How to look good when you're dodging bullets

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The Independent Online

For the discerning Russian oligarch, possession of an armoured Bentley and a guard of special forces veterans is de rigueur for personal safety. But what to wear if one wants to mingle with the public or slalom downhill at Verbier?

London's latest sartorial innovation may prove a lifeline: bullet-proof fashion. Designed by a Colombian entrepreneur with experience of gun-toting kidnappers, a collection of ballistic daywear has gone on sale at Harrods. Miguel Caballero's 14-strong range includes a polo shirt, blazer, sports jacket, biker's jacket and raincoat, and is made to measure for between £3,300 and £7,700.

One third the weight of a police bullet-proof vest, the range is purportedly tough enough to withstand automatic weapon gunfire while being unobtrusive enough to be worn at cocktail parties.

There are many everyday touches that remove the incongruity of militarisation. The jackets are covered with fabrics not usually associated with violence, like suede and corduroy. In addition, they are less bulky than conventional body armour and contain "thermo materials" that keep the wearer's temperature at 13-17C.

Despite the benefits, no one has bought any of the collection since it went on sale at Mohamed Al Fayed's Knightsbridge emporium last month. However Harrods believes it has identified a potential growth market, "particularly amongst international clientele".

According to Harrods, King Abdullah of Jordan, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, the Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and the American actor Steven Seagal are among those who wear Caballero's designs.

This reporter joined the list of illustrious wearers. A full-length navy trenchcoat, a red sports jacket and a Barbour-style jacket showed how one can shield one's vital organs from assassins while resembling a circumspect civilian.

The jackets look like ordinary outer clothing, with sturdy panels embedded into the fabric covering the trunk. Caballero says one of his jackets can give the same protection as a 4.5kg police vest, while weighing just 1.8kg.

He came up with his concept 16 years ago, when he pondered whether there was a fashionable way to protect his classmates – the children of wealthy Colombians – from Latin America's kidnappers and revolutionaries. His jackets come in three levels of protection. The lowest level guards against revolvers or pistols, medium protects against higher calibre pistols or Mini-Uzi submachine guns, while high protection reputedly bounces back bullets from an Uzi machine gun.

Do they work? The Independent did not conduct a live munitions test.