Josie Natori Sees the Upsides in Looking Good and Feeling Good – WWD

Building off the idea that if-you-look-good-you-feel-good, NYU Langone Health has united with Care+Wear to outfit its building services staffers with scrubs designed by The Natori Company.

“Thousands” of employees, who work in housekeeping, patient transportation and linen service lines will be wearing the new scrubs, according to founder and chief executive officer Josie Natori. That includes the building services staff for NYU Langone Health’s medical centers and hospitals. From her perspective, function, comfort and style can be intertwined.

After being approached by fashion designer Kay Unger about using the Natori factory for PPE production during the pandemic in 2020, Natori later ventured into the field of scrubs. “Remember how business was falling apart then? A lot of factories were closing and designers started to make scrubs and masks,” Natori recalled. The deal with Care+Wear was finalized in 2021. “We have a very long partnership plan to build this. We started by doing scrubs for medical doctors and nurses that they buy for themselves,” Natori said.

Familiar with research about how spruced-up interiors, live music and art displays in medical facilities can help improve patients’ moods, satisfaction levels and recoveries, Natori said outfitting staffers boosts their self-image and level of service.

“Without a doubt — whether you are a doctor or a nurse — we did so many interviews and a lot of focus groups before we designed anything,” Natori said. “No matter what type of work you do, I believe in looking good and feeling good. I don’t care what kind of work it is, whether you are working in a bank, in a hospital or at home. That affects your whole sense of self. If the worker is feeling good, it affects your whole demeanor, and the patient’s.”

Conversely, wearing wrinkled or slovenly clothes would have the reverse effect, Natori said. Such seemingly background cues can register with employees and patients alike. Having pianists perform and being treated to live music, as some medical facilities do, is pleasant for patients who are waiting for their appointments. “Of all things, when you are sick, you really want to have a pleasant environment, feel that you will recuperate and feel good,” Natori said. “Cleanliness is number one. But when people are pleasant around you, that helps. When you feel good about whatever work you are doing, that helps.”

The company was started in 2014 with a PICC Line cover for cancer patients undergoing treatment. That led to various styles of adaptive clothing, scrubs, NICU bodysuits and children’s items such as arm cast covers. In addition to The Natori Company, Care+Wear works with end users, clinicians, designers, Oscar de la Renta Inc. and Parsons School of Design. Up to 10 percent of profits go to the American Cancer Society, the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and other institutions.

Intent on not designing something that wearers would be counting the hours until they could remove to change into something else, Natori set out to create something that would make them feel “bright” and “not ashamed to wear.” One point of distinction with the NYU Langone Health deal is that the medical center is buying the scrubs for some of its workers. This pay model is something that has been in development since the partnership between the Natori Company and Care+Wear was formed in 2021.

Designing and wear-testing the scrubs for non-medical workers was challenging, given that each garment must withstand more than 300 washings. The aesthetics and placement of pockets was one of the features of the scrubs that required being studied, Natori said.

Priced affordably for NYU Langone Health, the scrubs also have “minimal margins,” Natori said. Well aware of how health care concerns and the aging population are key topics with many, the designer said she was grateful to have the opportunity to do something in the medical field.

In addition to suiting up some of the team at NYU Langone Health, there are plans to roll out Care+Wear uniform scrubs to the medical staff and other workers at two other yet-to-be-revealed medical facilities in the coming months, Natori said Monday. With the aim of introducing Care+Wear scrubs to many other hospitals around the country and the world, Natori said, “Our intent is to dress health care workers globally — hopefully.”

During a recent visit to her dermatologist, Natori said she was surprised to see that the staff there was wearing Natori-designed scrubs. “It’s nice to be servicing a whole different industry. Giving them comfort and the feeling of looking good is rewarding. It made me smile,” she said.

On another front, Natori was scheduled to host a cocktail party Monday night at her New York apartment in advance of Tuesday night’s closing concert for the DeGaetano Composition Institute with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. The organization’s namesake was the late composer and concert pianist Robert DeGaetano, who helped Natori prepare for her Carnegie Hall concert on her 50th birthday.  Part of his estate helped fund the DeGaetano Composition Institute through the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, for which Natori serves on the board.

The 2022-2023 DeGaetano Composition Institute provided a seven-month program for emerging composers to develop a new work for chamber orchestra under the guidance of composer mentor Anna Clyne. This season’s theme will be works based on poetry by a living poet.

The institute’s composers are taking part in a week-long New York City residency that includes working closely with the orchestra’s conductor Brad Lubman. The institute’s composers’ new works will be performed by the Orchestra of St. Luke’s at The DiMenna Center for Classical Music’s Cary Hall Tuesday night. “Obviously, that is a boost to their résumé and will hopefully push them to composing more, getting commissions and becoming famous.”

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