The Year of the Dragon will ring in next February, and Josie Natori has taken inspiration from the ancient symbol. The longtime lingerie and ready-to-wear designer launched her first couture collection with a luxe series of embroidered kimono-style jackets, coats and capes.
Natori elevated much of what she does in her ready-to-wear and rendered it in more subdued shades of black and gold with intricate beading and embellishments. Floral patterns and fanciful, friendly dragons swirled on outerwear, with dresses and trousers the Filipino-American designer envisions as an antidote to today’s casualness.
A voluminous cape in silk taffeta was lightly filled for her very upscale version of the puffer coat; jackets with Mandarin collars caught the light for subtle color changes; longer coats used an intricate thread knotting technique for subtle texture. A fringed cape with flamenco roots was a nod to the Spanish influence on her home country of the Philippines, where her atelier hand produces all of the pieces.
Wide-leg Mandarin pants and a structured bustier were also embellished with flowers, while dresses and skirts were offered in mantilla lace and sequins. A faux fur bralette recalled her lingerie heritage.
For this collection, she is reaching out to regular clients to create a more intimate experience and hopes to gain recognition for Filipino craftsmanship.
“The Philippines is very unique,” she said, citing the three centuries of Spanish rule. “So there’s a lot of that European touch. And they take pride in their work…It’s one of the few places in the industry that is still fairly, in my opinion, accessible and affordable [for production].”
Natori, who has been making bespoke caftans and robes in recent years, said it is the next step in the evolution of her empire, which includes sleepwear, clothing, accessories, and homewares.
She is looking to expand her brand in myriad ways; first by growing her core lingerie business in Europe through both more boutique and department store distribution after relaunching in January, with 35 points of sale including Fenwick and John Lewis in the U.K. Couture is part of her grand plan, as is an ambitious jewelry project that will be unveiled in the fall.
The moment for Natori felt right and ripe, but it was also the case for the kimono, which felt like it was gaining traction outside of its homeland on the heels of successful exhibitions at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and at Paris’ Quai Branly museum. During couture, Japanese musical artist Yoshiki, best known for his classic and rock careers but also the eldest son of reputed kimono makers, held a conference to reveal the launch of a “Maison Yoshiki Paris” ready-to-wear line, also slated for fall.