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Natori Returns

New York — Josie Natori is coming home again.

The lingerie design mogul always wanted to be in the home world, and in fact, did part-time selling of furniture in the mid-'70s while she worked full time as an investment banker on Wall Street. “I sold Queen Anne chairs and tables that my parents got as payment for a furniture factory. They were in the construction business in the Philippines.”

After starting her lingerie business in 1977 with an embroidered shirt from her homeland in the Philippines that morphed into a nightshirt at Bloomingdale's, Natori had a brief time in the home business with a license at Revman in the mid-'80s. “We did top-of-the-bed embroideries, and $90 embroidered towels.” In her lingerie business, “We offered sachets and potpourri, throws and pillows with the lingerie. We challenged the so-called traditions of retailing.”

The home collection, which debuts in January/February next year, is in a new showroom showcasing the line with JLA Home, the Natori licensee. And why JLA Home rather than one of the established home textiles suppliers? Natori has a simple answer. “Today, it takes an entrepreneur who is not afraid to break the rules.”

The collection of about eight beds to start “will concentrate on embellishment and details — the Natori signature,” said James Booth, a home furnishings retailing veteran who joined the company to head up the effort as senior vice president for home.

“We see the home collection as we do the apparel — things that enhance a woman's life,” said Natori.

Patterns, textures and jacquards all will reflect the influence of the East and West, Booth said, with looks that embrace Zen to exotic “and tailored and over-the-top.” And while JLA Home approached them, “We see their expertise in fabric development as critical” to the program. The program will involve yarn development, application as well as fabric development — “a unique way of doing jacquards,” Natori related.

First up for the collection will be bedding, decorative pillows and throws. “In proper time,” said Booth, “we will have other partners in tabletop — a natural extension of the brand, area rugs and completing the home textiles mix — furniture. We're just beginning to work on a timetable for furniture.”

Natori Home will follow similar distribution paths as the lingerie and daywear collections with the Josie Natori Collection at the very top of the channels, which range from Neiman Marcus to Dillard's and specialty boutiques “but not big boxes,” Natori emphasized.

“We have distribution at different levels, with limited to broad distribution,” she explained. Josie Natori Collection is the top with sophisticated elegance, followed by Natori that is targeted for 400 to 500 doors, Josie for a more contemporary customer — “hip and younger” and Cruz for a mid-priced retail base with wider distribution.

For each channel, Natori said, “What challenges me is the ability to offer quality and design and access and value.” She added, “I see Natori as a gift — to yourself or to your home or to someone else,” a philosophy that will be translated into the home collection.

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