ROCKFORD, Mich. — April 28, 2020 — Chaco, the outdoor lifestyle footwear brand, announced last month that it would shift the focus of its Michigan-based ReChaco factory and mobile factory bus from sandal repairs and product customization to the production of face masks and other critical protective equipment needed by healthcare workers responding to and working through the COVID-19 crisis. The brand has produced and donated nearly 3,000 masks.
Michigan issued a statewide shelter-in-place directive on March 23, 2020. Rather than closing the ReChaco facility outright, Chaco moved quickly to retrofit its factory to produce face masks. BISSELL, a Michigan-based floor-care company, joined the effort by donating vacuum bag material to be repurposed as filters* in the masks, providing increased protection for healthcare workers as they carry-out their essential duties.
“We are proud of our community and the response from companies like Chaco that have stepped up to retrofit its operations to produce high-demand materials needed by healthcare workers right now,” said Sean Regan, vice president, Cleaning Systems at BISSELL. “We are happy to partner on this project by donating material to provide a filtration solution that will offer increased protection to those who need it most.”
Each mask made will be shipped with multiple filters made from the vacuum bag materials, to be fitted into the dedicated slot in the mask, creating a piece of protective gear.
The ReChaco factory is equipped with industrial sewing machines, houses an ample backstock of materials, and is staffed by a production team with decades of professional sewing expertise. The ReChaco team is led by Lisa Kondrat, director of operations for the ReChaco Factory, who has been with the Chaco brand for almost 20 years.
“We at Chaco are doers. It’s not in our team’s DNA to stand by when we have the opportunity and resources to take action,” Kondrat said. “We want our skills and machinery to be useful in this crisis.”
Chaco is working with parent company Wolverine Worldwide and local organizations to source fabric and vet materials for production. The brand has shared their patterns, sourcing leads and learnings as a resource for the outdoor industry, other companies, and individuals looking to contribute during the pandemic. BISSELL confirmed they have enough vacuum bag material to produce 1.8 million filters in partnership with companies that are shifting production to masks and are in need of a filtration material to add to their design.
In addition to the ReChaco factory, Chaco has deployed their ReChaco Mobile Repair Factory bus to make face masks. The bus was developed to customize and repair Chaco sandals during their 2020 Roving Repairs Summer Tour. Outfitted with sewing machines, hot knives and other equipment for making and mending sandals, the Chaco-trained staff shifted their focus to prototyping and producing protective equipment in the Pacific Northwest. Chaco partnered with agency partner Field Scout and sister brand Merrell to source vetted fabric and materials for the initiative.
The ReChaco tour bus is currently located in Portland, Ore., and will adhere to the region’s shelter-in-place order, while working to produce and provide protective equipment for hospital systems in Hood River, Ore., and other locations surrounding the Portland area.
“Our goal here is to inspire quick and creative action from other brands and companies in our space. Chaco and Wolverine Worldwide aren’t the only companies with people and machinery positioned to help in this crisis – everyone has something they can offer,” said Josh Weichhand, marketing director at Chaco. “This is both critical aid for our communities and an opportunity to empower our teams to lead, and we know other brands with similar resources in the outdoor industry, footwear, and fashion space will also rise to the occasion.”
Posted May 1, 2020
Source: Chaco Footwear