The end of Nau


“We only deserve to exist if our products and our practices are capable of contributing positive, lasting and substantive change. We want to be that company, that positive, lasting, substantive company. We’ll screw up sometimes, but we’ll own up to our mistakes and keep moving forward, questioning assumptions in our efforts to get better.” – from Nau, Not Just Another Outdoor Company

Our office was shocked and saddened by the news on Friday that Nau, the Portland-based clothing company that aspired to do business differently (we’ve mentioned them previously here, here, and here), was closing up shop. We’d watched Nau grow up in our own backyard through their insightful and entertaining blog, the Thought Kitchen. We’ve had the opportunity to share conversations with some of the people responsible for forming the Nau brand. And we greatly admired their business goals.

We can only imagine how heartbreaking and overwhelming it was to come to the decision to begin the process of ending their journey. From their blog:

Nau set out to show the world that business can be a force for positive social and environmental change. Although our current financial obstacles have proven to be insurmountable, it does not mean the ideas associated with Nau are unattainable. Nau was merely one attempt to express a larger idea that was around before us and will survive long after. It remains as urgent as ever for businesses to take the lead in creating a sustainable future for humans and the planet. We, as individuals and as members of a grander collective of the change-minded, look forward to continuing that journey.

I feel guilty that I strongly supported the brand in principle, but couldn’t support it in practice (the clothes were way too expensive for me to afford at regular prices). I mourn the loss of a passionate voice from the collective story that makes Portland a great city. And I guess what troubles me the most is the fact that a brand that did what it believed, cared deeply about what they were doing, and always asked “why,” can ultimately end up out of business. It’s a sobering thought that those who set out to make meaning could end up without enough capital to stay open.

But I still deeply respect why they started Nau. I still think their objectives and business practices are the things that drive people to truly believe in a brand: a deed brand. In the end, we can’t let this fear of failure (if it even is a failure) keep us from setting our expectations extremely high. If we never try, if we don’t strive for greatness, we will always wallow in mediocracy.

We wish all of our friends, colleagues and peers at Nau the best of luck in spreading their ideals and business ethics to the brands and companies they end up with once the doors are finally closed. Their vision will continue to inspire and drive all of us to always do better. These seeds of change will help transform the way business is done. They will help change the world.

More on Nau:
A great write-up from the folks at Mavericks at Work: Nau: Ahead of It’s Time?
The Nau Blog: Goodbye for Nau

p.s. If you act fast (it may already be too late), you can purchase “collectors items” for 50% off from the Nau site.

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