Chaco has shifted 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 and other first responders working through the COVID-19 pandemic.
After Michigan issued a statewide stay at home order on March 23, 2020, Chaco moved to retrofit its factory to produce face masks, and is also exploring specs for the production of gowns and aprons. By sourcing patterns from local healthcare systems and collecting raw materials from parent company Wolverine Worldwide, Chaco was able to put the plan in motion in a matter of days.
The ReChaco factory is equipped with industrial sewing machines, 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 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,” said Kondrat. “We want our skills and machinery to be useful in this crisis.”
Chaco is working with Wolverine Worldwide and local organizations to source fabric and vet materials for production. The brand plans to share their patterns, sourcing leads and learnings as a resource for other companies and individuals looking to contribute during the pandemic.
In addition to the ReChaco factory, Chaco will deploy its ReChaco Mobile Repair Factory bus to make supplies. The bus was developed to customize and repair Chaco sandals during the brand’s 2020 Roving Repairs Summer Tour. Outfitted with sewing machines, hot knives and other equipment for making and mending sandals, the Chaco-trained staff will shift their focus to prototyping and producing protective equipment in the Pacific Northwest. Chaco is partnering 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, Oregon 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.”