She reaches for another, an 18th-century textile floral print from Lyon. “I turned this into a dynasty print pajama; it’s 12 years old, and I can’t kill it.” The original ivory background became, in her designs, black, pink, and so on. Sometimes, she says, an embroidered design becomes a printed fabric, and sometimes vice versa.
What is the size of this archive? Natori doesn’t know. “It’s a lot. I’ve had people here to help me with it.” At her corporate headquarters, one room is lined with deep drawers marked with labels like Short Kimonos, Obis, Small Embroidery, Large Embroidery, Shawls, Western Florals, Asian Florals, and the like—all full. Larger pieces hang in nearby closets, each the size of a Manhattan kitchen, each jammed. More specimens rest in an Oriental cabinet in her working office. When Natori opens a door of it, out flops a toreador costume.
The pieces are beaded, embroidered, layered, appliquéd, quilted. They all showcase craftsmanship. They all have detail. “I treasure that,” she says.
Natori has one big worry about her collection. “I’m very proud of it, but on the other hand, I worry that I’m not taking care of it,” she says. “Conserving and storing it has become a challenge.” That’s why she envisions a museum in her native country, where her archives would be an inspiration to many more people.