Page last updated at 02:05 GMT, Sunday, 15 March 2009

Designer armour arrives in India

By Sanjoy Majumder
BBC News, Delhi


The bullet-proof suit is coming to Asia.

India is about to get a glimpse of what some call the "Armani of armour".

A special range of light-weight bullet-proof clothing that can not only protect you from a would-be assassin but also make you look good.

It is the creation of Miguel Caballero, a Colombian designer, who first developed his bespoke range of clothing 16 years ago back home.

Not surprisingly, they were a big draw across Latin America among heads of state and businessmen facing the wrath of drug cartels.

'Being discreet'

"Some of our clients include President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Alvaro Uribe of Colombia and the Hollywood actor Steven Seagal," says Mr Caballero who is in Delhi to launch his collection here.

Congress party billboard
It is thought that politicians may need better protection ahead of elections

There are even reports suggesting that Barack Obama wore one of his specially designed suits at his inauguration, something that Mr Caballero is understandably tight-lipped about.

"It's all about being discreet," he says.

That's probably why the Indian range is marketed under the name, Discreet Inners.

His latest catalogue, on the other hand, could easily stand alongside leading international brands.

The glossy production showcases his Black Collection - leather jackets, slim-line Italian business suits and polo shirts.

But the Colombian couturier is presenting Indians with an entirely local look, special lightweight kurta-pyjamas - typical Indian cotton pants and tops worn by men and the high-collar Nehru jacket, favoured by politicians across the country.

And they're a far cry from the traditional, bulky body armour favoured by police and military forces the world over, as well as politicians and journalists operating in dangerous areas.

Secret buyers

The traditional suits have Kevlar plates built-in which can weigh up to 7kg, so they are quite heavy and uncomfortable.

Mr Caballero's range of clothes
The clothes are trendy and a trifle bulky

Not to mention completely unstylish.

Although Mr Caballero will not disclose what his body armour is made of, he says they have been tested against a range of ballistic weapons, from revolvers to Uzi submachine guns.

With just weeks to go for the Indian general election, he thinks he has timed his visit perfectly.

A number of Indian politicians have signed up, he tells me smiling, but of course he can't tell me who they are.

Of course.

It is all very discreet - so you cannot really order online or pick it off the rack from a high-street retail store. Potential buyers are contacted directly and their identity kept secret.

At prices ranging between $4,000 to $8,000, these clothes are not exactly cheap.

"But what is the cost of your life?" Mr Caballero asks throwing up his hands.


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