Company Q & A 5/8/2013

Nau Q&A with Mark Galbraith, General Manager

Nau Q&A with Mark Galbraith, General Manager

Nau (pronounced now) is a men's and women's outdoor and lifestyle clothing company that was started in 2007 by Eric Reynolds, a former co-founder of Marmot.

The Portland, Ore. based company prides itself on making sustainable urban + outdoor apparel designed for the modern mobile life and do so by successfully blending fashion with function.

"Nau's core mission to use business as a force for positive change is an affirmation that every day counts and that your work can have greater meaning than just answering emails and looking at numbers," explains Nau's General Manager Mark Galbraith in an email response. "We work on the principle that design can change the world."

We spoke with Mark Galbraith, Nau's General Manager, about the company's core design philosophy, popular designs from the past and what to expect from Nau in the future.

"Everyone at Nau is a participant in a creative studio environment and we use that good design and creativity to solve our challenges."

Where is Nau currently based, and why?
Portland, Oregon is our home.  We view ourselves as global citizens and always keep this perspective. However, as Timothy Leary always said, the set and setting play a key role in defining the trip. So, the setting here in Portland, Oregon is key to what Nau is about.

We live in a unique mix of urban influence and culture surrounded by amazing natural landscapes. You can ski or ride on Mt. Hood in the morning, mountain bike our trails mid-day and enjoy the city’s great food and shows in the evening, then hit the coast the next day. Creatively and politically, it is a progressive and sustainably minded city with an amazing choice of great neighborhoods to live in. It is an affordable place to live and has a young and vibrant creative culture. Also, we make clothing and the weather here in Portland creates the perfect testing ground for high-tech performance outerwear that looks great and is useful in both city life and outdoor activities.

What is unique about Nau?
Nau's core mission to use business as a force for positive change is an affirmation that every day counts and that your work can have greater meaning than just answering emails and looking at numbers. We work on the principle that design can change the world. Everyone at Nau is a participant in a creative studio environment and we use that good design and creativity to solve our challenges.

How do the following words relate to the company: sustainability, philanthropy, and innovation?
Innovation and sustainability are at the core of our design philosophy. We think of sustainability in 3 areas. First, the raw materials you use to make product. All of our materials are sustainable. We focus on natural and renewable fibers that are produced with the lowest impact. Certified organic cotton, recycled and recyclable polyester and traceable wool are the key fibers we use. We have a restricted substance list and test for all toxic inputs.  Second, we consider the social aspects of our business model. We have a labor standard for the sewing factories we use. They agree to the standards and are audited by an independent third party. We also give back 2% of sales to non-profit groups working for positive social and environmental change. The third area is aesthetics and use. All our products have a classic and timeless style. We shun momentary style trend and the consume-and-discard model. Every Nau product has technical performance attributes and performs in use from outdoors to city life. To meet all these design principals we are constantly innovating fabrics and designs. It is a continual effort to strive for the ideal garment.

clockwise from top left: Down Sweater & Motil Pant ; Modus Trench & Boundary Long Sleeve Shirt & Motil Pant ; Vice II Blazer & M2 Knit Scarf Stripe ; Synfill Stretch Hoody & M2 Knit Scarf Stripe

What’s new at Nau - what products or designs is the company currently working on?
We are currently working on Fall-Winter 2014. We are focusing on our Women's collection and expanding our offerings in jackets, trenches and blazers with fresh silhouettes and fabrications. We are also working to expand our offering of technical performance fabrics and expanding beyond recycled polyester for our waterproof shells. We have a collection of cotton and wool fabrics that perform in weather and have a less tech look.A lot to look forward to.

Which products or designs do you see as growth opportunities for Nau?
Our #1 growth opportunity is increasing audience for the brand. We are a very young brand with a small, but growing community of loyal fans.The additional area for growth is to fill out our product offering and expand from our core expertise in Fall-Winter outerwear into more four-season offerings and expanded sportswear offerings.

How important is having a talented and supremely dedicated team?
It is the only thing that matters. Great ideas and the ability to bring them to life are all dependent on a talented team who works seamlessly together.

Historically, what have been the most popular products from Nau?
Our outerwear has always been the most popular pieces at Nau. The combination of sustainable and high-tech performance fabrics crafted in sleek modern silhouettes with subtle urbane inspired colors and no gratuitous external logos are what we are best known for.

clockwise from top left: Treble Jacket & M2 Tight ; Outre Down Trench ; Repose Dress Long Sleeve ; Synfill Blazer & Pinner Pocket-T & M2 Knit Scarf Stripe

What challenges has the company faced after six years in business?
The challenges of pioneering a new category of product, examining all our business practices and trying to do things in a new way; and doing this during the most challenging economic times in decades.

And where do you see the company in another six years?
It will be the reference brand for useful performance, sustainability and design excellence.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working at Nau?
To me, it’s making your passion and creativity part of everyday work. That, and the people you share that with.

Do you have particular favorite products or designs from the Nau catalog?
My essential kit always includes the following:

• Men's Vice II Blazer - the perfect blazer for mobile life
• Men's Down Shirt - core insulation without the Michelinman look
• Men's Wool Patrol Hoody - a waterproof shell in a wool fabrication
• Men's Motil Pant - the perfect weight tech pant for riding a bike, climbing or camping, but looks like a 5-pocket jean 

Thank you for your time and thoughts Mark. For more on Nau, including the history and details on the company's sustainable urban + outdoor apparel, head to, or find them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.