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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

nau is the time

After much delay, Nau has finally launched its official webstore and the new company is "open for business unusual," as the index page reads. Nau's clothing line attempts to blur "urban endeavor and backcountry" while simultaneously melding "beauty, performance, and sustainability." The company is working to develop myriad new fabrics to achieve these ends. Much of their clothing is made from organic cotton and recycled synthetics. The clothing is highly functional--much of it is stretchy, fitted, and water and wind resistant. Nau will be opening four retail stores in CO, OR, WA, and IL. Rumor has it, these stores will be "webfronts" places for customers to try out clothing, but customers will be encouraged to order clothing from the webstore to cut down on the company's carbon footprint (doesn't that mean more shipping? I guess we'll see how this works in real life).

With Nau's extensive use of sustainable and psuedo-sustainable fabrics (I'm sure recycled polyester involves extensive chemical processing to produce), their product line is perfectly situated to take on earth-concious labels like Patagonia and Edun. But unlike Patagonia, Nau doesn't advertise your eco-awareness so readily and would thankfully look out of place at a Yonder Mountain show. At the same time, the clothing is designed to take you from your favorite fair-trade coffee shop to a Big Sur bouldering trip or even your weekend in the backcountry. The clothing is clearly targeted at the young, urban, tech-savvy, yoga-practicing, Prius-driving, Whole Foods customer, a target market that is unfortunately devoid of a good moniker except for the tired term "yuppie".

The clothing will also be a hit with the virtually untapped flashpacking market, as the clothing appears to be lightweight, easily packable, odor resistant (merino wool is, anyway), and wrinkle resistant (anything with high polyester content). But so is GoLite. The key with Nau is that the clothing doesn't wear its technical features on its sleeves (get it?). You can wear Nau while hiking around Chiang Mai and leave it on when you go out to Bed in Bangkok without looking like a member of the sandals-and-socks crowd.

Nau has a lot of growth potential and should be a brand to watch over the next few quarters. The company is committed to social and environmental change through business and may find itself at the forefront of the social business movement. The one prohibitive factor is cost--Nau isn't cheap--but Nau's target market has generally shown a propensity to pony up for well-designed, value-added products, especially products fitting their social values. Furthermore, as the inevitable competition arises, the supply of sustainable fabrics should increase, bringing prices down. Who knows--maybe someday we'll all be able to recycle or compost our shirts.

More: check out Nau's blog, The Thought Kitchen.

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