The Nau pop-up in NYC at the Bicycle Habitat Soho shop is more than a celebration of all-season cycling. It’s also an innovative experiment in apparel merchandising.

The partnership is an opportunity for women who ride bicycles in the city to get to know a stylish brand of sustainable outdoor wear that’s not cycling specific, but that combines bike-friendly features of warmth, comfort and performance with silhouettes and styling rarely found in cycling apparel. For Bicycle Habitat, the pop-up represents an innovative approach to providing female customers with more apparel choices.

Shop the Nau Pop-Up at Bicycle Habitat, 244 Lafayette, Manhattan, through mid-January!

On display at the shop: Versatile Nau coats and jackets, like the water-proof, wind-proof Urbane II, with a hint of stretch, plus touches like a recycled polyester taffeta lining in the upper sleeves and hips for ease of movement and a longer cut in the back for coverage. Cowl-neck tops in a silky wool blend to pair with pants, leggings and skirts. And luxurious accessories like down scarves and cozy wool beanies. Nau’s commitment to sustainable materials and to donating 2 percent of proceeds to non-profits that serve humanitarian and social causes — including the advocacy organization People for Bikes – further connects with the eco-friendliness of city cycling.

Part of a Wider Trend

Nau’s collection reflects a broader cross-over trend in which technical performance fabrics and features blend with fashion styling for everyday wear. It’s an increasingly popular way of thinking that already permeates gym, yoga and spin class culture – with ever more offerings emerging.

Infinity Scarves Naw Pop-Up

This movement is increasingly taking hold in the world of two wheels, notably within a lifestyle context that acknowledges the growing population of city dwellers who ride their bicycles for everyday transportation and need clothing that more seamlessly and stylishly bridges performance and style.

New choices also require more sophisticated merchandising – the kind that highlights fabric content and properties, such as stretch and moisture management, and design details such as venting, pocket placement and reflective details for night safety that add value to the garments.

Thus the Nau pop-up resides in the main Bicycle Habitat store, where walk-in repairs are handled and urban bicycles and commuting gear are sold, rather than in shop’s road cycling branch a few doors north, where apparel collections have traditionally been housed.  Bern Unlimited commuter helmets and Globe Bicycles also are teamed in the holiday pop-up.

“This is the part of the store where people who would wear these clothes shop,” says Emily Samstag, a Bicycle Habitat store manager.

She says the shop views selling clothing brands like Nau in the same way it does bikes. That is, the shop seeks to educate consumers about the brands and the advantages they offer to customers’ needs.

For Nau, planting a flag for the first time in a bicycle retail store is an opportunity to showcase the brand to potential customers, giving them the opportunity to touch, feel, try on and study the features of the clothing within an urban cycling environment

Nau Pop-Up NYC Water Bottles

Thinking Out of the Spandex Box

The bike shop retail experience becomes increasingly relevant as the focus on apparel continues to widen beyond Spandex kits.  At Bicycle Habitat, the Nau pop-up shares the north wall of the shop with the Giro New Roads collection of urban cross-over apparel for men (the women’s line will debut in spring 2014), in modules that more closely resemble those seen in typical apparel stores. That’s a big move in a retail environment better known for crowding the clothes, hanging them indifferently and relying on industry-generated placards as the sum of visual merchandising. Even the use of mannequins to display coordinated outfits is relatively new.

The bike shop retail setting may have miles to go before it approximates the shopping experience most customers take for granted in other parts of their lives, but when it comes to apparel, the partnership between Nau and Bicycle Habitat is a pedal-stroke in the right direction.

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