Nau it’s time (ecofashion!)

Via on Jan 14, 2009

When the Portland, Oregon-based outdoor apparel company Nau made their debut in March 2007, I was thrilled to finally find a brand that I could stand behind and look good in. With the exception of few, outdoor clothing makers rarely follow fashion trends and decorate shapeless, one size fits all, cotton or poly-crapilene basics with tacky prints or gigantic logos that make me feel like a walking billboard. For the first time, Nau’s sophisticated team of former execs and designers from Patagonia, Nike, The North Face and Adidas introduced chic, logo-free, high-performance apparel produced in an environmentally and socially responsible manner (link to design philosophy). While their products perform as well as any technical gear on the market, it was their sleek style with a conscience that set Nau apart. With detailed tailoring, subdued colors and durable, eco-friendly fabrics worthy in the mountains and in public, I thought it was too good to be true.

Nau’s ambition was obvious and they had a clear vision that they stood behind. They pushed the envelope, trying to shift the industry toward centralizing social and environmental integrity behind every decision–from materials to merchandise to distribution. They even donated 5% of all sales to the charitable organization of your choice, which made you feel good in more ways than one about purchasing their competitively priced garments.

But with great ambition comes big risk. Sure enough, on May 2, 2008, after just one season, with five-retail stores open and four underway, Nau announced it was closing its doors due to an inability to secure additional financing. I was devastated by the news and held onto my few Nau pieces like they were vintage Gucci.

Then on June 24, 2008, Santa Barbara-based lifestyle apparel company Horny Toad announced its acquisition of Nau and they got a second chance. Of course I was excited, but also weary—was Nau going to be able to maintain the same integrity that formed their unique brand? Fortunately, Nau re-emerged with a scaled back staff of the same core crew while compromising neither style nor integrity. They’re currently distributing their fall/winter line through nau.com and select like-minded retailers.

As for their design? When I received my wide neck, ultra soft, Zque-certified Merino Wool Hoody, low profile, 850-fill, recycled polyester Down Shirt and essential striped Merino Wool Long Sleeve Shirt, I immediately put it to the test at the crag and on the street. Not only could I move freely and not fear destroying it in the mountains, I didn’t run home to change before going out on the town. But it’s not just about wearing a cool jacket. Nau’s resurrection proved that with perseverance and a pure vision aimed to do good, companies can get that second chance to succeed.

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15 Responses to “Nau it’s time (ecofashion!)”

  1. Heather says:

    I’m also very excited to see Nau back in the swing of things. Good Magazine did an interesting article on the business a few months ago: http://www.good.is/?p=12493 , but this blog brings the story up to date. Thanks, Abbey!

  2. Terry says:

    I got a Nau coat that I absolutely adore, and was crushed to find that their Boulder store had closed. Thanks for the update on their situation.

  3. rusty r says:

    I’l have to give Nau another chance. I thought they were extremely overpriced (WAY more than patagonia), the materials sterile in color and texture, and I never was sold that the idea of individually shipping orders instead of carrying stock in a physical store was environmentally beneficial… in fact, i thought it was unkind and wasteful.

    However, things seem to have changed and I’ll give it another chance! Thanks Abbey!

  4. Andrew says:

    I love their stuff, but you have to be stick thin, Boulder thin to fit (or look good in) most of their stuff.

    Take note, Nau designers!

  5. carolsmith says:

    My daughter is Abbey, she was so excited to show me her clothes from Nau. I also thought they were awesome, nothing like I have ever seen before. Of course I would love to own a piece of this line. Oh by the way Abbey looks fantastic in them, but remember I am her mom.

  6. carolsmith says:

    Abbey was so excited to show me the clothes she received from Nau. Of course she looks fantastic in them, but I am also her mom. Now I would like to try and show Eaton, Colorado what these clothes look like.

  7. Awesome job, Abbey. It’s inspiring to see an innovative, conscious company succeed—especially these days! Great to have you back.

  8. Vanessa says:

    Lookin' gorgeous as always, great writing Abbey!

  9. Jason K says:

    I too was bummed when I had heard that Nau had gone out of business. It definitely left a void in the outdoor marketplace. I cant where zip off khaki shorts the rest of my life! Thanks for spreading the good news Abbey!

  10. Janet says:

    Hi Abbey,

    Great job it is good to see you back at elephant. So glad to hear about your clothes from Nau. Look forward to seeing or trying Nau. Thanks Abbey! Great Job!!!

  11. Z Bertrand Russell Smith says:

    I just returned from the desert where talon grabbers, knives, glochids, yucca trip sticks, tree daggers, and numerous cacti ripped my threads to shreds. Nau is the time to get new clothes.

  12. [...] Nau it’s time (ecofashion!) Nau is back. Still pricey, but my favorite clothing company, besides Threadless. [...]

  13. I was very excited to see Nau re-launch (and with a site that finally worked decently). Any company that has a slogan “Unf**k the world” deserves respect.

  14. [...] Nau is an outdoor clothing company, long one of elephantjournal.com’s favorites, dedicated to doing business differently. This is evident in their recycled and organic fabrics, their strict fair-labor standards, carbon offsets and earnest pledge to “unf*ck the world.” But Nau is doing something else differently—they’re willing to engage their customers in the difficult questions that surround the garment industry. “If you want to buy this vest,” they say, “then you should know exactly where it came from and who it impacted.” This level of transparency is a risky move in an economy based on a “what they don’t know can’t hurt them” ethos, where everything from diamonds to gym socks to chicken parmigiana can carry some pretty heavy karma. [...]

  15. [...] gotta be dressed to kill Momma Earth, you can be lovely, whether down-dogging or out on the town or climbing or camping or at the office or gym (or gas station)…and even your makeup can be natural, not [...]

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