In an exclusive interview with Arlene Kidd, one of the Brand Directors at Keela Tactical, we delve into the company’s three-decade journey of providing protective clothing solutions to military and armed forces.
These range from fabric technologies to product ranges tailored for both men and women.
We discover how they’re setting themselves apart in the industry and their vision for the future.
Keela Tactical has carved a niche in the military and armed forces apparel world. Harry McNeil sits down with Arlene Kidd, one of the driving forces behind Keela Tactical, to learn about the company’s journey. Arlene offers insights into the company’s origins, emphasising their unique selling point, the “System Dual Protection”.
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Their latest offering, the Valkyrie range, is designed exclusively for women in the military. Arlene explains how this range addresses the unique needs of female personnel with a product tailored to the female form.
Harry McNeil (HM): Can you tell us more about Keela Tactical’s history and its past 30 years in providing protected clothing solutions to military and armed forces sectors?
Arlene Kidd (AK): Keela Tactical was born out of Keela Outdoor, where we started manufacturing products for the military. Our main USP is for the System Dual Protection system, which is unique to Keela; there was a development by Keela Tactical to make clothing that would reduce non-freezing injuries, especially in cold weather, and reduce condensation or manage condensation within the garment system.
We are 100% a manufacturer, we manufacture everything in our factories. Nothing is exported to different locations from unknown factories; we have total control over everything. We’re vertically integrated right the way through from product design to sourcing to production patterns, you name it, right the way through to final design, warehousing distribution.
We’ve been around for the last 40 years, but as I said, we started as Keela Outdoor, and Keela Tactical is now about 20 years old. We sell into Israel and the UK militaries, and we’re also about to head across the Atlantic into the US federal and military sides.
HM: The company prides itself on using advanced fabric technologies. Can you provide more details about some of these technologies?
AK: The System Dual Protection is one of the main innovations because that goes into all our cool weather and water systems. We use the best possible materials within our products. We don’t skimp on certain things. Everything in there performs and enhances the product.
We will go out to many smaller mills and have them develop special yarns for us, different weave systems; where we feel there is a requirement that we can’t get from the normal supply, we will develop ourselves.
That could be on the torso of our backs, jackets, trousers systems and baselayers. We’ll try to develop the best possible product for the job at hand or what is required from different theatres, whether in hot or cold weather.
HM: The introduction of the Valykrie range for women in the military was exciting news, so what unique features and benefits does this range offer to female personnel, and how was it developed to meet specific needs?
AK: Okay, Keela Tactical products are quite well-known in the UK for the military. Many women are buying those products but were buying the standard unisex jacket, and we got many calls from them personally, whether it was by email, whether it was through word of mouth, whether it was an exhibition saying, “Please, we love the product we know it performed, could you make a women’s range?” Yes, rightfully so, they should have a women’s range.
Because we’ve got a lot of outdoor experience, we have a women’s range within there. We know the general size patterns to work for, and most of our fit is easily transported into Keela Tactical. We would take a lot of standard core designs and make them for the female form, which would include reducing shoulder areas, bringing them in, and giving them shape so it doesn’t look like a straight up-and-down potato sack.
It is geared to the female form. Short in the arms, not having so much fabric around the arm area, and just an all-around, better-fitting product that is more flattering to the female form.
HM: In your view, what sets Keela Tactical apart from other manufacturers in the same field?
AK: Very few in this industry are manufacturing anything themselves. It may be designed and imported complete—many industries buy in from China ready-made products. Brands tend to be design but not production. We’re a one-stop shop; we do everything under one roof, right the way through, from spinning to the end user developing, designing, manufacturing, choosing the fabrics, and distributing it all the way through from start to finish.
I can’t think of one company that does what we do. Especially in our product design, every detail is looked at. If there is a complaint about something from feedback from the customer, we take that on board very much.
HM: So, looking ahead, what are Keela Tactical’s plans for the future? What are your goals for the future, especially in terms of product innovation and sustainability practices?
AK: Well, sustainability has always been at the heart of what we’ve done in the outdoor sector. It just carries through the whole ethos of the company and what we stand for, as far as that’s concerned. We want to provide the best possible value for the end users. We never overpriced our products. It’s not all about profit. It’s being able to provide something that does what it says on the label. We try to make sure that the customer is satisfied that we get the best possible quality product.
Most importantly, we give it at the best possible price. We don’t spend masses of money on marketing; everything we built up has been through word of mouth, done exceptionally well on that, and we’re a UK-based company. We’ll continue to do that, keep developing, keep innovating, and be ahead of what everybody else is doing and offering more to the customer at the end of the day.
HM: Thanks. I appreciate your time.