Nau in Stores

Friday, June 27, 2008

In May, Portland, Ore.–based outdoor-apparel maker and retail concept store Nau announced it was closing after failing to raise enough financing.

One month later, the eco-minded start-up is back with a new owner and a tweaked business model.

The focus on sustainable materials and environmentally responsible manufacturing is still in place, as is the brand’s fashionably minimalist approach to design. Gone are the Nau retail stores, where consumers could try on merchandise before placing an order to be shipped directly to their homes. Now Nau will be sold in other retail stores and on its Web site,

Santa Barbara, Calif.–based lifestyle-apparel company Horny Toad purchased the brand for an undisclosed amount.

Nau will relaunch with a Fall/Holiday 2008 collection beginning Aug. 1.

The company—founded by former Nike, Patagonia and Adidas executives— created a buzz when it launched in 2005 with the idea to create a new concept for retailing and manufacturing. In the two years since its launch, the company raised $35 million and soon opened stores in Portland; Boulder, Colo.; Seattle; Chicago; and Los Angeles. A portion of sales at the stores and on the Web site was donated to local nonprofit organizations, and the company’s Web site had an active following for its blog, “Thought Kitchen.” Nau garnered national attention, thanks, in part, to a documentary about the company that aired on the Sundance Channel. But financing fell short in April 2007, and the company closed its store and began selling its merchandise at discounted prices on its Web site.

Still, executives held out hope that a new investor would step in to buy the company.

“Personally I think there’s an enormous opportunity for somebody,” Ian Yolles, Nau’s vice president of marketing, said at the time. “You could come in and pick up the key assets at a fraction of the cost. I think it represents a significant opportunity for someone who could wrap their hands around it quickly.”

And apparently Horny Toad did just that. The company produces activewear for the men’s, women’s and children’s markets. Like Nau, Horny Toad seeks to be an environmentally and socially progressive company. The company was founded in 1996 and operated two stores, one Horny Toad store in Freeport, Maine, and the Lizard Lounge, in Porland, Ore., described by the company as “a retail lounge and social hub.” The company further described the Lizard Lounge as “a multi-use space that houses a cool mixture of men’s and women’s clothing, denim, and accessories with live music, local artists, free wireless and ping pong.”

In 1997, Horny Toad launched the Planet Access Co. project in partnership with Search Development Center, a nonprofit in Chicago that assists developmentally disabled people.

The program helps “provide training and meaningful work opportunities” for Search members and helps fund Search for Adventure, an adventure travel program for members of Search.

For more information about Horny Toad, visit Information about Nau can be found at its Web site, —Alison A. Nieder