Studio Visit: Nau Clothing

We visited Nau's headquarters and took a tour with Bryanna Woll, who manages wholesale business, and designers Peter Kallen and Carma Ferrier. There are very few clothing companies that put as much intention into their designs and the concept behind the brand as Nau does. Nau donates 2% from every sale to one of it's “Partners for Change” - a program that focuses on connecting it's customers to humanitarian and environmental causes and nonprofits. Based in Portland, Nau creates clothing to withstand the elements without prohibiting style and movement. The consideration that goes into the fabrics used is intentional as well. Using organic cotton, merino wool and synthetic fabrics that contain recycled material, Nau's design team is also conscious of the dyes and finishes they put on the textiles. Nau's designs are meant to last. Season after season, the collections incorporate a classic color palette with design features that are practical for any environment – the city, the mountain or the beach. We loved learning about the interesting design amenities in the clothes, like the phone pocket that is in most of their jackets that perfectly fits an iPhone and a few credit cards. Peter and Carma graciously showed us their studio as well as some new designs that we are very excited about. Enjoy the photos of Nau’s NE Portland headquarters and insightful interview with Carma and Peter.

1. Why Portland? What was it that drew you to Portland or has kept you here?

I am a Portland native.  I have watched the change that has happened and is happening here in Portland.  I love that Portland isn't trying to court people to be here.  It exists and has always been sort of off-the-radar for so long that people don't worry so much about fitting in or acceptance.  It's more about getting into doing something and figuring it out along the way.  I think because of that it is a catalyst for creative thinking and doing - whether it be in design, music, food, government, etc..  It is a wonderful place to call home because of its creative spawning character and also its proximity to a variety of natural settings to escape to and be inspired by.

2. What are your favorite things happening in Portland (design or otherwise)?

Food, of course.  There is also some great architecture being explored. There's great music, and the art community is amazing.  I am really liking the energy and the pace of Portland right now.

3. How did your brand start?

It started with a dream to create a business model that reflects more of our own personal values, how we choose to live our lives and what we think the responsibilities of business are.  Ultimately, we wanted to use design as a vehicle for change. Everything from the product to the business model itself acts as a language to communicate and transform.

4. What has been your biggest obstacle?

So many over time, but the economy collapsing didn't help our first steps.  I think when you are bringing a new concept to a consumer base that is surrounded by a lot of tradition it can pose a lot of obstacles to overcome.  Ultimately, those obstacles become experiences that we learn from and that help inform our vision.

5. What or who inspires your design?

Our design philosophy draws inspiration from fashion and performance both separately and also where those two worlds collide.  That point of collision helps inform our design direction the most - the beautiful tension spot is a wonderful source to draw from.  Sustainability and the impact of the product in our natural world.  The natural and made world that surrounds us.  The body in motion.  Timelessness.  Creative geniuses that have taken daring steps to craft something special.  People that give a damn.

6.What are your favorite things about Portland?

I love its proximity to the natural world.  You can be up in the snow one weekend and out in the surf the next.  It has an amazing sense of community within its beautiful neighborhoods.

7. What is your favorite part of your studio?

The light, the fresh air, the people.

8. Your favorite thing about your workspace?

It is a wonderful place to explore ideas and has a neutrality that doesn't conflict with new thought.

9. Tell us two truths and a lie!

Alaska is the most northern, eastern and western state in all of the US.

All of the clocks in the movie Pulp Fiction are stuck on 4:20.

Green is the new black.

10. 5 things you can’t live without.

1. Oxygen

2. My bike

3. Inspiration

4. Open space

5. Water