A fashion range includes raincoats, blazers, vests and a polo shirt capable of stopping a bullet from an Uzi submachine gun.
Twenty minutes after meeting Miguel Caballero, I found myself backed against the wall of his office, with a .38 calibre revolver trained on my stomach.
“These are lead hollow points, so when they hit the target they cause a lot more damage,” he said. “I’m going to start counting, and when I get to three I’ll shoot you. But don’t worry, you won’t feel anything.”
Caballero, the self-styled Giorgio Armani of body armour, is probably the only tailor in the world to make a habit of shooting his customers.
He has made a fortune selling bulletproof clothing to nervous politicians, businessmen with dangerous rivals – and now schoolchildren.
He launched his business in the early 1990s, selling protective jackets to police officers and politicians caught up in Colombia’s dirty war. Since then he has expanded his range to include raincoats, blazers, vests and a polo shirt capable of stopping a bullet from an Uzi submachine gun.
He also does a line in stabproof under-shorts, reportedly very popular among inmates of Mexican prisons.
Caballero’s clients have included a clutch of Middle Eastern princes, various Latin American presidents (including the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez), Prince Felipe, the heir to the Spanish throne, and the Hollywood action star Steven Seagal – who ordered a bulletproof kimono.
Business is booming: Caballero has opened shops in Guatemala and Mexico – both countries engulfed by drug-fuelled violence. In 2008 he opened a concession in Harrods, catering mostly for Russian oligarchs and Middle Eastern potentates.
The jackets, which depend on heavy layers of synthetic fabric to provide protection, are not the most comfortable items to wear . Nor are they cheap: jackets in his new summer line will set you back £80,000.
But they are effective: after shooting me at point blank range, Caballero digs the bullet out of the armoured panel directly above my right kidney. It is hot to touch, and crushed like a grape. But he was right – I didn’t feel a thing.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010