Utne Blogs > Environment

Nau Don’t You Cry

 by Keith Goetzman


Tags: Environment, green living, sustainable business, Nau, apparel, Horny Toad,

We at Utne Reader were bummed out to hear in May that the Portland-based sustainable apparel maker Nau was shutting down and selling off it stock. Our disappointment wasn’t just because Utne Reader had partnered with Nau on promotional events like a showcase at South by Southwest, or because some of us had grown quite fond of the stylish, eco-friendly clothes in which they outfitted us. It also stemmed from the fact that Nau was a sort of standard bearer for the sustainable business community, and its demise was a symbolic blow that seemed to portend trouble ahead for its peers.

But wait! Save your dire predictions for another day. Sustainable Industries reports that California-based apparel maker Horny Toad has agreed to buy all Nau’s remaining assets. Under the deal Nau will be a part of Horny Toad, though its line of products and brand name will remain independent.

The really great news? Horny Toad CEO Gordon Seabury intends to preserve the best aspects of Nau’s business model, including using organic and recycled textiles, reducing environmental impacts, and donating a percentage of profits to partner nonprofits. This mode of doing business is “an untouchable aspect” of Nau, Seabury tells Sustainable Industries.

Nau will of course be a different company. Only 12 of its 60 headquarters employees remain in the new iteration of the firm, its five stores will stay closed—it will sell products through other retailers—and the product line will be trimmed. But it’s clear that for at least the next three to five years, Seabury’s stated timetable for profitability, Nau’s groundbreaking spirit will live on.