All photos: Nau (Glimpse dress, Succinct trench)
Nau, is a clothing company that crafts apparel equally at home in a storm or a dorm. Threads at ease in a metropolis, or on the Galapagos. The idea for a clothing business that would adhere to the three credos of Beauty, Performance and Sustainability was first conceived in 2003, but it's only this year that they're expecting to turn a profit.
It's been a long, fraught filled journey for one of the few remaining founding team members, Mark Galbraith. Originally Nau's head of design, Mark is now General Manager and he fills us in on developments in the company's 2010 Spring collection.The line continues to infuse both the technical performance of outdoor wear with a distinctly urban look. The muted (never out of fashion) colour palette is still evident, but is lifted here and there with dabs of brighter shades.
(Acoustic jacket, Versa jacket)
Some new fabrics have entered the line too. We asked Mark about the blend of 80% recycled polyester / 20% organic cotton being offered in some jackets and shorts.
"The addition of the cotton makes them more comfortable next to skin and gives them more visual range than shiny synthetic look of the [previous] 100% poly pants. Thus, they are more wearable for a broader range of activities. For the more technical applications we still offer 100% polyester pants in soft and hard shell fabrications," said Mark.
We wondered if having natural and synthetic fibre mixed in the one fabric presented difficulties for the eventual recovery of the garments, by Japan's Teijin, who operate the Ecocircle polyester recycling program?
Mark didn't foresee any: "We still consider the full life span of the product and are designing our polyester garments for end of life recycling. 80% poly content has always been the rule we have followed for our Polyester garments that are designed to be recycled as the end of their life. That allows us to blend spandex, cotton or other fibers that add performance and aesthetic qualities to the polyester and still maintain the option for end of life recycling."
Making its first appearance in some Women's garments is another blended cloth, a 63% organic linen / 37% organic cotton mix. Mark Galbraith again: "The addition of cotton to our linen woven fabric makes the fabric less wrinkly and give it more body, which are often the objections people have to 100% linen."
How does it compare to the new 80/20 poly/cotton blend, we wondered. According to Mark, "The 80/20 blend is a performance oriented fabrication with the features of wind and water resistance, light weight and quick dry time and stretch in one of the fabrics we offer. The cotton linen is a casual life style fabric."
And why only offer the linen/cotton in the women's range? "Currently the aesthetic of the fabric fits better in the women's collection. However, we may add a different Linen fabric to the men's collection in the future," he said.
Elsewhere in the 2010 Spring line for Men, the Acoustic Jacket softshell has been updated with a two way stretch 80/20 recycled poly/organic cotton and more
more sinuous seams.
(Lightbeam Jacket, mens and womens)
The venerable Lightbeam windshirt has been joined by a Lightbeam Jacket, for both men and women, complete with stowaway hood and zippered hand pockets. (This looks like a much improved rendering of the Pack-it Jacket that was part of the Nau 1.0 collection. )
Vice and Versa are men's and women's blazers respectively, which make use of a double weave stretchy 80/20 recycled poly/organic cotton. Nau tag them as 'lifestyle shells.'
Mens shorts come in either 80/20 recycled poly/organic cotton or 96/4 wool/spandex. Pants in the wool blend, a 96/4 organic cotton/spandex and in organic cotton denim. The new Slack-er Jean uses a lighter 9oz version and comes in a light indigo shade.
(Delivery shorts, Polo, Vice blazer)
Stripes are still getting a run, particularly in merino wool knit shirts and hoodys. Organic cotton finds it way into polo's, Ts, woven shirts and even the new Dual Citizen Hoody.
The women's half of the collection reflects much of the men's. But they get also score a dress, skirt, and drawstring pant in the aforementioned 63/37 organic linen/organic cotton fabric.
The recycled polyester seesucker style material deployed in the Lightbeam tops, is also at work here in a capri pant and that signature Nau garment, the Chrysalis Dress.
A stretchy organic cotton/ spandex jersey knit is cut into a cami, pant and dress. The Bi-Carious Shirt for women has a lightweight organic cotton jersey back and woven organic cotton front.
For wet weather, both genders can use the waterproof breathable (wpb) recycled polyester Succinct trench or Rebound jacket. There is also the wpb Courier shirts for men and skirt for women.
Having rolled with the punches of the past seven years, (including at one point closing the doors, before being rescued, in mid 2008, by Californian outdoor sportwear brand, Horny Toad,) we were interested in Mark Galbraith's thoughts on the rollercoaster ride.
TreeHugger: Are there lessons there for other green start-ups?
Mark Galbraith: Each business model has its own set of variables and challenges that are unique. As a 'green business' you need to be true to your values and beliefs and that does not always take you down the easiest path when it comes to the choices you must make along the way. Having a green business has become a bit easier with more options on the design and production and more awareness and support from the consumer.
TH: Aside from the obvious fiscal injection, how has the relationship with Horny Toad benefited a resuscitated Nau?
MG: We have a shared infrastructure that understands the complexities of sustainable garment design & production, finance, logistics and sales. This support has been extremely helpful. Also there are the "soft" benefits of belonging to a larger "family" that provides creative support and a sounding board for idea creation.
TH: In an interview with TreeHugger in 2008 it was noted that the new phoenix-like Nau 2.0 was keeping to a tight 70-piece collection, with about a 50/50 male/female mix. That seems to still be the case for the Spring 2010. Has this range discipline assisted profitability?
MG: Yes a tighter focused offering is more manageable on many levels.
TH: Has it put any reigns on creativity or innovation?
MG: No, in fact just the opposite. It takes more creativity and thought to write a few lines of poetry than a rambling novel.