Clothier's Bulletproof Designs Merge Style, Safety Miguel Caballero first started making bulletproof clothes in his native Colombia in the early 1990s, when the country was awash in violence. Now, he's opened a store selling protective business suits, biker jackets and other fashions in Mexico, which has seen a huge surge in violence recently.
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Clothier's Bulletproof Designs Merge Style, Safety

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Clothier's Bulletproof Designs Merge Style, Safety

Clothier's Bulletproof Designs Merge Style, Safety

Clothier's Bulletproof Designs Merge Style, Safety

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A woman models one of Miguel Caballero's bulletproof fashions. Caballero says the basis of his company is "design, fashion, discretion." Courtesy Miguel Caballero hide caption

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Courtesy Miguel Caballero

A woman models one of Miguel Caballero's bulletproof fashions. Caballero says the basis of his company is "design, fashion, discretion."

Courtesy Miguel Caballero

Caballero says his company can make any type of bulletproof vest. The company's Web site says this quilted men's jacket (left) is "ideal for those cold equestrian days." Courtesy Miguel Caballero hide caption

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Courtesy Miguel Caballero

Caballero says his company can make any type of bulletproof vest. The company's Web site says this quilted men's jacket (left) is "ideal for those cold equestrian days."

Courtesy Miguel Caballero

Mexico has seen a huge surge in violence recently as the government attempts to crack down on the nation's powerful drug cartels.

This year alone, nearly 1,400 people have been killed in drug-related shootings. Mexico also has a kidnapping problem and high levels of car theft and street crime.

For a Colombian clothing maker who recently opened up shop in Mexico City, all of this has been great for business.

Miguel Caballero's sleek glass and metal showroom is just around the corner from the Hugo Boss boutique on Avenida Presidente Masaryk, a high-end shopping thoroughfare in the Polanco neighborhood, one of the most upscale in Mexico City.

His racks are lined with bulletproof blazers, women's suede jackets that'll stop a .44 Magnum, T-shirts lined with body armor, and guayabera shirts for catching sun or bullets.

"In all the clothing that we have here, it's 100 percent flexible," Caballero says. "With the bulletproof vests of the police force, you can't find that."

Caballero first started making bulletproof clothes in his native Colombia in the early 1990s. It was at the peak of the Medellin drug cartel's power, and Colombia was awash in violence. Now the multibillion-dollar drug trade is dominated by Mexican cartels. And as Mexican President Felipe Calderon confronts the gangs, violence here has skyrocketed, killing thousands. In one week in May, six high-ranking police officials, including the nation's top cop, were assassinated.

Starting at around $2,000, Caballero offers bulletproof business suits, long Burberry-type raincoats, slick biker jackets and a women's ski parka in orange with a fake fur collar.

"We can make any type of bulletproof vest," he says. "But the basis of the company is design, fashion, discretion. And what we are doing all the time — the discretion — we are working to develop the concept of fashion and, in this way, it's very comfortable and flexible."

Caballero boasts that his clients include the presidents of Colombia, Peru and Guatemala. There are rumors that his product has ended up under Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's trademark sweaters, but Caballero won't confirm them. He's made bulletproof clothes for Prince Felipe of Spain and his wife, Letizia. Once, Caballero says, he even created an armored kimono for actor Steven Seagal.

Caballero says the company sold 37,000 garments last year, and Mexico is his most important market in Latin America.

Jorge Chabat, a leading criminologist in Mexico City, says the recent uptick in violence in Mexico is mainly aimed at three groups — people in the drug trade, honest police officers and the superrich.

"I wouldn't say that most of the population is exposed to this kind of violence," Chabat says. "Obviously, if you are a rich guy — you drive a BMW or Mercedes — well, OK, probabilities that you are a target are higher. Most of the people who are buying these kind of clothes are these kind of persons."

Caballero insists that he only provides his products to "the good guys" and doesn't sell to drug dealers. He vets his clients against a terrorist watch list maintained by the U.S. Treasury Department.

He warns that bulletproof clothes are only one part of a security plan. He says they should be used to complement armored cars, bodyguards and communication equipment.

"I say to my clients, if the product works in Colombia, [it] works in any place of the world," he says. "But I don't know what is exactly the risk in any person."

For instance, Edgar Guzman, the son of Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin Guzman, was gunned down last month outside a mall in Culiacan. Media reports said as many as 40 men with AK-47s and a grenade launcher opened fire on Guzman's armored pickup truck. For that, Caballero's clothing would still look good, but offer little defense.

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