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Why One Small Brand Is Trying to Save the World

Noah is tackling political and environmental issues while delivering Everlane-like transparency.

Man wearing Noah sweatshirt Photo: Noah

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Noah is only a little over a year old, but it’s one of those extremely precocious babies already sorting blocks by size and color.

Born with great genes — its founder, Brendon Babenzien, is Supreme’s former creative director — Noah is getting as much right as a brand can in 2016. Noah is making political activism as much a priority as selling dope T-shirts.

The New York-based menswear brand proudly struck a political stance all the way back in July, promising (in a now-deleted post; in response to Racked’s request for comment, Noah said, “One of our employees who runs the Instagram took down the post unbeknownst to Brendon... he thought it had served its purpose.” It also added the offer for Trump supporters still stands) to give refunds to Donald Trump supporters. While other brands kept their mouths shut after the killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, Noah started donating proceeds to Black Lives Matter. “It feels completely insane to me that this even needs to be said, but Black Lives Matter,” reads a blog post on the brand’s site.

Most brands are afraid to conflate themselves with politics and alienate even one potential customer, but regardless of its size, Babenzien feels responsibility to weigh in on the issues. “We definitely wanted to raise awareness and money,” he told Highsnobiety. “We’re pretty small, so we’re not changing the game with the money we raised. But the debate might have some small impact. Our approach to everything is brick by brick.”

And while Babenzien is talking about BLM specifically in that quote, he’s used Noah to solve and face other issues. Last week, Noah announced on its Instagram that it’s holding a coat drive that will run until February — gathering outerwear for The Bowery Mission, a homeless shelter in New York City. The brand is offering discounts and a patch to anyone who donates.

Babenzien has also made environmental issues integral to how the brand operates and what it speaks up about. On Black Friday, Noah closed and actually recommended that people shop at Patagonia, a brand Babenzien has nothing to do with, because it was donating 100 percent of its proceeds to environmental groups.

Noah has a little bit of that don’t buy this jacket swagger that Patagonia has. The brand’s Instagram has posted about ways individuals can reduce their CO2 levels and, when announcing its third season, posted an Instagram that reads “It is less about what you buy and more about why you buy.” The brand puts its money where its mouth is, too, laying out how and why it pays more to buy fabrics that are environmentally friendlier. In doing so, it is betting on itself. “I believe it is only a matter of time before [environmental issues] become a priority for everyone, and we’ll see you all eventually,” Babenzien writes on Noah’s blog.

Most brands pick one issue and constantly drive that message home. Patagonia with the environment, for example, Everlane and transparency, Stella McCartney and animals, but Noah bouncing across a variety of issues makes it feel more human. These are all issues I care about, so why can’t the brands I like care about them, too? Noah feels more similar to a Woke Friend than to some corporation marketing the issue du jour.

Noah combines this care for the issues with an almost Everlane-like approach to select product releases. When the brand released the $448 Two-Tone Parka in November, it not only explained why the jacket was so expensive, it also included the below graphic showing every cent that went into production of the jacket. The product is marked up about 50 percent, which is pretty standard (it’s called the “keystone markup”). The funniest part of the whole exercise is that Noah didn’t (forgot to?) include a link to purchase the jacket in the blog post — imagine that happening at a corporation where the marketing department hasn’t already been driven to the brink of sanity.

Noah Infographic Photo: Noah

Noah often shares posts like these, which are titled “In Detail,” to explain the value of an item. Want to know why you’re paying so much for the Baby Camel Hair Hoodie ($628)? Noah’s got you. Or you’re interested in learning where the brand is getting its new cashmere from and why? Look no further.

Noah’s latest release features Keith Haring’s Mother and Child artwork on the back and the words “Peace on Earth” on the front. It might not solve all the world’s problems, but hey, brick by brick, right?