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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Archive for the Partnerships Category

The Uncommoners: Meet the Ambassador of Food

Posted by leighann | March 12th, 2014 | Filed under Partnerships, Positive Change, Sustainability, Who We Are


Last month, we asked for nominations for our next Uncommoner. Submissions poured in: tool makers, bike builders, community organizers, milliners, compost cultivators. The choice was difficult. But after careful consideration, we’d like to introduce you to our newest Uncommoner. She’s an entrepreneur, teacher, food advocate, and Board member of Slow Food USA working at the crossroads of policy, education, and food sovereignty to change the way we eat. And she makes one mean cabbage dish. Meet Katherine Deumling, the Ambassador of Food and brainchild behind Cook With What You Have

OTG: Describing you as a chef doesn’t fully encompass what you do. Tell me about Cook With What You Have. Sure, it’s intuitive, but what is it all about?
Katherine: It’s about eliminating this fear that food must be fancy, that you must have expensive tools, and lots of expensive ingredients. It’s about eliminating the common perception that cooking and eating is a complicated process only for those with time and money. Because it isn’t. It’s a right, not a privilege. But it’s become this huge divider.

My whole love and joy is to teach people that food can simplify and enrich your life. It can help you feel good— socially, physically, and mentally— and get rid of all the noise. And it’s a great equalizer. Whether I’m working with my Early Head Start families who have rich cultural traditions, but little resources—little time or little money—the joy of simple food is something that can be part of daily life. It’s a way of cooking that enables you to eat with the seasons and support your local farmers. In the words of Michael Pollan, “This is one of the most radical acts we can do, to cook and to garden.” It’s nourishing, relevant, communal, culturally interesting and it ties us all together.

It’s one thing to learn recipes and it’s another thing to shift perspective on how people use ingredients in the kitchen—to spend less at the grocery store and waste less food, yet be inventive, creative and fun.
It’s true. My one-liner is often, Why Not? Because when the recipe says ½ tsp of oregano, people are scared to deviate. Have a leek, but don’t have an onion? Why not? It might not be something you serve to the queen, but why not? And you saved the money and stress of going to the grocery store.

How does your philosophy around food intersect with sustainability, food security, and climate change?
It’s best summed up by the concept of food sovereignty. Unlike food security, which typically references calories but does not go deeper—as in where or how or by whom and under what conditions the food was grown, processed or even prepared—food sovereignty brings all of those elements together.  It includes culture and agricultural/agroecological practices that dominated the world’s agriculture until just 60 years ago. Working towards or regaining food sovereignty means farmers having access to seeds in the public domain (rather than patented terminator seeds), access to land, infrastructure for local or regional distribution and hope for a fair price and fair working conditions. All of these things are under pretty serious threat in many parts of the world.

Is this why you’re involved in organizations like Slow Food?
Yeah, I lived in Italy for years, but I didn’t learn about Slow Food until after I came back to the US. The Slow Food philosophy reflects so much of what I care about and it has quite radical beginnings. When Carlo Petrini founded Slow Food, his first two initiatives were longer lunch breaks and fair wages for famers so that they could actually have the time to eat and enjoy the food they grow.

Besides being part of Oxfam USAs’ Sisters on the Planet program where you work as an ambassador of food justice at a policy level, you’re also a teacher. And you mentioned something about a secret project you’re working on?
Yes. I work with companies, government agencies, and hospitals in their wellness programs. For example, I teach at Good Samaritan Hospital in their Diabetes and Weight Management program. I also train Early Head Start in-home staff. I also write recipes every week for multiple local CSAs. I get a list of what is in each farm’s CSA box, and I have 48 hours to write six or seven recipes for each CSA. It’s an inefficient process. So I’m transitioning from creating hyper-customized content for each farm to creating a tightly curated, well-designed, subscriber-based website that archives over 600 recipes. That way, I can market it to far more farms and individuals in the area for less, and it’s a more sustainable economic model.

You have a lot on your plate. So where are you going with all of this?
I want to elevate storage crops. Locally grown beans and grains are unbelievably nutritious. And they’re great for eating economically, eating lower on the economic food chain and creating less of an environmental footprint. There are some great farmers who are taking some big risks at growing them in the valley with huge investments in the equipment and the machinery. I want to help those farmers who are making that investment by introducing consumers to these delicious, affordable and nutritious products.

To learn more about Katherine, visit her website at

Meet the venerable Jun Kang, Nau’s new President

Posted by leighann | February 12th, 2014 | Filed under Partnerships, Who We Are


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 or post in the comments below, and we’ll select a few to feature in our next interview with Jun in the Thought Kitchen.

The Uncommoners: Exploring the Other Side of Ordinary

Posted by leighann | October 29th, 2013 | Filed under Design, Partnerships, Who We Are


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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Nau Waypoints – Ohiopyle Falls

Posted by Alison Wu | October 17th, 2013 | Filed under Partnerships, Photography, Travel


  PROJECT: Waypoints – Scenic Overlooks LOCATION: Ohiopyle State Park, PA SUBJECT: Ohiopyle Falls

Here are a few more scenic overlooks to add to our why-haven’t-we-been-here list. Thanks to our fall partnership with Yonder Journal, we have peeked over the edge of some of the most awe-inspiring and hidden overlooks in the US. This week they take us to Ohiopyle Falls (and a few stops along the way). To follow this journey and those to come, join us on Instagram (@nauclothing) as we share photos coupled with historical and geographical notes from the field.

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Yonder Journal + Nau: Waypoints Project

Posted by Alison Wu | September 11th, 2013 | Filed under Partnerships, Photography, Travel

We’re going on a two-month adventure with Yonder Journal. It’s a journey that will take us back in time and across the country to peek over the edge of some of the most iconic and hidden overlooks, also known as “Waypoints”. Join us in the Thought Kitchen each week for in-depth briefs, and follow us on Instagram (@nauclothing) daily as we share photos coupled with historical and geographical notes from the field.

LOCATION: Mather Point Scenic Overlook – Grand Canyon


Field Notes: Weather in the Grand Canyon varies according to elevation. The forested rim is high enough to receive winter snowfall while along the Colorado River path of the inner gorge temperatures are similar to those found in Tucson and other low-elevation Arizona desert locations. Conditions in the Grand Canyon region are generally dry with substantial precipitation occurring twice annually. These follow seasonal pattern shifts in winter (when Pacific storms usually deliver widespread, moderate rain and high-elevation snow to the region from the west) and in late summer (due to North American monsoons), which deliver waves of moisture from the southeast causing dramatic localized thunderstorms fueled by high daytime temperatures. Average annual precipitation on the South Rim is less than 16 inches (35 cm) with an average of 60 inches (132 cm) of snow.

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Nau Takes NYC By Bike

Photo: Lavish Livez Instagram

To commemorate bike month, we took a small group of friends on a curated bike tour from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Each stop along the way brought to life our unique perspective on sustainability, craftsmanship and the modern, mobile lifestyle. Here’s a quick glimpse into our pedal-perfect day.

Getting Oufitted
We started at HUB in the West Village where we were each fit with our custom Dutch-inspired Brooklyn Cruisers. While the week’s sunny weather had taken a turn, it only added to the spirit of the tour. Most of us simply put on an extra layer with a Dose Jacket or Motil Trench, and we were on our way.

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Engineering the Perfect Ski: An Interview with Pete Wagner

Posted by leighann | January 8th, 2013 | Filed under Design, Outdoor Sport, Partnerships

Courtesy of Wagner Custom Skis

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.

Pete putting the final finish on a pair of Wagner Custom Skis. Image courtesy of Wagner Custom Skis.

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.

Courtesy of Wagner Custom Skis

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.

On the Border of Syria: A Dispatch from Mercy Corps

Posted by Guest | January 2nd, 2013 | Filed under Partners for Change, Partnerships, Personal Reflection, Positive Change

Hasna and her seven children fled the civil war in Syria with practically nothing. Mercy Corps-distributed clothes, blankets, mattresses and gas heating supplies will help them through the winter. Photo: Jeremy Barnicle/Mercy Corps

This week in the Thought Kitchen, Jeremy Barnicle, Chief Development and Communications Officer for Mercy Corps, one of our longstanding Partners for Change, travels to Jordan to give us a first hand account of the Syrian refugee crisis and what we can do to help.

Mafraq, Jordan — I am sitting on the floor of a cold, crumbling single room dwelling just on the Jordan side of the Syria-Jordan border.  I’m sipping Turkish coffee, surrounded by a family of Syrian refugees.  The coffee isn’t warming me up much: it is December and it is freezing.

My host is a lady named Hasna Erhael.  She’s a 36 year old mother of seven, six of whom are girls and are sitting with us.  Her oldest child, a 15-year-old boy, is out collecting recyclables to make some money.  Hasna and her family fled Syria a few months ago when their town came under attack by the Syrian army.  Her husband is back in Syria fighting the regime and says he won’t stop until they have taken Damascus.

They came over the border with nothing, and nothing is pretty much what they still have.  They rent this room with help from relatives.  No work.  No school.  No toys or art supplies.  No furniture. No electricity or heat.  No running water.

I don’t want to make Hasna sound like a victim — that’s certainly not how she sees herself.  She tells me she and her family just need to be able to eat a little bit and they’ll be able to hold out until the fighting ends and they can return to Syria. But she is nervous for her girls: “They have nothing to do.  They miss school and they are totally bored.”  They are clearly struggling, and that’s where Mercy Corps comes in.

We are working with a local religious leader to identify Syrian refugees — more than 15,000 of them are hunkered down among the 60,000 permanent resident — and help meet some of their basic needs.  Right now, we have the money to help about 1000 refugee families in Mafraq get prepared for winter: that means we’ve giving them winter coats, blankets, kitchen supplies, food packages, gas heaters and gas.  In general, we are a “hand-up not a hand-out” kind of operation, but in times like this we do our best to bring struggling people some measure of material comfort.  Mercy Corps is providing similar support to Syrian refugees throughout the region.

Mercy Corps is proud to be a partner of Nau.  Support from Nau and its customers allows us to meet the needs of people like Hasna and her family.  For more on our response with Syrian refugees, click here.  

Jeremy Barnicle at the Zataari refugee camp in Jordan. Mercy Corps drilled the well, which will serve all 40-plus thousand Syrian refugees in the camp, plus tens of thousands who live in neighboring communities.

Pendleton: Good for the Earth (literally)

Posted by leighann | November 15th, 2012 | Filed under Partnerships, Sustainability, The Collective

Pendleton was a staple in the Northwest long before wool was considered cool and sustainability was a buzzword. For the past 150 years, our Eastern Oregon neighbors have been sourcing local wool and weaving jacquards and plaids into the American fabric landscape. This holiday season, as part of the Nau Collective, we’re honored to bring you their Cradle-to-Cradle certified Eco Wise blankets made in the same woolen mills the classic Pendletons have been made for over a century.

Here’s a little inside knowledge on their Eco Wise Collection, courtesy of our friends at Pendleton. 

Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool® passes strict standards of sustainability and stewardship. Sounds admirable, doesn’t it? But those lofty words would mean nothing at all if Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool® products weren’t soft, richly colored and luxurious to touch.

There are many products out there claiming to be green. Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool® has been Cradle to Cradle Certified© by MBDC, a respected product and process design firm dedicated to promoting sustainable production. If you’re curious, you can find out more here.  The best way to explain it? If you were to take a Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool® blanket and bury it (but please don’t), it would leave the earth better, not worse, for the addition.

Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool® is an innovation in the Umatilla wool we’ve woven for over a century that uses nontoxic biodegradable dyes. Pendleton is known for the depth and intensity of our colors. Vegetable dyes are not as stable as chemical dyes, and the formula took some tinkering, especially the red spectrum. But with a great deal of trial and a reasonable amount of error, we produced Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool® that we could guarantee for quality.—Pendleton

The Naked Truth about Nudie Jeans

Posted by leighann | October 9th, 2012 | Filed under Design, Partnerships, Positive Change, Sustainability

 Here’s to Nudie Jeans, our new Collective partner, going 100% organic. Check out their instragram contest and win a trip to Italy to see how premium organic denim is made.

Here’s a sobering statistic: it takes 2/3 pound of pesticides to produce enough conventional cotton to make one pair of jeans. Apply that fact to the over 450 million pairs of jeans that are sold in the US every year, and well, you get a few more zeros and a much more sobering statistic

That’s why, six years ago, Nudie Jeans—our new Collective partner— set a goal: to make their entire line of premium, high-quality denim using only 100% organic cotton by 2012. It was an ambitious goal. Entire supply chains have to be reevaluated, new fabrics developed, and old business practices reexamined.

We get it. We make these decisions every day. But for the Swedish-based company, they had to rethink everything—from design to manufacturing—in order to create premium, well-fitting denim that wouldn’t compromise their style or ethics.

Here’s what Maria Erixon Levin, Nudie Jean’s Founder, had to say about the company’s journey to organic:

“Sure, it has taken time, but we have maintained the courage of our convictions during a period that has seen a number of eco-trends come and go. For us, this is a question of lifestyle, and one of our core values. Since starting up back in 2001, we have remained focused on issues around sustainability and the environment regardless of the demands of the market or our customers, in a time when price has been a key factor. Prices have often been so low that quality, as well as organic and CSR-aware production have been sacrificed as a result.

We have chosen to work with organic cotton regardless of the trends of the day. We are often asked if our values are a marketing tool, or something requested by our customers. The answer is no. It’s a choice we make in the boardroom, and a choice we make during product development. We believe our commitment to organic production should be part of our pricing and quality profile.

In 2006, we invited all our material suppliers and laundry operators to join us in a discussion on sustainable development in the industry. And today, we are especially proud to say we offer 100% organic cotton across our entire range of rigid, stretch and selvage denim. This is a vital stage in the evolution of the Nudie Jeans philosophy. We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has been with us along the way.”

This season, we’re proud to partner with Nudie Jeans to bring you their first collection of premium denim crafted entirely from fine Italian and Turkish organic cotton. Clean, minimalist construction, classic European style, and none of the bad stuff.

Shop select women’s and men’s Nudie Jeans’ styles on, or find out more about Nudie Jeans on their website.