you see yourself as a visionary, who wants to create a lasting, positive impact on your community, come work with us.