We are pleased to announce that Josie Cruz Natori was elected Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Asian Cultural Council at our May Board meeting. Josie has served on ACC’s Board since 1995 and, in 2000, she helped establish the ACC Philippines Foundation and ACC’s affiliate office in Manila, where she also serves on the board. She succeeds Wendy O'Neill, who served as ACC Board Chairman for over ten years and was subsequently named a Life Trustee in recognition of her immense contributions.
ACC Executive Director Judy Kim says, “Josie Cruz Natori has been a stalwart champion of ACC’s mission, generously sharing both her deep-seated passion for the arts and her business acumen for over two decades. On behalf of the staff and alumni, we celebrate our distinguished Trustee in her new role as Chairman. We also express our profound gratitude to Wendy O’Neill for her conscientious leadership, unparalleled service, and rigorous support of ACC’s work.”
Josie Cruz Natori says, “My love for the arts began as a child growing up in Manila studying piano—a lifelong passion. While I adore my work, success in fashion is not enough. I want to be able to give something back, to make a difference in people’s lives. Serving as a Trustee, and now taking on the role of Chairman in ACC’s New York headquarters, is emblematic of that desire. I look forward to working with the Board and staff to continue providing artists, scholars, and arts professionals with singular opportunities to further expand their practices and pursuits through dynamic cultural exchange.”
Josie’s dynamic leadership is evident in her multi-faceted career in business, fashion, cultural non-profits, and beyond. While most known for her namesake, iconic fashion brand, the Natori Company, Josie has navigated a variety of career paths throughout her life. As a child, she excelled at piano, performing with the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra at the age of nine. Despite her passion for the arts, she chose a business career, leaving her large, close-knit Filipino family to attend Manhattanville College in New York, where she majored in Economics. After graduation, Josie worked on Wall Street where she eventually rose through the ranks to become the first female Vice President of investment banking at Merrill Lynch. Along the way, Josie met her husband Ken Natori, who was an Executive Managing Director at Shearson Lehman.
After nine years in corporate America, Josie ventured to start a business of her own. After exploring various opportunities including a car wash and a McDonald’s franchise, she found herself landing in the fashion industry. What began with creating lingerie on her living room floor has truly evolved into a lifestyle brand that is rooted in her Asian heritage and the craftsmanship of the Philippines. Today, Natori’s headquarters are based in New York, with a warehouse in New Jersey, and a family-owned factory in Manila. Over the past forty-six years, Natori has continued to bring art into life with an East-meets-West sensibility. Natori is proud to be Asian-founded, Asian-owned, and Asian-led with Josie as CEO & Chief Creative Officer and her son Kenneth as President.
“I love my work, but success in fashion is not enough. I want to be able to give something back, to make a difference in people’s lives.” says Josie, who also sits on the boards of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. She is a member of the CFDA, C200, and sits on the board of Westrock Coffee Company. Josie’s unwavering passion for the piano reached its pinnacle when she graced Carnegie Hall with a concert on her 50th birthday. In 1988 Josie was honored for her achievements with the Galleon award, presented by Corazon Aquino, then President of the Republic of the Philippines. In 2007, Josie was given the prestigious Lakandula Award from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, considered the highest honor for a Filipino citizen. She also received Fashion Group International’s prestigious Humanitarian Award in 2012.
The Natoris currently reside in Manhattan, New York. Josie continues to make frequent trips back to Manila, her home base, where it all began. Josie credits her entrepreneurial spirit to the matriarchal society of the Philippines where she was inspired from a young age by her grandmother, an entrepreneur, and her mother, a musician and businesswoman. Her father, a self-made man in the construction industry, also played a significant role in inspiring her career. Through her new role as ACC’s Chairman, Josie continues to embrace, celebrate, and broadcast her Asian heritage through all that she does.
Image by Andrew Egan