Nau: A company Ahead of its Time?

Photosource: featuring Nau clothing

NY Times Fashion & Style section announced this morning that the much coveted Nau is going out of business. Sundance Channel did a piece on them this week too in their ‘Big Ideas for a Small Planet’ which I blogged about on May 3rd. Unfortunately Nau’s website posts the sad letter from the team stating that that they are ‘saying goodby for Nau’.

While we knew the company took on significant risk, and that there were questions from the beginning as to whether the model would actually work, I must admit that I increasingly felt confident in the staying power of their brand. I’ve been reading about Nau since last September, and just last month a half dozen people I knew asked me if I had heard about this company. They successfully seem to be generating ‘buzz’ around their company.

Yet at the same time, significant investment went into the company – from its design and manufacture of high tech ‘green’ fabrics to designing and sewing the clothes, to building brick and mortar stores and creating a cutting edge website. Unlike the mom and pop online green boutiques, Nau was positioned as the next Nike from the get go. One reviewer I read last fall noted correctly that the company is postured to either succeed beautifully or fail miserably. Unfortunately, it seems that the latter has won out.

Why? Led by former Nike executives, the Nau team is not lacking in the experience, leadership or management arena. While they are ‘green’ in the environmental sense, management wise, this is not the case. So what is it? According to the team, the economy is cited as the main factor in their decline. Slowing consumption, rising fuel costs, rising cost of goods, decreasing purchases….we have heard it more than once in the last few months. So while I agree that the economy is forcing more than a handful of retailers to change course and downsize, I would also venture to say that a few other things could have been done to help stay afloat. (1) One is that their prices seemed high for what they offered and for who they targeted. While I can absolutely appreciate their stylistic, very green apparel, Americans may not be quite ready for those prices at to buy on the green principle as such. Take a look at Cheapest Dress in the World – with expectations as low as $8.98, can we stretch our imaginations to pay $300 for a spring coat?
(2) Color schemes and styles may have been too muted. Everything seemed a bit too dark. Not enough brightness, freshness and newness. Or maybe they were not geared toward women as much as men? I am not sure, but something seemed slightly off. (3) Finally, with REI and Patagonia ‘down the street’ so to speak, or one ‘url tab’ away on the Internet, one has to have a pretty compelling reason to go to Nau rather than long-established, trusted brands. Both of these companies are increasingly stepping out of the pure outdoor gear space and into more fashion-forward ‘office-adaptable’ clothing as well as are increasingly ‘green.’

Also, Nau mentioned that their stores encouraged people to ship whatever products they purchase to their homes rather than carry away with them. I would have to say that this seems troublesome. Counterintuitive from every angle. Isn’t one satisfaction from shopping the ability to carry the item home with you and brighten your day? Also, isn’t walking home with something intuitively more ‘green’ than having it shipped to your house? From a consumers standpoint, I can see how this policy would be troublesome.

All in all however, I must say that I am sorry to see Nau go. I really admired their mission, vision and core company principles. Part of me thinks they may be jumping the gun—who knows what could have been possible if they road the wave a little longer? At the same time, in this economy nothing is certain, and if product, price and promotion are slightly off mark, well, there is not much hope for survival. Wishing the team at Nau all the best in their next venture.

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Greenward Eco-Boutique Arrives to Cambridge!

This brand new multi-purpose shop, Greenward, opened in Porter Square recently, with an all around green mission: to offer a wide range of eco-friendly products for the one-stop green minded shopper. From recycled materials to ‘recyclable’ products, organic products, handmade items, energy efficient items, biodegradable, AND educational products, the store covers the green gamut.All products are screened to meet at least one but ideally several of the above criteria, and fall into the following categories:

  • Gifts
  • Housewares
  • Jewelry
  • Cards and stationary
  • Handbags and other bags
  • Cosmetics
  • Books and magazines
  • Urban cycling accessories
  • Toys and games
  • Things for baby
  • Energy efficiency improvement items
  • Natural cleaning products

The store sounds like the ‘Target’ of green products (though not as big, which is kind of nice). Greenward appears to be an all around environmentally and socially conscious store that aims to do well for consumers, the environment and the community. I will be checking out the store in November– so stay tuned for a real-time review after Thanksgiving, but in the meantime, if you are in the area and are also looking for eco-apparel store, you might also want to check out Envi located on Newbury Street in Boston.

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in Porter Square, Cambridge, Greenward is an independent
boutique specializing in eco-modern

Monday-Wednesday, Friday, Saturday: 11am-6pm
Thursday: 11am-8pm

For directions, click here.

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Web 2.0 Meets Fashion


A quiet revolution is starting in the fashion industry one mouse click at a time, which may chisel away at monolithic brand dominance. Web 2.0 is seeping into online apparel through retailers such as which offer products driven by and/or created by the marketplace, e.g. consumers.

With its thousands of users not only creating its T-shirt designs, but also rating designs and eventually buying them, Threadless is a great example of a flourishing e-fashion marketplace. relies exclusively on its web users and customers to create, upload and rate designs. The best designs get produced and sold. Users rate the designs, e.g. anyone can rate the designs for free. With thousands of users, the model is sustainable and effective for ensuring adequate demand for supply.

As such, threadless demonstrates a near perfect supply-demand nexus with demand directly linked to supply and vice versa: the more popular the T-shirts, the more they produce. Incentives are built in to ensure optimal design submissions. Winning designs receive $2000 cash, plus a $500 gift certificate, as well as an additional $500 every time their design is reproduced.

The e-marketplace is perfect for not only incentivizing designers to create the next hottest look, but also for encouraging designers to go the next step and market and eventually sell as many of their shirts as they can. As such, threadless does not own nor contract any fashion designers themselves. Their users are their designers. And they appear to be doing exceedingly well.

What’s interesting is that while I as expecting an ‘itunes’ store, or ratings arrangement, whereby the site informs users which T-shirts are the most popular, the site refrains from doing this explicitly. The only information provided is how many people voted on an item. It does not tell you what the composite (or average) score is. It appears that wants you to blindly vote, or rather to vote with your honest opinion, uninfluenced by others.While this is an interesting model, I must say that it also has its downsides.

For someone without a lot of time (a.k.a. myself), who does not want to sift through 379 Tee-shirt designs, I find it very unappealing to not know which ones are more popular than others. It would be helpful to know which are the top hits – and then spend the 5 minutes or so, clicking through those. However, honestly, while there were some really innovative and exquisitely designed Tee’s in the store, there was also a lot of crap, too. It would therefore be useful for threadless to either:

  1. Reveal the composite (average) score on T-shirts, or
  2. Do some of design prioritizing so that viewers can view just the top 25 or so.

Nonetheless, threadless has created a flourishing marketplace with thousands of interesting and unique designs. The best of the best are produced and sold, and I believe they are the first of many on-line (e-fashion) stores to emerge in this kind of market paradigm. Expect to see more such stores, and likely beyond fashion as well.


Photo source:



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Biomimetic Waterproofing: Finisterre is Hot

UK company Finisterre, who got their roots in high technical surf gear is now breaking new ground with their tremendously innovative waterproofing gear. As a deviation from the Buffalo clothing concept from Patagonia, this new technology uses a combination of fibers piles in a hydro carbon coupled with a high density fiber that mimics body dynamics (to allow for breathability) – much like animal fur. As you sweat, moisture droplets are collected in the face of the fabric. The fabric is designed in such as way that the more you sweat, and the harder you work, the farther away the moisture droplets get from your body. The current system is designed by Nikwax Analogy.

This company is definitely worth checking out.

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The news is that they aren’t manufacturing in China any more, have introduced beeswax impregnated poly-cotton fabrics, garments of traceable merino wool, and embraced recycled polyester fabrics, whilst simultaneously dropping laminated waterproofs in favour of what they see as a biomimetric alternative. No, not the much vaunted lotus leaf fabric, instead they take their cue from animal fur. After the fold we chew the fat in an extended interview with the guys from Finisterre as they explain in detail just how this all works.
Buffalo uses a fiber pile worn next to the body – a combination of capillary action and thermodynamics keep the wearer warm and relatively dry when working hard.
Biomimetic waterproofs use a fiber pile worn away from the body and then waterproofed [we think they mean water resistant] in a hydrocarbon d.w.r [durable water repellent]. The result is very similar to animal fur and its performance revolves around two points.

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From Finisterre


Moving closer to our ambitions is a gradual process and in order that we maintain our focus, every single one of our garments is designed under a number of initiatives. Throughout the product descriptions over the next few pages, you’ll see where each initiative, via its motif, has been applied to which product.

Biomimicry – The imitation of systems present in the natural environment and the application of their design to man-made products.

Natural Advantage – Solutions built by nature.

Reclaim, Reprocess, Reuse – A multi option recycling programme relating to what happens to the garments after their life.

Eco-circle – The world’s first closed loop polyester recycling scheme.

Horizons – From manufacturing ethics to sustainable development, this focuses on building transparency in our practises and those we work with. In the current range, this is divided between the Storm Track and Humboldt, both made as part of a rehabilitation scheme run by nuns in Colombia. The remainder of the products are made in the EU (Portugal) in a facility that has the top ISO accreditations. As well as this, we also aim to keep everything we do here as local as possible.

ZQUE – Worlds first traceable chain that combines Merino with an accreditation programme that ensures environmental, social and economic sustainability, animal welfare and traceability.

Green Festivals in DC Oct 6-7: Eco-Fashion Highlights

Green Fashion will be a core element of the Green Festivals this weekend in DC. Throughout the two days, a variety of vendors will be showcasing their products and approaches. The weekend is packed with well known and inspiring guest speakers, exhibitions, and opportunities to shop and have fun. Here’s a preview of some of the eco-apparel vendors:

Green Label
Ethnic Pride Marketing
Hemp Elegance
Kusikuy Clothing Co
Organic Fred

If you are in the area, come check it out!

The schedule is available at




Jonano presents a collection of luxurious organic clothing to uplift the senses and help preserve this unique planet we call home. Nurture yourself as you wear your values in luxurious style.







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Edun and the Economics of Green Fashion

In scanning the current green fashion landscape, a handful of companies provide 100% organic products (e.g. bamboo, coconut fiber, organic cotton, ramie and hemp) coupled with fully organic processes. Yet, far fewer companies factor in the importance of the global economy and its impact on the environment.

Africa is a perpetually under-represented trade region of the world contributing just 2% to global trade (2005), yet constituting a significant 12% of the world’s population. Meanwhile, poverty, drought, political unrest and high morbidity and mortality rates continue to ravage the region, simultaneously escalating environmental damage on a range of issues.

Edun is one company that has considered the crucial intersection between global trade and environmental sustainability – and provided a brilliant solution.

Placing fair trade at the forefront of their business model, Edun sources all their fabrics in Africa and uses African entities to produce/manufacture the clothing. Even though they are not 100% organic yet, they are working towards that goal.

While it is necessary and wonderful to provide fully organic fabrics coupled with low carbon footprint production processes, it is equally essential to create opportunities for under-represented regions of the world to enter into the global market.

If we do not do this, we will find ourselves tackling an increasing portfolio of insurmountable environmental problems worldwide. On the other hand, if we create “green” market solutions (such as Edun) that not only provide essential jobs, but also minimize environmental footprints, then we truly can have a lasting impact. Edun was founded in 2005 by Ali Hewson and Bono with NY clothing designer Rogan Gregory.

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EDUN is a for-profit business founded on the premise of trade, not aid as a means of building sustainable communities. The company works on a micro-level to help build the skill sets of the factories where the clothes are produced. EDUN is currently produced in India, Peru, Tunisia, Kenya, Uganda, Lesotho, Mauritius and Madagascar.

In addition, EDUN acts as a voice encouraging the fashion community to do business in Africa and thereby help bring the continent out of extreme poverty. In 1980, Africa had 6% share of the world trade. By 2002, this had dropped to just 2% despite the fact that Africa has 12% of the world’s population. If Africa could regain jut an additional 1% share of global trade, it would earn $70 million more in exports each year. This is several times more than what the region currently receives in international assistance.

Bono, Ali, Rogan

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“Eco” Fashion Week in London

Here’s to a powerful showing of ethical and green fashionistas in London this week. For the first time, eco and “people” friendly fashion acquired its own rightful place at the week-long event. ‘Esthetica’, the eco exhibition, featured designers from Ciel and Enamore to Davina Hawthorne and Samant Chauhan, some of the hottest, most talented designers in the field. Notably, many of these young artists not only demonstrate their uncanny ability to source creative eco products and materials for designs – all with low carbon footprints, but more than a few explicitly embrace fair and ethical trade practices.

We are entering a new generation in which it is not only possible to create and sell sexy, hip, environmentally conscious clothing, but it increasingly is a necessity. The very definition of hip, I believe, has transformed to include socially and environmentally conscious design practices.

Interestingly, Esthetica reveals a huge range in product, design, materials and approaches. Hetty Rose for example takes used high end Kimonos and integrates them into stunning, individually crafted shoes for women. While not inexpensive, these shoes are a work of art: contemporary, fun, elegant and hip. The best part too is knowing that the material, as re-used, is not contributing to additional carbonization of the planet.Also worth noting is Noir– which appears to be the sexiest, most striking line of the week. Proving that green can be hot and hip, Noir took an impirial, dark and almost militaristic approach to their sexy designs this year. Catchy indeed- the clothes are powerful and hot, serving to drive home even deeper that green-ing is achievable, one baby step at a time. Noir is not 100% organic, but they are working toward that goal, one thread at a time.

Finally, I’d like to make note of Samant Chauhan, a new designer from India, whose knitware work is obvious in its ingenuity. This man is clearly a visionary and one step ahead of the crowd in terms of his designs. While some may say, the designs appear too odd, off-beat or strange at times, I would argue that Samant may be onto something. Inspired by the Asian pulse of fashion, he bridges the gap between East and West: fusing two typically opposing paradigms to create one very unique look. Furthermore, given that Asia constitutes the fastest growing consumer market in the world, and houses close to 3 billion consumers — I can only guess that the work of designers like Samant will be increasingly influential.

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Another new initiative at the Exhibition @ London Fashion Week is Estethica,
it will be the hotspot for ethical fashion, designers will show collections founded
on ecological and organic principles. Maintaining the highest standards in design
and craftsmanship, all the labels here including Katharine Hamnett and From Somewhere
are creating high end fashion without compromise.




hetty rose



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Eco Boutigue ‘Migrate Home’ Opens in San Diego

This store is another good example of a green fashion outlet opening up in the higher end fashion market. There are an increasing number popping up– Migrate Home looks like they have the right combination of hip, hot and green-ness. Admittedly not perfect. Boynton is doing what she can to make her clothing products as green as possible. She is buying existing brands and stocking them in her store. Would love to check it out.

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Migrate%20home%20logo.jpgJust walking through the front doors of Migrate Home, you begin to feel better. Owner Lindy Boynton wants customers to know that you don’t have to sacrifice style to be green and therefore designed her studio to be comfortable and also environmental. Recently I sat down with Lindy to talk about the opening of her new store and all things fashionably green.

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