Natori Design Process

This past week, I had the fabulous opportunity to meet with the three main designers of all of the Natori brands (Josie, Natori, JN, N Natori, and Ready-to-wear) for lunch. It was an incredibly educational experience for me and I learned so much, as I walked away with a much deeper understanding (and appreciation) for all the work that goes into designing clothes. It is such a complex process! There are so many different steps it takes to get a finished product sold in a store.

design team

The Design team at Natori (minus my mother-in-law and the Design Director): Nicole Goetz, Jack Tung, Kate Lee, Ju-Hee Maeng, Jocelyn Hazen, Jieun Park, Elizabeth Valle, Yuki Okamoto.

work space

The workspace of one of the designers.

At  Natori, there is a main design theme each season (for us non-fashion people — there are two main seasons — Fall and Spring) which gives the designers a better sense of direction and inspiration for the lines. Although there are many collections at Natori (Josie Natori, Natori, Josie, N Natori) — they all work within the same theme for a given season. The themes are often destinations or exotic places of the East– the current Fall 2012 theme is Mongolia. They are currently working on Spring 2013, the theme of which is the Philippines (very appropriate). Once they are given the theme, the designers research in depth — history, culture, traditions, textiles, costumes, colors, mood etc. They look at every part of the theme for inspiration and guidance in their designs.

Files

All images, sketches, various sources of research are stored in these file bins.

theme

Images of the country's environment, people, culture, and colors.

jitneys

This board displays all the colors and shapes of jitneys -- a type of car seen throughout the Philippines. These images are part of the inspiration in the Spring 2013 collection.

Then, together as a team, they work on finding the right prints to use in the collection. Prints are what drive the collection, and are what Natori is best known for. Finding, tweaking, changing and making the print is a huge task on its own. In addition to the prints, each collection tends to have color themes for each month’s delivery (two main colors per delivery with various supporting colors). As the stores keep the past month with the current month’s collection on the floor, it is important that the colors blend together well and look good next to each other (who knew all this thought went into choosing colors?!?!) The colors change each month and each season. Holy shmoly — lots of work!

board

Inspiration boards for Spring 2012 -- what is currently in stores now. Prints, bodies, inspirations.

stripes

Stripes and colors.

colors

Main two colors and the accent colors per delivery.

More inspiration boards.

Fabrics determine shape and design.

Once the colors and prints are established, the team works on creating the prototypes of the bodies, sourcing the fabrics and trims, and coming up with the ultimate design. At the beginning of the process, hundreds of designs are created, and at each stage, the number is dwindled down — to 80 to 50 to 30. Just because something is in the showroom during market week does not mean that it is going to be bought by the stores.  So a lot of beautiful designs that take so much time to create never turn into actual clothes.  So much work!

computer

Designers sketch both on the computer and freehand. They spend hours sketching and dreaming of the perfect item.

Sketch of a sleepshirt for Josie.

r-t-w

A sketch for JN

Prints, bodies, colors.

pattern workers

Natori has the luxury of having pattern makers and seamstresses in house. Each of the team of 4 - Woody, Remy, Zoly, and Mercy- have been employed by Natori for more than 20 years!

Woody

Woody has been sewing and making patterns for Natori for 33 years! He also grew very sick of me during 2007 when he sewed my wedding dress. A lovely and hard working man who makes the company run smoothly!

sewing

The seamstresses create and sew the intricate embellishments and beading on the Natori samples. Such hard work and craftsmanship!

Detailed work produced in house! Unbelievable....

FINALLY -- the final product!

So as you can see, it is not as easy as sketching and then sewing an item together. Having a collection — a cohesive and dynamite whole composition of dozens of pieces — of multiple lines — takes a tremendous amount of time, skill, artwork, motivation, inspiration, direction, creativity, and passion. The Natori Company thrives on this passion and love, and as a result, its products are beautiful, wearable, fashion-forward, comfortable, and true pieces of art. Natori truly brings art to life.

Until Friday, have a great week! I hope you appreciate each article of clothing more, now that you have a better sense of all the work and thought that goes into everything.

Anika Yael Natori, aka The Josie Girl.

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3 Comments

  1. I love me my josie bras and chemises.. great to see what happens behind the scenes..

  2. I love seeing the inspiration behind the line! The design team looks so friendly! Such talent…

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