Another prize—a delicate ivory-colored 18th-century silk floral chinoiserie design in gold embroidery—covers the bed in the master bedroom. More dramatically, a double-paneled, cinnabar-colored silk, also depicting a traditional Chinese scene, stretches from ceiling to floor in the music room. Lesser purchases have been stitched into accent pillows, placed discreetly around the rooms. The effect is subdued, subtle, quieting: minimalism with an Asian touch.
But Natori buys not just to decorate her home or for the thrill of the hunt. Her textiles are the prime inspiration for the fashion business she started more than 35 years ago, after a career on Wall Street. She began buying “embroidered things” reminiscent of her grandmother’s tablecloths. Her first products—nightgowns—resembled embroidered peasant blouses.
Sitting behind a modern, curved black desk in her Madison Avenue corporate headquarters, Natori relates how drawing on Chinese and Japanese textiles early in her fashion career quickly became a hallmark, “a unique positioning for our clothing.” At the time, in the ’70s and early ’80s, no one—not even Asian designers —had embraced traditional Asian designs. Japanese clothing was starkly modern, with the exception of Hanae Mori in couture. And the Chinese were still wearing Mao suits.