Then and Nau: Rebirth of Sustainable Retailing
After being resurrected from its ashes, Nau hesitated to make the same mistakes again—letting ambition take the reigns before the brand had legs enough to stand on. But opening up a one-month pop-up shop in New York City's Soho neighborhood proved a great way to test the market and expose local clientele to the brand without the risk of long-term investment.
The beautiful storefront featured curb-salvaged decorative touches such as origami-like constructions of cardboard boxes for seating and reclaimed wood shelving. Bicycles climbed up one side of the storefront, further complementing their aesthetic of sustainable and sporty urban clothing. A spacious downstairs allowed for gracious entertaining and a way to connect with the community on a more personal level—thoroughly embracing the philosophy of their name, a New Zealand word which means "welcome."
Based out of Portland, OR, Nau was founded in 2006 by veteran executives from Nike, Adidas, and Patagonia who created the retail format of a "Webfront," where they sold clothes straight to shoppers online—with five percent of every sale donated to a charity of their choosing.
The ambitious opening of scores of stores nationwide let to a financial collapse that ultimately forced the brand to close in May 2008. But with reinvestment by Horny Toad Activewear, Inc., CEO Gordon Seabury, Nau was able to reposition itself for a second run of its clothing line and stand-alone retail stores. As Design Director Peter Kallen states, the brand still upholds "the original design and sustainability standards we crafted from the beginning." And a new policy of transparency has helped them "come back to life in a very sleek and retooled form that reflects a slower growth cycle", which includes providing wholesale as a larger part of their commerce.
The timing may prove beneficial since the resources for sustainable fabrics have expanded since they began, says Peter. And although Nau's pop-up store in NYC only had a limited run, their early lessons will likely prepare them for more sustained growth down the road, in effect ensuring their business practices are as sustainable as their clothing.
Image is from the Nau blog.