Today we are speaking with Gabriele Heib, head of international sales and Kurt Lang, co-owner and managing director of KELA. Keck & Lang GmbH was founded in 1903 and can look back on a long history and tradition. Based in Germany between Munich and Stuttgart, the family-run company offers an extensive range of quality products for the home, kitchen and bathroom. Their quality textiles, and design-focused bath accessories and décor are popular around the world and have made Kela a famous home goods brand.
Gabriele and Kurt, was there a pivotal event or product that propelled the early success of your business?
Not really. What began in 1903 with the manufacture of brooms and brushes today continues in the development of new products for home and bathroom. The brand name Kela was launched in the early 1990’s.
When did you first visit our Show, or when did you begin exhibiting with us?
Two years ago, in 2015 we visited Chicago for a market study and to see the Show. It convinced us that for our entry into the American market, it would be a must to exhibit at the International Home + Housewares Show. So with the opportunity to be included in the Discover Design area in 2016 we exhibited for the first time.
Where do you find inspiration when designing new products?
Fashion influences bath textiles; bathroom tiles, ceramics and furniture influence bath accessories. Observing those trends at fairs and specialty magazines gives us a foundation for “fashion” designs. However, functionality and quality ground the Kela mission statement. This moves us to use the highest quality materials like brass and stainless steel 18/10 for bathroom products but also acrylic or PS plastic for the lower price ranges. Our products are subjected to a wide range of tests for stability, strength and durability. We also make sure our materials are skin-friendly, bio-degradable and environmentally compatible.
Everyone in our company uses our products or similar ones and everyone on the staff has ideas to improve functionality. We listen to our people and so everybody can influence functionality and design.
Are there any specific designers, places or eras that influence you?
For textile products we cooperate with a team of French designers experienced in the textile business.
How do you choose which idea to take to the next step — to product development?
First we decide if the product matches the Kela brand. We next ask ourselves if there is a market for this idea. Further we check if the product advantages are significant compared to other products in the market. And of course, we must consider the production cost and the resulting public sales price, the competition and the overall market situation.
How do you identify the key user audience for your products?
The target group is the young family. This is what several sources, such as analysis from our own online-sales or statistics from our customers, show us.
Is there an approach or look that joins the functionality, form or emotional appeal of your product line?
First we set a high value on a long-term, easily comprehensible functionality; then we emphasize an emotional appearance so that the key user desires the product immediately.
How do new technologies influence your product design? How do you use social media?
We already use 3D-printing and in 2016 we just implemented a new division which is dedicated exclusively to the professional use of social media.
Where are your products manufactured?
Products are produced in Asia and Europe wherever we find the best production facilities. As you can imagine when you see our wide range, we need different factories with different competencies and from different countries or areas where they are specialized in this production. Our product management and purchasing departments are always searching for the best of the best. Further, an integrated approach focused on quality in every sector of operations is essential in our company. This means that we help the factories to help themselves in advance and we have quality control on site and in Germany again when the products reach our warehouse.
How do you see design’s importance in our industry as it moves forward?
Design is the only chance to differentiate from low budget products.
Can you give us a preview of what you will be showing in your booth in Discover Design?
The “Liam” range is one of many attractive new lines which will be featured at the Show in Chicago. Free standing towel holders and toilet sets, laundry baskets, dust bins, towels in new pastel colors and designs and a wellness collection of bathmats complete the varied range of products.
Tell us about your previous experience with Discover Design and how our Show helped build your relationships with buyers and media.
As it was our first approach to the U.S. market, we went to the Show to get contacts. We got great leads to online and physical store retailers, to distributors and logistics companies, and last but not least to the IHA which supported us a lot after the Show.
Thank you, Gabriele, for this enthusiastic overview of your company and your Show experience. We look forward to seeing your latest products in March at your booth N8140 in Discover Design.
Learn more about Kela products.
Discover Design is the premier destination at the International Home + Housewares Show for trend spotters who make design their priority. Nearly 200 design leaders will present their products in all Show categories to delight retailers looking for the unique.
Located at the front of the North Building, Discover Design is anchored by renowned brands such as Alessi, Nambe and JosephJoseph. Discover Design welcomes new exhibitors, such as 3 Sprouts, Luckies of London, and Unplugged Goods and introduces 10 emerging companies at the Design Debut incubator. Additional fresh offerings from veteran design-focused exhibitors such as Magisso, Charles Viancin and Chilewich will also inspire your choices for the coming year.
Plan your visits to Discover Design exhibitors from the IHA website.