You’ve likely seen them on Casualty, or perhaps worn by a passing police officer, rescue worker or similar professional. Hard-core outdoor enthusiasts are also familiar with the Keela brand of jackets and associated performance gear that have been designed and developed in Scotland for more than 30 years.

“Yes, you’ve probably seen our jackets on TV, but you’re not likely to realise that they’re ours,” says Sam Fernando, Keela’s sales director. “The programme makers wanted to get an authentic feel, and we’ve been making gear for emergency crews for decades, so we were happy to help out.”

Based in Glenrothes, Keela UK turns out approximately 165,000 pieces annually for the professional and retail market. It also has a wholly-owned factory in Sri Lanka producing an average of 30,000 pieces a month for clients around the world.

About 70% of its protective clothing and accessories are purchased by police, fire, medical, military and outdoor services, with the remainder for retail through its network of stockists across the UK.

The origins of the brand date back to 1973, when Ms Fernando’s father Rube and two partners set up Ardmel Automation. Its seam joining machines and associated consumables were originally used in the construction of car interiors.

Having patented the world’s first seam-sealing machine – a revolution in the capabilities of waterproof clothing – Ardmel began receiving enquiries about whether its equipment could be used to manufacture outdoor gear. It began working with clients such as Barbour, British Telecom and Police Scotland before finally setting up its own brand with the establishment of Keela in 1989.

Through the years, two of the three original founders left the business. Rube Fernando, 76, remains as managing director, with his daughter Sam as sales director and son Arwan in the role of operations director.

The final member of the management-ownership team is technical director Arlene Kidd, along with approximately 50 further members of staff across the Ardmel and Keela operations.

Ms Fernando says that while growing up, she never intended to join the family business: “I kind of got sucked into it,” she explains.

“My father would bring my brother and I in at the weekends when he was babysitting. My mother was a nurse, so when she had to work at the weekends, my dad would take us with him to the factory shop.

“But back then, I always thought I wanted to do something else.”

She graduated in 1994 with a BSc Hons in Maths from Strathclyde University and then went to Nottingham where she worked for a year in sales before her employer closed shop.

“I was at a bit of a loose end,” she recalls. “My dad said why don’t you come and do this with us for a while, and I said OK, I’ll give it a shot.”

She continued to be based out of Nottingham for the next four years as a sales representative for Keela before returning to Scotland in 2000 to become sales manager in charge of representatives throughout Europe.

It was during this period that the business won the first of two Queen’s Awards for innovation. The initial accolade came in 2006, when Ardmel was recognised for its development of ultrasonics as an alternative to sewing in the construction process. Two years later, Keela was awarded for its System Dual Protection technology, a fabric that manages condensation within waterproof gear through a two-layer system.

Firmly entrenched in the family business by that time, Ms Fernando stepped up to sales director in 2008, where she took the lead in advancing the firm’s long-standing focus on ethical and sustainable production. This remains a key tenet for Keela and Ardmel, which today has a combined UK turnover of £8 million.

“Part of it is about value for money – I guess that is our Scottish side coming out,” she said.

“But I think it’s also a generational thing – when the business was set up, that was in a time when you would repair things – you didn’t just chuck them away.”

The company’s “Clothing Hospital” has been carrying out repairs and alterations on Keela garments for decades, and has been known to restore jackets as much as 20 years old to their previous performance levels.

It was the first Scottish clothing manufacturer to sign up to the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP), and strives to incorporate environmentally friendly processes into its daily activities.

Ms Fernando is also a board member of the Outdoor Industries Association (OIA), a trade body with more than 200 members from the outdoor recreational sector. One of its main objectives is to get more people active outside, with the associated benefits for physical and mental health.

“It is really nice how the industry is pulling together to do some good and help address some of these big issues,” she says. “It is all about trying to make a positive change.”