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Fife clothing firm’s pride at completing 750,000 gowns for NHS in pandemic

Sam Fernando, Keela sales director.

Fife clothing firm Keela has just finished their 19 month mission of manufacturing gowns for the NHS.

The Glenrothes-based firm has provided over 750,000 gowns for NHS staff.

Sales director Sam Fernando is proud Keela could play a part in helping the country get through the pandemic.

She says: “It’s been a lot of hard work and the team has been amazing.

“Early on we were speaking to companies we work with in Spain who were switching their production to making body bags.

“We knew that was going to hit us and it did, so we were ready to help out.

“When the opportunity came from the Scottish government and NHS to make gowns we jumped on it.”

From gowns to dog coats

Keela specialises in outdoor clothing for the emergency services, the military and outdoor enthusiasts.

In order to meet demands, the firm doubled its workforce and moved into a new factory to allow for social distancing.

The move that would normally take up to six months was done in just 10 days.

Keela machinists created up to 3,500 PPE garments each day.

Sam says: “Because of lockdown we couldn’t get hold of anything, so the community had to come together.

“We had community halls lending us their tables, we had farmers and exhibition companies lending us their heaters because the gas wasn’t working.

“We started making gowns literally the same day we finished the move and we didn’t stop until last month.”

Now that the gown production has stopped, old and new staff are training to make more complicated garments.

Technical assistant Laura Reid checks the seals on a PPE garment.

The sales director reveals they have started making dog coats she thinks will make good Christmas presents.

Keela has also had a large order from the police ahead of COP26, allowing the force to be outside whatever the weather.

Keela championing Scottish industry

Coming out of the pandemic, Sam hopes there will be more support for the industry going forward.

“We’ve been through this pandemic and I think the government and everybody saw that the country is not as resilient as we thought it was,” she says.

“We are very much relying on overseas production.

“There is a lesson there – if we want to keep up resilience in the country we need to support the industry.

“My question for everybody is, do we really need to be buying stuff from China and shipping it over here?”

Sam Fernando is proud that Keela is part of the Scottish manufacturing industry.

Keela is currently refurbishing its new factory after being flooded last August.

It is also gearing up for its “white Friday” event, a response to black Friday, where the company will donate 15% of its sales to the charity Cash for Kids.

Sam says: “We do it every year, because we want to make sure kids have a warm jacket to go to school in.

“We sell more during that week than we do before and after, it’s lovely that a lot of people say they’re really pleased we’re giving back to the community.”

Sam was recently awarded the Woman of the Year award by the Professional Clothing Industry Association Worldwide.

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