Golf News Hub Interview: How one Bay-Area apparel maker shifted quickly to masks

Full Swing Custom Apparel Surgical Masks
The new DistanZ Health Masks from Full Swing Custom Apparel.
Full Swing Custom Apparel

Full Turn Custom Apparel made a major pivot once Covid-19 arrived.

Since 2006, Oakland, Calif.-based Full Turn Custom Apparel has provided made-to-order threads for clients that run the gamut, including resorts, specialty retailers, pro sports teams, colleges and corporations. However, shortly after Bay Area residents were told to “shelter in place” on March 17, and similar edicts spread across the U.S., many of Full Turn’s clients put a pause on their orders. It was time to get creative.

Full Turn CEO Mark Killeen asked his team, “If Ford Motor Company can transition from cars to producing ventilators, why can’t we create masks?” Soon, DistanZ Health Masks was launched, and they began producing masks made from the same high-quality materials found in its shirts. We caught up with Killeen to see how the operation is going:

Golf News Hub: Every business in America has been affected by the virus. How is Full Turn holding up?

Mark Killeen: On March 17, our golf business came to a screeching halt as many of the courses, resorts and products we work with froze their businesses as well. Luckily, we were able to get spring lines to places like St. Andrews, but told to hold on any further production until further notice. We needed to figure out alternative plans and fast.

How did you decide to produce masks?

Ultimately, the main goal was to protect our employees and keep them on payroll. After consulting with my board, we decided the best way to do that was to transition into making face masks for those in need. We spoke with our supply chain on how we could use the same materials for outdoor apparel and from there, DistanZ Health Masks was born.

How challenging was that transition?

Well, the good news was we already had most of the materials and workforce already in place, i.e. sewing machines and seamstresses. But we saw some other companies rushing to market and not delivering the highest quality product. We wanted our masks to match our golf apparel, so we began by cutting up many of the golf shirts we had in stock to create a consumer-friendly heath device but at the same time, not compete with needed medical supplies.

How long did it take to get things up and running?

It took us a few days to get all the materials needed to be back running at 100% again. We then had to make sure our overseas production in South Korea was fully confident in the new operation. Once we were pleased with the finished product, we began shipping orders on Saturday, April 4.

How many masks do you produce each day or week and where do you send them?

We’re currently at 500 a day, but we can probably do a bit better since we are limited on sewing machines and sewers. We’re currently putting together at-home kits to get the number up to 750 each day. We’ll be sending them to medical workers, golf clubs, local businesses and organizations and anyone who wants to order through our new website. Our factory in South Korea will be making specialty bamboo masks, which use earth friendly, anti-microbial and organic cotton in an ultra-comfortable mask.

Did you or your team have to take pay-cuts or make any other sacrifices to keep things going?

We all had to make financial sacrifices, but we are happy to report 100% of our workforce is still employed and now helping save lives each day. A percentage of each purchase will go to medical-inspired charities as well.

What does it mean to you to be able to contribute supplies to those on the frontlines?

The driving force was initially to support our employees, and then it became so much more. We all agreed if we could do something for people in need, it would mean the world. Seeing the first box of masks being shipped to medical workers was a very powerful moment for all of us. We look forward to providing a need throughout this difficult time.

How do you think your company, and the game of golf, will be different after the virus?

Wish I had a good answer, but I feel this will be a moment in time that will change our country and the world as World War II and 9/11 did. I believe there will be a real resurgence in the golf industry because people will want to be outside and doing what they love. One of the best things people can do after all of this is over is to take a walk with friends in a beautiful setting.

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