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The Time is Nau

Beauty, performance, and sustainability are the three concepts that drive Portland, Oregon-based retailer Nau to create hip, functional, and environmentally conscious clothing.

The mission statement of this company, whose namesake is a native Maori (the native New Zealand language) word for “welcome,” is “to combine the generosity of the human spirit and the power of technology with business innovation to increase shareholder equity, protect the environment, enhance social justice and provide humanitarian relief worldwide.” Whew! Those are some lofty goals! So, how exactly do they accomplish these things, beyond opening retail locations? Quite a few things, actually!

Nau offers a wide range of women’s and men’s casual and athletic apparel. The company utilizes recycled materials in its clothing, such as soda bottles and industrial scrap. The cotton they use is 100% organically grown, and the company also utilizes biopolymer fabrics whenever possible. These are fabrics that are created using agricultural sources such as corn, rather than non-renewable resources like petroleum.

Nau has also partnered with non-profit organization Verité to audit their manufacturing facilities for human rights violations and work environment issues.

Nau’s retail locations, called “Webfronts,” of which there are four (Tigard, OR, Bellevue, WA, Chicago, IL, and Boulder, CO) are designed to be energy efficient and low-impact by utilizing electronic touch screens for product info (eliminates paper marketing materials/catalogs), utilizing recycled and salvaged wood and glass for construction, and using low toxicity paints and sealants.

What’s more, Nau has purchased enough wind and solar energy credits to offset the energy used at their Webfront locations as well as office headquarters. The retail location here in Boulder is compact yet spacious, and the staff is extremely helpful without being overly so, and is very knowledgeable what they are selling and/or recommending.

Additionally, Nau has joined the Partners for Change Alliance, with which they donate a minimum of 5% of their sales to other organizations dedicated to social, humanitarian, and environmental change, such as Colorado Environmental Coalition,, Eco-Cycle, and Center for Re-Source Conservation. When a customer makes a purchase, they have the option of choosing which type of organization they would like their 5% to go towards.

Not only is the Nau business model innovative and eco-friendly, their clothing is high-performance and long-lasting. The women’s line offers a wide variety of layers; organic cotton t-shirts, long sleeve tees, sweaters, light and heavy jackets, base layers, pants, and accessories.

The Bunnygoat Hoody offers a soft, stylish sweater layer made from a cashmere/angora blend. Wearing this sweater is like wearing a light, fluffy layer of fuzzy butter. Lean and long with an asymmetrical button closure; this piece is intriguing and cozy.

The Slight V-Neck Sweater is a feathery light cashmere v-neck, perfect for layering over a t-shirt and under a jacket. If you have sensitive, eczema-prone skin like I do, then you probably have a hard time finding any sweaters that are warm and can be worn against your skin (ie, wool is your enemy). This V-Neck was a godsend, and fortunately, Nau is working to ensure that cashmere as a renewable resource is also obtained from properly managed resources.

The Glasnost Jacket, is quite literally what Nau proclaims it to be: “The magic bullet of hoodies.” This jacket is made from a wool/knit blend and has the slight subtleties that most hoodies don’t: a hood that lies flat when you aren’t wearing it, thumbholes in the sleeves for wearing under gloves or jackets, and an amazing fit. What’s more, the fabric is lightweight, but still very warm.

Moving south, the Profile Fleece Pant provides the ultimate combination of warm fleecy goodness with a high performance outer layer. The outer layer of the pant is smooth, won’t pill, slides underneath an outer layer, and its finish resists light precipitation. The inner layer is soft and wicks moisture away. The best part, perhaps, is that these pants are created from 87% recycled polyester.

And for all your insulating needs, the Cashmere Hat fits snugly, but not too snugly, against your dome on those chilly winter days. Again, if scratching your head all day is not your bag, you can’t go wrong with cashmere.

Nau’s clothing line comes in subtle, timeless colors that will always be in style and in place in your wardrobe (unlike that shiny silver ski coat that just makes you look like an enormous baked potato whizzing down the ski hill).

For socially responsible and environmentally friendly clothing, Nau is the place to go. While you may not have planned on spending around $200 for a nice sweater, at least you will have donated to charity, supported environmentally conscious organizations and obtained a great item of high-performance, beautifully designed clothing that you can keep for an indefinite amount of time.

The same cannot be said of your Forever 21 collection, which is a good reason to fall into the “Less is More” philosophy: How many cheap, sweat-shop-labor sweaters does one person really need?!

Nau warranties its products against defects for full refunds or exchanges “until normal wear and tear run their course.” What’s more, Nau has instituted a Product Afterlife Program, which encourages consumers to 1: Wear it out, 2: Donate it, or 3: Return it to Nau for recycling. It’s Nau or never, people!


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