DENNIS Uniform Repurposes Bolts of Plaid Fabric Into PPE
Generations of private-school families around the country are familiar with the expert tailoring offered by DENNIS Uniform, one of the nation’s leading school uniform makers. Early in March, the long-term Tonkon Torp client directed their expertise to where it was needed the most, mask production. The 100-year old family-operated company completely shifted their Portland production facility from uniforms to making and donating triple-ply, washable, and reusable face masks for front-line healthcare workers in their signature line of school plaids. The COVID-19 pandemic is not the first time that DENNIS has responded to a need signaled by the medical community. The company was founded in 1920 to manufacture nursing uniforms, and they supplied American Red Cross Nurse uniforms, apparel, and linens during World War II.
Speaking about their mask program, DENNIS Chairman Thomas Shipley said, “We could not be more honored to be able to share our expertise and experience, normally reserved for students and schools, with front line healthcare workers in need.”
As healthcare facilities struggled to procure medical-grade Personal Protective Equipment, official guidance for manufacturing viable alternatives was scarce. Knowing the need for PPE was urgent and growing, DENNIS designers worked with local medical professionals to develop a mask pattern that would meet the CDC guidelines for emergency-use face coverings. When it came to sourcing appropriate material, they looked no farther than their inventory of high-quality plaid fabrics used to make uniforms for over 2,500 schools.
By mid-April, DENNIS celebrated the milestone of 15,000 masks donated to local health care workers. The masks were largely distributed to facilities and workers by the Oregon Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals. Every DENNIS production team member also received a plaid mask to wear as part of the company’s adherence to OR-OSHA workplace social distancing specifications.
As the new school year is quickly approaching, DENNIS has resumed uniform production but is maintaining a mask production line and will continue to donate to frontline healthcare workers. With an increased emphasis on the importance and efficacy of face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19, and in response to a positive response on social media by parents and school officials, DENNIS has also added a solid fabric mask to their 2020 uniform catalog.