You might have heard; we’ve been eating a lot of Korean food lately. We’ve also been busy celebrating the year of the Blue Horse with a spacious new office, beautiful spring line, and—yes—even new owners. The Korean-based, outdoor brand, Black Yak and Nau have officially tied the knot.
This week in the Thought Kitchen, we’re honored to sit down with Jun Suk Kang, Nau’s new President, to find out what’s ahead for Nau and Black Yak, what’s going to change, and what he thinks about being voted one of Portland Monthly magazine’s most fascinating dinner guests.
OTG: What compelled Black Yak, a Korean company, to purchase Nau?
Jun: It’s an interesting history. It started with my personal interest in the brand. I was in the States studying in 2006 and 2007 when I discovered Nau and this new concept of merging the outdoor and fashion markets. I really like the brand and kept my eyes on it over the years. Then last year, we found out it was for sale. The most compelling aspect of the acquisition is what we both bring to the table. Black Yak is a leading outdoor brand in Asia and we have the resources and infrastructure to make Nau a global brand. And Nau has a tremendous amount of creativity and innovation. We knew that if these two companies came together, we could do great things.
So it’s a merging of cultures, so to speak.
Oh yes, the cultural aspect is quite important. Because at Black Yak, we are good at long-term planning, organizational structure and analytical decision-making. Once we make a decision, we are fast and powerful. On the other hand, the Nau culture is more creative and idea-driven. It is free and flexible. Black Yak can adopt more of the creative ideation while Nau can adopt more organization and structure, which will be very synergetic.
So now that you’ve had six months with the brand, what aspects of the original vision will remain?
At Black Yak, we believe in Nau and in the overall concept and direction and do not want to change it. However, one of the only things that will change will be Nau’s exposure in the market. We want to deliver Nau to more customers in more markets.
I know a big question on the minds of our consumers is “Is Nau’s view on sustainability going to change?”
The sustainability part is one of the core values of Nau. It’s one of key concepts that sets Nau apart. There is no reason for us to change this or give it up. In fact, I believe we should be more focused on sustainable practices like fabrics, what manufacturers to work with, and how to be sustainable in the retail marketplace.
What’s your vision of Nau moving forward?
My vision is to make sure more people around the world know about Nau, what Nau stands for, and why you should choose Nau. My goal is to make Nau the best sustainable brand in both the outdoor and fashion market. I also want to make Nau the most fashionable brand in the outdoor market and the most functional brand in fashion market.
You recently sent out an email to the Nau team welcoming 2014 as the year of the Blue Horse. Why is this significant?
People in Asia believe that the blue horse represents stability, power, agility, stubbornness, perseverance and independence. It represents the beginning of something new. It’s also a very energetic, auspicious and passionate time to start new things. I have a very good feeling this year will be pivotal in Nau’s history. Bring on the year of the Blue Horse!
In December, you were featured in the Portland Monthly as one of Portland’s most fascinating people and someone they would invite to their holiday party. If we were to invite you, what should we serve?
I’m a big fan of Italian food. I’m also a big fan of wine. And good people, of course. Good food, good wine, good people. Another reason why I love Nau. Lots of great people.
At Nau, we value transparency in every aspect of our business. Do you have a question you would like to ask Jun? Send us your inquiries to email@example.com or post in the comments below, and we’ll select a few to feature in our next interview with Jun in the Thought Kitchen.
Four friends. Four days. No limits. What would you create? That’s what a group of friends had in mind when they set out to build a Geodesic dome. Two months later, their passion-fueled venture landed them a coveted spot at Summit, a Davos-meets-Ted conference for young thought leaders. Self-named the Escape Collective, this fledging group of makers, creators and designers are our third portrait in the Uncommoners—our blog series dedicated to exploring the other side of ordinary.
But this isn’t a story about how to build a 30-foot, low-frequency geodesic dome or how to sew a massive waterproof cover composed of 256 panels of unused material from Nike golf bags (yes, that did happen). This isn’t even a story about the Escape Collective and the other 800-or-so entrepreneurs, artists and leaders they joined at Summit’s newly acquired Powder Mountain Resort last July. No. This is a story about freedom, creativity, and the ideas born out of unencumbered space and time. Because as Einstein once said, “Creativity is the residue of time wasted.” And in a world punctuated by deadlines and deliverables, no one embraces this lost maxim more than The Escape Collective.
We all know them, those friends who work behind-the-scenes, who fly under the radar while doing extraordinary things. They build stuff. They make things. They grow goods. And they do it quietly without the need for accolades or recognition. They’re our friends and neighbors. They’re the humble warriors who live their passion everyday and create positive change. They’re people like Katy Anderson. Known by some as the Lady Carpenter, Katy—as her moniker suggests—is a skilled craftswoman in a man’s world. She’s also the first portrait in The Uncommoners, our new Off-The-Grid series dedicated to exploring the other side of ordinary.
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This week in the Thought Kitchen, Peter Kallen‚ Senior Designer, talks inspiration behind our new fall collection and why we believe good design is efficiency and beauty in its purest form. No accidents. No distractions. Just simple, effortless, uncompromising design. It’s something the natural world has been doing right for some 4.5 billion years. That’s why our fall line-up draws inspiration from the world around us—how we move within it, how we interact with it, how we perceive it—to create timeless, intuitive apparel for real life.
Shop the collection on nau.com.
This fall, our collection takes inspiration from the greatest source of design excellence. We harnessed the most efficient, intuitive and effortless force that has ever existed and transformed it into an apparel line that fuses the natural and the manmade. This means sustainable luxe fabrics, intuitive construction, and minimalist silhouettes. It means more refined style and foolproof technical performance. It means blending the tailored and the technical to create a sophisticated line of apparel that can not be defined by landscape or geography.
Here’s a sneak peek of what’s to come.
We got a nice chuckle out of last week’s The New Yorker cover by artist Marcellus Hall depicting the much-anticipated (and much-hyped) launch of New York City’s new bike sharing program, Citibike. Even though it joins hundreds of bike-sharing programs already in existence, you’d think the media darling was the first of its kind.
Here’s a sobering stat: 80,000 chemicals are currently used around the world today. Most of these chemicals are untested and a surprising portion are used to make your clothes. From dying and finishing to spinning, ginning and even laundering, chemicals are used in every step of the textile process making even natural fibers unsustainable. But the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA)—along with Jamie Bainbridge, our Director of Textile Development and Sustainability—is spearheading an initiative that hopes to change all of that. How? By adopting a mission of continuous improvement and establishing a carefully cultivated list of preferred chemicals. Sounds simple, sure. But first the OIA has to convince an entire disparate and often complex global manufacturing industry that sustainable chemistry is good for business.
Last Friday, around 2pm, Mark, our GM disappeared. It was shortly after consuming a pomegranite margarita (no salt) and a taco platter. Of course, this is not unusual. Mark has been known to mysteriously vanish only to suddenly reappear days later with a grin and a suntan. This time, he resurfaced on a Monday morning smelling of sulpher and parched earth, surely evidence of a desert escapade. But he was gracious enough to write us a virtual postcard so we wouldn’t have to rely on an Edward Abbey quote to complement these few captured moments.
The desert is a diaspora for the displaced, a refuge from our hyper-saturated social scene, attracting the margins of society— mystics and malcontents, desperadoes and drug runners, rednecks and ranchers, artists and anarchists.
It’s an environment that expands our visual and perceptual horizons. —Mark
Pared-down blazers, lightweight shells and new skin-soft, eco-friendly fabrics converge in our most extensive spring offering yet. Introducing our 2013 Spring Collection—an exploration into the beauty of minimalism and the sweet intersection of freedom and movement. Here’s a glimpse of what’s to come.
How do you build the perfect ski? All you need is some sugar maple, Kevlar and the world’s most badass computer algorithm. Oh, and you need Pete Wagner, too. The computer-nerd turned ski-craftsman who started Wagner Custom Skis is single-handedly changing the way an industry makes skis. This week in the Thought Kitchen, we sit down with the man behind the planks to learn more about the number cruncher and his coveted custom boards.
OTG: It’s a bluebird day in Telluride and you’re on the phone talking to me. I’m honored.
Pete: (Laugh) That’s alright, I got out this morning.
OTG: You moved to Telluride in 1998 with a mechanical engineering degree and an impressive career customizing high-end golf clubs. So how does one make the leap from computer nerd to ski-maker?
Pete: Well I bought a pair of telemark skis that I couldn’t demo. But they were the right size, length, width, and they were from a good company, so I bought them anyways. I skied on them for about 70 days, then tried another set and realized I had been crippling myself. At the time, I was working as an engineer developing software for design analysis and manufacturing of golf equipment and I thought, why wasn’t anyone doing this type of fitting technology for skiers? I was spending my energy trying to figure this out in a parallel industry. So that’s what inspired me to create the software for fitting people into the right ski.
OTG: Funny, when I think of making skis, I don’t think of software. And the few boutique ski-makers which do exist in the country mostly rely on precast molds, but you don’t use molds, you use—as you said— software. How’s that possible?
Pete: Our software designs the skis and programs our manufacturing equipment to fabricate all of our parts for the skis. Using high tech machinery, we fabricate all of the components of the skis—the base, bending the steel edges, the wood core, sidewalls, structural layers. Then we use the scrap material from cutting out these different parts—along with our computer-controlled milling equipment—to create the molds for our skis. So every ski gets a unique mold which allows us to go through the same steps each time we build a product, but build a completely unique product every time. It’s a mass customization manufacturing model.
OTG: So would you say Wagner Custom Skis are the most customized ski on the market?
Pete: As far as we know. Because every ski we design is uniquely optimized for the individual skier based on length, width, side cut, tail shapes, camber, and rocker. We calibrate the stiffness and flex pattern based on a person’s size and skier preferences. We choose the perfect set of materials, and they get to choose their own graphics.
OTG: You also use Kevlar and Carbon wraps with a traditional wood core. Why do you choose these materials?
Pete: The way we build our skis is the way they built World Cup skis back in the 70’s, and that technology hasn’t changed that much. We take proven materials that work well for ski construction, performance and longevity and we focus on the fit. That way, we can create a design that can help improve someone’s balance, comfort, control, efficiency and power. Ultimately, we create a product that makes skiing easier and more fun for people, and we do that by focusing on the fit rather than trying to reinvent the wheel with materials.
OTG: I think you just answered my next question, but I’ll ask it anyways: How is a Wagner Custom Ski going to change my experience?
Pete: It’s going to help your balance, comfort, control, improve your efficiency, allow you to conserve your leg strength and energy so you can ski longer in the day. It also improves your power, so you can ski with better control and more fluidity. If you look at the best skiers in the world like Bode Miller and Ted Legity, you realize that they aren’t skiing in off-the-shelf skis. They’re sponsored by a company which has a small prototyping shop with a team of dedicated engineers which are making sure that they are on the perfect equipment that will allow them to ski at their absolute highest potential. That’s what Wagner Custom Skis does for recreational skiers. We’re a team of engineers and craftsmen who help people ski their best by making sure they are on their perfect fit equipment.
OTG: Well, I’m sold. At Nau, sustainability and performance are two of our core values. And you already touched upon performance as your core value, but how is sustainability reflected in your business?
Pete: We focus on two things: energy and conservation. From an energy perspective, we have a solar thermal system that is on the roof of our building which supplies all of the heat and hot water for our shop. We buy wind energy to run our computers and factory equipment. From a conservation approach, we try and minimize our energy usage by using programmable thermostats and energy efficient lights and work stations to conserving the materials we use and minimizing our waste stream.
OTG: Many people don’t realize that there’s a personal component to sustainability which involves maintaining a sustainable work/life balance, something that’s hard to do as you become more successful. Obviously, you’ve done just that, so how do you strike a balance?
Pete: One thing that we do to help us stay focused on that balance is that we have a Powder Day Clause. So if the snow report for the Telluride Ski Resort shows five inches or more, we work from 1pm to 9pm so that we can get out and take advantage of the best skiing.
OTG: Excuse me, I think I need to go convince our GM to include a Powder Day Clause.