Interview With Ian Yolles, Founding Member of Nau

Lots of companies talk change, but not many actually do it. The word “sustainability” is so trendy right now that it’s easy to lose sight of what it actually means. But there’s one company that’s really pushing the boundaries of social and environmental consciousness in the fashion industry, practically setting the standard for what it […]

What’s the philosophy behind the Nau retail model? Do you see this model being replicated across other industries?

We designed our retail model based on our observations of changing consumer shopping habits in the internet age. Nowadays, many people go to clothing stores and try on items to find the right size and then go home and surf the web to find the best price. Using this information, we created what we call our Webfront stores. Customers can come in and try on any style in our line. If they want, they can purchase their items and take them home, like a traditional store. But if they select our “Ship-to-You” option, they get a 10% discount on their full order and we ship the items, free of charge, from our warehouse to their home. This allows us to keep a smaller inventory in each store, which means we have smaller stores and spend less to build the stores and less on all the associated operational costs. In addition to the economic efficiencies of the model, there are also various environmental efficiencies, enabling us to reduce our overall ecological footprint.

Could this work for other industries? While there are certain aspects of the model that work particularly well for apparel, it is quite possible that many types of retail stores could operate in this manner. Judging by our customer response, we wouldn’t be surprised if others adopted the methodology.

Which other fashion labels or designers should we keep our eye on for things to come?

We began Nau because, as far as we knew, there were no other companies in the apparel market designing product combining beauty, performance, and sustainability. Many companies were excelling in one of those areas; a few in two. But no one was doing all three. The last thing the world needed was just another outdoor and lifestyle apparel company, but one that could combine those three aspects might just be on to something. So, in terms of our particular field, we still think we’re the ones to keep an eye on. Is that too prideful to say?

Of course, we’re far from alone in the marketplace of ideas. We do take a great deal of inspiration from designers in many fields, architecture in particular. We admire designers who are rooted in their craft but add a modern day, contemporary sensibility to their work, rather than the more common depersonalized approach. People that have provided us with inspiration include the architects Jacque Herzog and Antonio Gaudi. And of course Bruce Mau’s idea that design is about combining a multidisciplinary set of ideas as a disciple to create positive change is also of great interest to us.

Read more about Nau on their website, and buy something at their sample sale at the Openhouse Gallery, 201 Mulberry St., March 6-9.

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