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|Monday, January 01, 2007|
Portland clothing company Nau plans to build its future on social responsibility.
By Oakley Brooks
In late 2004, the handful of people starting outdoor clothing company Nau faced a tossup. Founder Eric Reynolds, who started the legendary Marmot outdoor brand, wanted the company located in Boulder, Colo., where he lived. CEO Chris Van Dyke, a former Nike exec, wanted it in his hometown of Portland. Van Dyke won out because he stood firm on two things: He wasn’t moving to Boulder, and as he puts it, “this is an Oregon company.”
Nau (pronounced “now”) is a bold venture looking to set a new standard for corporate citizenship in the high-profile apparel industry — an effort so concerted that even the Nau clothing color palette is chosen for longevity to prevent wastefulness. For that, “this is a better place,” Van Dyke says, sitting in Nau’s headquarters in Portland’s Pearl District. “There’s a thoughtfulness here. And as a brand, being from Oregon is a huge plus.” Indeed, the company’s image and the look of its clothing seems to be springing from the sophisticated-yet-outdoorsy culture that has come to define Portland. (It also hasn’t hurt that there’s plenty of creative apparel minds around town.) “The identity of the place is really something to be celebrated,” says Ian Yolles, Nau’s vice president of marketing.
IF A STARTUP’S FUTURE SUCCESS were based solely on a management team’s experience, Nau would seem headed for the stratosphere. Soon after Reynolds (who’s since left Nau) talked to Van Dyke about the company idea in mid-2004, Van Dyke assembled a seasoned group of eight interested folks drawn from his days as a top marketing executive at Nike and Patagonia.
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