in ,



Nau is an outerwear company created by a team of individuals committed to the power of business as a force for change. Intrigued by the brand I recently intervied Andrew Wilkins the talented Brand Communications Specialist for the organization.

Your site is a provocative blend of visionary activism, story-telling, and creative organic outerwear designs. In addition on your about page I noticed how humble your organization is.

1. What are some cool ways your collective (staff, writers, designers, engineers, biz folk) communicates? Do you have any neat team building tips to share?

Rule #1: Team building = lots of trust falls. No, just kidding. I wouldn’t say we do anything particularly outrageous in this arena. We have a pretty typical ‘information age’ headquarters with an open floor plan—not even the CEO has his own office. Right now, the company is still quite small, so there is lots of opportunity for cross-communication between departments when we’re, say, waiting to use the microwave in the kitchen/overflow conference room. It’s a very entrepreneurial atmosphere. Anyone can feel comfortable bringing up an idea to any other person in the company.

2. Tell us more about the Collective. I see there is a place to submit a story and I’m tempted. I saw this educational film about H2O and the mini documentary “Sliding Liberia” was a truly moving story. Would you elaborate on this project and how to participate? Where you forecast this project going in the next five to ten years?

There are several ways we generate content for the Collective section of our website. Often times, we brainstorm ideas that we farm out to videographers. Other times, professional videographers or other artists come to us with ideas that we fund. We also encourage anyone to submit a story, be it a video, a slide show, or an essay and, if we like what we see, we will pay for it and post it. 

For us, the Collective is a venue for storytelling about positive change. To facilitate this exchange of ideas, we hold monthly ‘Collective Commons’ events at each of our stores to premiere new pieces and invite speakers to engage the community in a thoughtful dialogue. In the future, we could see possibly doing longer-form films and submitting them to film festivals, or even someday hosting our own film festival. 

3. Explain the Partners for Change initiative. I am impressed with the list of partners you’ve garnered! How did this develop and grow? 

The Partners for Change program was born out of a desire to show that business could be more than just the relentless pursuit of profit—that with a few tweaks, business could become a force for social and environmental good. As part of that, Nau donates 5% of every sale to a non-profit organization of the purchaser’s choice from our list of environmental and humanitarian partners. That puts us at roughly 70 times the national average for corporate giving as a percent of sales.  Currently, we have 31 global and regional partners. When you purchase on our website, you get to choose from all 31 organizations.

When you purchase in a store, the global choices are all the same, but the regional choice vary by market. As we add new stores in new markets, we will continue to partner with additional regional organizations. So far, we’ve donated over $223,000 through Partners for Change; not bad for a company that has yet to turn a profit! 


4. What are your visionary company goals for 2008 and beyond?

 In the practical sense, we just opened a new store in LA at the Beverley Center and we plan to open 4 more stores in 2008 (San Francisco, Boston, and second stores in the Portland, OR and Seattle, WA markets). In May, we plan to relaunch our website to more broadly integrate our content and product offerings and streamline the user experience. We just released a new line of men’s and women’s denim jeans and our fall line, due in late August, will feature a collection of bags and travel accessories that we’re pretty excited about. Philosophically speaking, our long-term goal is to prove the viability of our ‘business unusual’ concept and show that a corporation can balance the interests of its shareholders, the environment, and the public—in other words do well by doing good.

 5. I was watching the design team share their process ~beauty, performance, sustainability ~ and I really like your holistic approach from the people in the factory to the end wearer. Will you discuss some of the ways this is put into practice at the company daily? 

As you saw in the video, the main place we incorporate Beauty, Performance and Sustainability is in the design of our clothing. We want everything we make to meet the highest standards of form and function, and do it in a way that’s easy on the planet. What good is a beautiful pair of pants you can’t sit down in? An eco-fiber shirt that looks and feels like a medieval penance device? The most dialed-in, ‘look-at-me-I’m-high-tech’ ski jacket that’s too gaudy to wear anywhere but the mountain (if you must even wear it there)? By combining all three aspects, we create garments that are durable in every sense of the word—multifunctional and exciting to wear for years.  

For instance, if you look one of our hardshell jackets, the Shelter Jacket, it’s as technical as any from the top apparel makers, but the difference is that it would be as much at home on a mountain trail as on a main boulevard. The lines are clean, not cluttered with unnecessary features; the colors are subdued, not neon bright; the fit is body-conscious but with enough room and give for movement. It’s waterproof, breathable and best of all, it’s made with 100% recycled polyester and designed to be recycled again at the end of its long life. Beyond that, I’d have to say we try to incorporate the same ideas into everything we do, from our store construction to the design of displays to our various marketing efforts.  

6. I am stirred by your blog, the ‘Thought Kitchen’ and would like to include it on our Feelgood Style blogroll! Is it a shared inspiration across the organization?  

There is a group of folks within the company who are primarily responsible for the content of the blog, though any employee is welcome to participate, should they feel inclined. There are weekly, informal editorial meetings and each completed piece is filtered through an editorial process. 

You’ll notice that the main difference between our blog and most other ‘corporate’ blogs is that we rarely discuss Nau itself. Instead, we choose to focus on the thoughts and ideas that inspire us to do what we do—the ethos of the movement we seek to embody. Besides the Thought Kitchen and the Collective, we also have an email newsletter, Off the Grid, which serves as a major means of communication with our customers, highlighting content from our website and providing updates on new product launches, events, and breakthroughs in our own sustainability efforts. You can sign up at  

Written by Lucille Chi

Lucy Chi loves good green design, ethical fashion, environmental art and education, renewables, holistic healing and more. She has been dedicating her energies toward finding and drawing attention to all the ways in which products, companies, and industries are moving toward creating a more sustainable world on the global scale, as well as the way individuals are moving toward living sustainably, and healing at the personal level.

Sustainability studies: &
B.S. Cornell University, College of Human Ecology, Dept. of Textiles and Fiber Science.

Contact: lucillechi (at)


Discarded to Divine

Life Goggles: The Solar Shaver