By Michael O'Connell Posted November 24, 2009, 4:32 PM EST
Sustainable outdoor clothing line Nau is a suitable fit for its hometown of Portland, but a desire to connect with New York customers prompted the brand to open a holiday pop-up store in SoHo.
Instead of a traditional pop-up, Nau wanted the venue to be more of a gathering place, making it more about the brand's message than actual commerce. So it filled the spot at 69 Mercer with repurposed decor and scheduled a calendar of events that emphasized its message of community.
“We modeled the pop-up after the Lizard Lounge in Portland,” said Nau C.E.O. Gordon Seabury, referring to a concept retailer where it sells its wares. “It's like lifestyle retail meets community center—it's more than just shopping. We wanted to bring that concept to the New York market under the Nau banner. This opportunity is about being part of the community, not just shopping.”
Nau's emphasis on community started with the very bones of the pop-up, which sourced most of its decor—including all of the clothing racks and tables—from used materials. All of the items up for sale hang from fixtures made out of wood and piping. Seabury went to several burned out buildings in Brooklyn to find the materials, and worked with Charlottesville, Virginia, design firm Site Works Studio to construct them. Much of the other furniture is made from used cardboard boxes, which Nau found at various bike shops.
Other repurposed materials required less forethought. “There's so much stuff being tossed to the curb on Mercer Street,” said Seabury. “When we were building the space, we'd just scan the block for things to use. The wood boxes we turned into seating downstairs were just sitting outside.”
With everything in place, all that was left for the brand to do was fill several weeks of the calendar with in-store activities. Each week from now until New Year's Eve sees different private and public parties benefiting local institutions such as Friends of the High Line, showcasing artists Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele, and hosting musical acts such as Adrian Grenier's the Honey Brothers.
Sales still play a vital role, though, and Nau partnered with a few other labels to fill the large space. Like-minded brands such as Horny Toad, Freitag, Toms Shoes, Timberland, and Stewart Brown are also participating. But that's not to say Nau is looking for a permanent retail flagship in New York.
Seabury is currently more interested in experimenting with the pop-up formula. “I think we'll explore doing something like this in New York again, and definitely in other markets,” he said. “We're really happy with how its going, and I think this sort of thing can translate to our future.”