Written by Judith H. Dobrzynski
Photography by Michael Weschler
Produced by Doris Athineos
Josie Natori doesn’t remember when she started collecting. Rather fittingly for a fashion designer, she simply says, "It’s my shopaholic nature." And that goes back at least to her arrival in the United States from the Philippines at age 17, when she began prowling antiques stores in Greenwich Village. "That was when I learned to shop," she recalls, her eyes brightening at the thought. "I was still in school; it was new to me to look at old stuff."
Now, she always shops when she travels, haunting flea markets and souks as well as dealers’ shops everywhere. In Paris, she sometimes goes straight from the airport to the Marchés aux Puces flea market, because "the best things are there early in the day."
Over the years, Natori has homed in on textiles. She currently owns enough antique kimonos, capes, suzanis, dresses, shawls, rugs, shoes, costumes, and just plain fabrics—well, they are never plain—to fill "at least a small museum." Someday, they may. She dreams of starting one in the Philippines.
At present, though, her treasures reside in Manhattan. When in the late 1990s she hired Calvin Tsao of Tsao & McKown to design her 4,400-square-foot home on the Upper East Side, "It became a backdrop for some fabulous pieces I have, my favorite pieces," she explains. In the dining room, a large rust-colored silk piece—"A Thousand Buddhas," embroidered in gold silk—covers one wall. Bought from a dealer in Paris, and dating to the 18th century, it hangs in a custom-made case above a lacquered oxblood-colored credenza. "Each Buddha is different," Josie notes, tracing the shapes in the air.