You’ve probably heard the news by Nau: It’s back! (Sorry, couldn’t resist… and that one actually worked. Grin.) I have had the privilege of covering Nau’s comeback for, and with that has come the treat of meeting Mark Galbraith, Nau VP of Design, and Gordon Seabury, president of Nau’s new sister company, Horny Toad. HT purchased (saved!) Nau about six weeks after its close. Nau’s fall/winter line had already been designed before the company’s close in May, and Mark was generous enough to share an exclusive preview with me. More behind-the-interviews info at the end of this post, but for now, I proudly present: Nau Fall/Winter! The major details of the Nau+Horny Toad partnership are covered in the World changing article, including the evolved approach to webfronting and Community Partners, and where Nau will be sold in the future.

My inquisitions about how much Nau would change were all answered with confident assurances that it will remain just as transparent and innovative a company as it’s always been — and, more importantly, that both companies will end up stronger together than they were apart. Like Nau’s new use of Planet Access Company for its distribution. Ah, PAC… it has my heart. A first-rate distribution center employing developmentally disabled adults in Chicago, Gordon worked on the side to found this company a year after founding Horny Toad in the mid. When we talked, his passion for this cause was clear and sent us both on a little digression. He told me about how the idea for PAC came about.

“We’ve always wanted to be the best environmental citizen we could be,” he says. “Where we can be leaders is in the social space, and now more and more of our peer organizations are thinking about this. It gives Nau a whole other social responsibility venture.” (Amen!) “When our relationship with Nau started, I was most excited for PAC,” he said. “This will really put their organization on the map.” What Horny Toad offers to Nau in this new distribution partner, Nau offers to Horny Toad in paving the way for it to join the webfront model, the Community Partners program and incorporating more sustainable materials. “We’re at about 70 percent sustainable with our products now,” Gordon said about the HT line. ‘We’re trying to close the gap to 100 percent.”

Mark recapped a wonderful list for me of how Nau will still lead the sustainable fashion sector:

  • Factory code of conduct with a third party audit by a non-profit labor group for all garments we produce.
  • Restricted substance list for dyes and finishes — many companies use some percentage of organic cotton or recycled material but do not look at dyes and finishes. The testing for these substances is also done by a third-party lab.
  • All our textiles are of the highest level of sustainability: All cotton is 100% certified organic. All polyester is recycled and designed to be recycled at its end-of-life. Many companies use a blend of organic and non-organic cotton or only a percentage of recycled poly with virgin poly. Generally this is to done to keep costs down and margin up. Our approach is to maximize the sustainability of our garments. The only non-organic or non-recycled materials we use are very small percentages (2-15%) of performance fibers that are not yet available in sustainable options. These are fibers like Spandex, which give a garment stretch and good recovery over the life of the product.
  • Sustainable design aesthetics and functionality, which includes ideas like: Multi-functional garments you can use for sport and daily life. You can buy less stuff that works over a wider range of activities… urbane to outdoor. Color and design aesthetics that are timeless and classic. Durable, well-made garments that last. All these ideas are a solution to the consume-and-discard mentality and the need to have a specific outfit for every activity.
  • Garment care: All our garments are designed for low-impact care. No dry cleaning needed. All can be washed in cold water with good results.
  • Giving program that is customer choice directed.
  • Close partnerships with non-profit change agents.
  • Garment end-of-life programs: Garments are designed with an end-life strategy in place. They either can be recycled into new garments/fiber or composted.

On the outside, the two companies will continue to operate separately. On the inside, they will combine their strengths into not one, but TWO brands that will innovate and change the way we shop. Which tells me that this time, Nau is here to stay. With its new partner close by its side. Still want more? Treehugger broke the Nau 2.0 story with a wonderful overview, including more about the impassioned consumer response that was the impetus for re-birth (just read these comments!). Nau’s blog, The Thought Kitchen, is chronicling the transition from the inside.


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