Nau (pronounced “now”) is a clothing company based in Portland, Oregon. We make sustainable urban+outdoor apparel – integrated designs for the modern mobile life.
The company is innovative—shoppers can browse Nau’s brick-and-mortar store and receive a 10% discount (and free delivery) if they order goods at in-store web terminals. Nau’s clothes are made from environmentally-friendly custom fabrics and non-toxic dyes, and everything in their brand experience has been carefully considered to minimize its environmental impact.
All aspects of our business – from the product to the business model – are an extension of who we are and how we live.
We design for ourselves, first. If we won’t wear it, why should you. The same goes for business: if we can’t stand behind the decisions we make, why should you. So, in that sense, we’re a little self-absorbed.
We’re a small team – less than twenty of us, for now. We spend a lot of time together, always talking, testing things out, sketching, pinning things up, asking, heckling, critiquing, revising. It usually gets too loud.
We work hard.
We play hard.
We like to go outside. A lot of us ride bikes. We also ski, snowboard, climb, surf, run, make music, see music, take pictures, grow food, eat food, stay out late, have families, and have dogs who clack around and sleep at our feet.
Collectively, we go through a lot of prosecco, dark chocolate, and beer.
And we keep coming back to our Portland office, early in the mornings, until pretty late at night, because we’re stuck on an idea: to redesign fashion and to redefine business so that each become a powerful force for change. One small step towards unfucking the world.
This might make us fanatics, but it can’t be helped. We love what we do.
We’re a small team – less than twenty of us, for now. We spend a lot of time together, always talking, testing things out, sketching, pinning things up, asking, heckling, critiquing, revising. It usually gets too loud. Somehow it’s won us recognition by Outside Magazine as one of the best places to work; we’re not sure, but maybe they heard rumors of prosecco, dark chocolate and Stumptown.
To grow our small team of designers, creatives, developers and customer care folks, we are occasionally seeking talented, inspired individuals to join us in our Portland, Oregon offices. But-and we’re just being straight with you here-it’s not all that often.
As retailers struggle to position themselves in traditional business models brick-and-mortar or online Nau embraces both and intertwines them in a way that exploits the advantages of each. “Webfronts,” which is what Nau calls its stores, allow customers to touch and feel the merchandise but not necessarily walk out with it. By choosing the “ship to you” option, shoppers receive free shipping and a 10 percent discount on their purchases. Prominently placed in store touch screens take them to Nau online, where they can order and find detailed information on the products. “It’s a win-win for both the customer and us,” states Fedje. “We can have a much smaller footprint because we don’t have to stock a lot of inventory, and we’ve enhanced the customer experience.”
Nau is betting on the success of its strategic business plan, centered around three very precise core values: beauty in its products, stores, and Web site; performance as a mass marketer in a boutique setting with a social ethic; and sustainability.
In fact, sustainability directs Nau’s corporate building philosophy and guides every decision, from the size of the webfronts (most are around 2,000 square feet), emphasis on waste minimization, and selective demolition to, centralized fabrication and very green material choices. Ralph DiNola, a principal at Green Building Services Nau’s environmental consultant that guided the Boulder, Colorado, store to LEED-CI Gold elaborates on the specifics, including a commissioning requirement for all HVAC systems, separate metering when possible, and the exclusive use of formaldehyde-free products. Sustainability also emphasizes the deeper environmental message.
“The most important story,” DiNola states, “is not necessarily what you see at Nau, Boulder, but what we learned from that experience and are continuously improving on by asking what we can do better as we build out more locations.” Nau has two projects in the LEED-CI Retail pilot program and plans to eventually certify the entire chain through the U.S. Green Building Council’s planned volume certification program.
- donate 2% of every sale to humanitarian and environmental Partners for Change
- give an annual $10,000 Grant for Change to an individual or small team working in positive change
- purchase carbon offsets for all corporate travel and for shipping finished product to customers
- provide free public transportation for our employees
- source natural, renewable fibers produced in a sustainable manner.
- only use certified organic cotton
- use synthetic fabrics that contain high recycled content – post-consumer preferred (goal: no virgin petroleum products)
- manage toxics in all product finishes and dyes, adhere to our restricted substances list
manufacturing + logistics
- specify high-quality manufacturing standards to ensure products are built to last
- use re-usable packaging and ship product to customers in post-consumer recycled or FSC-certified materials
- require all cut-and-sew factories to adhere to our factory code of conduct. Verify these practices by 3rd-party audits.
- design for lasting beauty: product colors, details, and shapes are minimalist, modern, and timeless
- establish a visual tone that allows for multifaceted use: products look as good on city streets as they perform well in the outdoors
- minimize consumer care
- cold water wash, line dry, no iron, no dry clean
- educate consumers on energy involved in product care
- make product that can be repaired (and make repairs cost effective)
end of life
- reduce: address over-consumption by designing products with durability and a lasting aesthetic, so they remain in use as long as possible
- reuse: don’t discard used product, donate it
- recycle: design our polyester products to be recyclable, and clearly label them for consumer awareness
To keep us on target, here are some of the official guidelines we follow:
Rules to Live By [click to read] (aka our Rules of Corporate Responsibility)
Our commitment to social and environmental responsibility, our 2 percent philanthropic practice, fair wages, minimum and maximum compensation, equal benefits for our employees and product creation practices.
Our Code of Conduct [click to read]
Our parameters for a safe, healthy workplace for everyone we work with.