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Horny Toad purchases eco clothier

By   /   Thursday, July 3rd, 2008  /   Comments Off on Horny Toad purchases eco clothier

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At Santa Barbara-based clothing wholesaler Horny Toad, the motto is “do the right thing.”

For more than a decade, the company has produced active wear made of sustainable materials, including 100 percent organic cotton and sustainably based fibers.

 

On June 23, Horny Toad followed its motto by acquiring Portland-based Nau, a sister in the sustainable clothing industry that was having trouble making ends meet. Nau, a trendy clothing manufacturer, prided itself on 100 percent sustainable products, and folded 12 employees in with the Horny Toad staff, bringing its national total up to 67 employees. About half work in Horny Toad’s company headquarters in downtown Santa Barbara.

“Many of the folks that are the key people that developed and worked hard to create the [Nau] brand thus far, we’re friends with and have worked with in the past,” said Tami Snow, Horny Toad’s marketing and communications director.

Although Nau was established three years ago, it only began selling its clothes at six retail outlets and online last year.

Former Nau employees transferring to Horny Toad, Snow said, are some of the most experienced and talented in the industry, which could raise the Santa Barbara wholesaler’s national presence.

“Really the brand value is in the team,” Snow said. “They know their stuff and they’re the best. They came from the Patagonia and the Nikes, so they really have an amazing collective experience.”

Horny Toad has one store in Maine and a store in Portland, Ore. so unique it’s called a “lab” known as the Lizard Lounge. The 4,800-square-foot space doesn’t sell just Horny Toad’s clothes, but also has a stage, ping-pong table, coffee available, a “Genius Bar” set-up with iMacs and a couple lounges for customers to hang out.

Snow said Nau’s six stores have closed and will remain that way, as Horny Toad will stay with its wholesaler business model. Horny Toad will still produce clothes under the Nau brand, however.

“We consider it more like we’re sisters, and there’s a lot of things we can share whether it’s product technology, back-end operations” and other aspects, Snow said. “I think we’ll be able to learn and share from each of our strengths.”

Snow would not disclose the cost of the acquisition or Horny Toad’s annual revenue.

Horny Toad currently sells its products, which include both men’s and women’s lines, to Santa Barbara Outfitters, Apricot.com and other retailers with outdoor specialties.

Horny Toad and Nau will not only blend their businesses, but also their philanthropic activities. Horny Toad started its own nonprofit called Planet Access Company, which provides job training to people with mental and physical disabilities. Many of those same participants work in Horny Toad’s operations, such as packing.

Planet Access Company will provide fulfillment and logistic services for Nau beginning this fall.

Horny Toad also founded Search for Adventure, which takes those with physical and mental disabilities and gives them the opportunity to go on vacation.

In return, Nau’s own philanthropic program called Partners for Change will continue to evolve under Horny Toad. The program allows customers to direct giving to charities through their purchase.

Horny Toad’s Chief Executive Officer Gordon Seabury got his company ramped up for serious business in 1997 while living in Chicago after acquiring it from a friend.

He eventually moved the company out to Santa Barbara six years ago because, “We wanted to live the life we were talking about,” Snow said, referring to the desire to create sustainable clothes for an active lifestyle.

The company settled downtown with five employees and has since grown 12-fold. By its spring 2009 line, Horny Toad expects 42 percent of its products to be made of sustainable materials, Snow said.

“We’d like to say that we’re 100 percent but we’re working toward that,” she said.

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