When the innovative clothing company Nau unexpectedly closed its doors last May as an early victim of the credit crisis gripping Wall Street, a discouraged sigh echoed through the eco-fashion community. Nau, a pioneer of the ecologically conscious clothing movement had been a touchstone and role model for responsible design and production. Based in Portland, Oregon, Nau made Chicago its first market outside the West Coast and had a retail “webfront” in Lincoln Park.
Shortly after the Nau collapse, its name and mission were resurrected under new ownership. One notable strategic change: the new Nau would be a web retailer, with bricks and mortar a future consideration, if at all. But a new Chicago eco-retailer, Connect, is bringing the entire Nau line back to this market, led by Nau’s former regional marketing manager Jonathon Shaun. “It was heartbreaking when Nau 1.0 closed shop,” Shaun says. “Here was this forward-thinking business bound and determined to revolutionize the sustainable apparel and retail industries with philanthropy at its core, and before it had a chance to really expand throughout public domain it was forced to wind down.”
Shaun leapt into action, calling on business partners Mitch and Nate Lindsay to help raise funds to revive the mission. With Nau as its anchor brand and many other socially responsible lines such as Chicago-based bag company Noon Solar and Wired Jewelry, Connect is poised to take philanthropic shopping in Chicago to new heights. The boutique-showroom also offers its own donation-based label, Connect Organics, which gives a portion of sales back to the community. As part of a commitment to reducing carbon footprints, the guys at Connect have developed a bicycle-courier program that delivers orders to your door via a professional cyclist. And the resolve to create change doesn’t end there. Connect plans to host conscious fundraising events for not-for-profits, and has a vast network of community partners including Chicago Sustainable Business Alliance, Recycling Services and Creative Pitch. (Kari Skaflen)