Keela: protective clothing designed for women
Keela Tactical, a name synonymous with the latest outdoor protective clothing, is a British manufacturing company that stands at the forefront of military apparel for both men and women.
At September’s DSEI event, Electronic Specifier’s Sheryl Miles had the pleasure of speaking to Keela’s Technical Director, Arlene Kidd, where she shed light on their exciting foray into female clothing that is designed to thrive in harsh military conditions.
Designed with women in mind
The impetus for Keela's journey into designing female-centric military wear was, like for many women in other STEM industries, an urgent one – brought about from the glaring absence of tailored options for women in military.
As Kidd explained: "A lot of the female soldiers would come over every time we were at a show and say, 'we'd love your kit, but it's too big.' Even on some of the smaller male officers, that take an extra small size, the garment is still built for an extra small man, not for a woman."
Keela heard the feedback and understood the need to rectify this imbalance, and so they embarked on a mission to revamp their core products to encompass a ladies' fit.
Their expertise in tailoring from their outdoor clothing range paved the way for this transition, and the feedback they’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive – with many people echoing the sentiment that it was high time someone recognised women in the military.
System Dual Protection
However, the evolution didn't stop at merely addressing the fit. It was also essential that the protective clothing performed optimally in the harshest of environments for both men and women.
Kidd emphasised the significance of this aspect, stating: "The fit can be critical in hostile environments where you need confidence in manoeuvrability."
To this end, Keela's women's range incorporates their SDP (System Dual Protection) system, designed to combat the challenges of cold weather and wet conditions. But Keela's approach goes beyond the surface, by delving into the very fabric of their garments.
“The fabrics that we use are unique to Keela because we devised the whole system, the SDP systems, everything."
The proprietary SDP system effectively manages condensation, a notorious adversary in wet and cold environments. Kidd compared it to double glazing in a house, where the condensation forms on the outer layer, unable to penetrate inside due to the presence of a waterproof membrane. The inner layer acts like a moisture-absorbing sponge, ensuring wearers remain dry even in the most challenging conditions.
This dual protection extends its benefits to military training exercises, particularly during winter, where soldiers can be stationary for extended periods.
"The condensation doesn't freeze on the inside of the jacket because in the air gap, there is nice, warm body heat," said Kidd.
This innovative approach tackles the root of the issue, addressing condensation on the inside rather than outside, and it has garnered praise from those who've experienced it firsthand.
Kidd attested to this, saying: "Every soldier that has bought it says, 'It's the only thing that keeps us dry. It does exactly what it says on the label. We love it'."
A winter release
While Keela Tactical has earned a reputation for pushing the envelope in military wear, their commitment to women in the military marks a pivotal moment in history, and hopefully stands as a beacon of hope for other areas of industry, where correct fitting garments for women are available to simply allow them to do their job.
Keela’s women's range, slated for release in winter 2024, embodies a potent combination of tailored fits and state-of-the-art protection.
"It will come out probably at the beginning of September 2024 into some of the PRI shops and some of the military retailers, plus it will be on our website to buy as well."
Pushing the boundaries of test standards
One unique aspect of Keela's journey is their proactive approach to testing. Arlene highlighted their creation of a test method that now boasts American standardisation, enabling testing under wet conditions in climate chambers. This comprehensive approach is essential in understanding and mitigating condensation issues, a challenge often overlooked in the industry's standard tests.
"There is nothing else on the market or in test labs that can do that right now."
Keela Tactical's push for British Standards is ongoing, a testament to their dedication to providing military personnel with the very best in protective clothing. They recognise that this mission applies to both men and women, ensuring all are equipped for the demanding conditions they face.
In the world of military attire, Keela Tactical is a shining example of progress. And with their women's range set to redefine the standards for female clothing in the military, they've demonstrated that innovation knows no bounds, and the quest for perfection in protection never ceases.