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Nau is NOW.

Nau is currently at the forefront of creating fashion-forward sustainable outdoor and urban apparel. Based in Portland, Oregon, Nau’s small, yet talented staff of 20, aggregates materials made of “natural, renewable fibers produced in a sustainable manner and synthetic fabrics with high recycled content.” They also work with “managed toxics in all product finishes and dyes, as well as salvaged and recycled materials for retail fixtures.”

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We were fortunate enough to have a sneak peak of Nau’s Fall/Winter 2010 collection and sit down with the company’s General Manager – Mark Galbraith. With a deep-rooted history within the active market, Galbraith has put in some serious time at Malden Mills Industries in New England, Lowe Alpine Systems in Colorado and eight years with Patagonia.

Galbraith has been with Nau since its infancy when Nau’s founder, Eric Reyonds (who also co-founded Marmot….no big deal) knocked on his door to see if he’d be interested in “un-f**king the world.”

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Here’s a quick recap of our conversations with Galbraith:

SS: Your role as Nau’s GM is appropriate due to your long career within the active market. Can you elaborate?

MG: Ultimately, it’s about knowledge in making a design decision – having the creativity and artistic side of it, yet also having a technical know-how. When you first hand know the supply chain; having been in textile factories, you think about how things happen differently. The textile industry is huge and very complicated; it’s resource, chemical and energy heavy. There could be a potential toxic side of what goes on, so when you tend to think about fashion, beauty and performance, you also realize at the same time it’s also very labor intensive.

Questions are asked: how are the factory workers treated? What are the conditions like? You start thinking about different things in the supply chain – everything is very connected. You can turn design from a surface and aesthetic thing to a creative and technical way to solve a problem. It’s no longer purely about surface and a slick image; you must know something about what your company is doing behind the curtain.

SS: How did the name Nau come about?

MG: It’s a word of ‘Welcome’ – what’s mine is yours. It’s very open. We also liked the phonetic play of the word Nau; it’s more current, fresh and contemporary. Nau is also an anagram, if you flip it upside down, you can read it in any direction.

SS: How does feel to be at the forefront of creating sustainable clothing?

MG: It’s very satisfying to do something that when you look at the depth of it, you’re comfortable for what it stands for. I feel that it’s taken a lot of years to move into a level of understanding the impact of your actions and you have the technology and the experience and the right connection. There’s a lot of integrity in what we’re doing and it’s helping to pave the way for other people to think about it.

Changing those perceptions and saying, you don’t have to give up performance and you don’t have to give up style and aesthetic to have a sustainable product.

SS: Nau’s pop-up shop in New York City over the Holiday retail season last year was met with great success. What was it like to pull it together?

MG: Frankly, we were really excited about it. The reality is, for someone in the outdoor/eco world, if you will, to kind of roll into a boutique in New York City and have a pop-up store….we felt that we were legit with the people on the street and in the neighborhood. People came in with a critical lens saying, ‘who are these hippies from Oregon?’ I think people came in and were very impressed and very pleasantly surprised by the apparel. Whether you came in from a performance standpoint or with a fashion lens, it worked.

SS: What can you share about the future of Nau?

MG: We’re such a small company….we only have 125 dealers. So, on a real pragmatic level, one of the things we’re doing, very selectively, is opening up key accounts who understand what we’re doing and tell our story. Appropriate and selective exposure at retail outlets that make sense. This is our ongoing process.

Here are some of our favorite looks from the collection:

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The Down Vest – WM – Super chic and warm, the vest has premium 850-fill power goose down and 22 denier 48 gram recycled polyester woven rip stop made with Teijin Ecocircle polyester.

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The Down Stole – WM – made with the same materials and down as the women’s Down Vest and exceedingly directional to say the least. (We want one!)

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The Rheostat Jacket – MN – Fully offset zip. Super stealth and very discreet that is the epitome of an urban tech warrior. Totally legit to wear on the mountain skiing or snowboarding. Waterproof Seam sealed four way stretch shell – two layer waterproof laminate with fine guage knit poly face – 850-fill power goose down. Lining is made of recycled polyester taffeta.

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The M2 L/S Polo – MN – We thought this was a great example of a first layer piece that is versatile enough to wear après skiing or snowboarding. (It’s a polo baselayer hybrid!) Made of soft merino wool, with 4% spandex jersey knit for stretch.

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