Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on May 8, 2008
“Goodbye For Nau” begins the sad letter on the Portland, Oregon-based sustainable apparel company’s website as it announces its closure after only 14 months in business. Despite the organization’s plan to turn retail as we know it upside down and establish new methods of shopping for clothes that promote greener and more responsible living, some critics say their overly ambitious business model was not as sustainable as their products. Nau, on the other hand, says the tight credit market is to blame.
Nau (which is Māori for “Welcome! Come in”), aimed to create active outdoor clothing and fashionable evening wear from renewable and recycled materials. They also wanted to create as small a carbon footprint as possible, opening tiny stores that featured reclaimed wood displays and dressing room curtains made from recycled fabric. In addition, their Partners for Change program provided 5% of sales to customer-selected charities, which added up to $223,000 in donations in less than a year.
But great ideals cost money. To the tune of $35 million in the first year. And, despite better than predicted sales during that time, the company found itself, according to TreeHugger, “unable to secure the necessary venture capital to continue operations as a start-up business.”
In any case, for those of us who have been eagerly following Nau in its hearty climb to turn traditional business notions inside out, their closure is definitely a blow. Not just to the green consumer or the 95 employees who will lose their jobs, but for the new wave of green startups attempting to forge ahead. “It doesn’t mean the ideas we’re associated with are unattainable and it doesn’t mean they aren’t important,” says Ian Yolles, Vice President of Marketing (as quoted by The Oregonian). Of it doesn’t. But it just might mean that strong convictions, an ambitiously responsible business model and well received product is not enough. And that, my friends, might be the biggest blow of all.
Best wishes to everyone at Nau.