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Bulletproof fashion for London's super rich

They are designed for the super-rich businessman who has everything and is afraid of everyone. Bulletproof leather jackets, which mix style with a reassuring lining of body armour, are going on sale in Britain.

Miguel Caballero, the world's only maker of "designer bulletproof fashion", is opening an outlet at Harrods in London next week.
His collection, which includes suede jackets, blazers and raincoats, arrives amid a big increase in sales of personal security products aimed at Russian oligarchs, Arab sheikhs and city financiers.
From armoured cars and body armour to bodyguards and homes fitted with "panic rooms", no expense is spared to protect billionaires and their families.

Mr Caballero began making bespoke protective wear during his native Colombia's civil war 15 years ago. He is looking for new outlets and believes that London's wealthy are a largely untapped market. "Many companies make bulletproof vests, but nobody else does bulletproof fashion," he said.

His business is worth £4.5 million annually. Customers include Prince Felipe of Spain, King Abdullah of Jordan, the actor Stephen Seagal and Hugo Chávez, the president of Venezuela.

Buyers choose from three levels of protection – the lowest guarantees cover against handguns and the highest against automatic weapons. The composition of the lining is a closely guarded secret, but it is not the traditional Kevlar body armour. Mr Caballero is not likely to be short of customers. London's super-wealthy feel they need protection.

Centigon, the world's largest armoured vehicle company, says that sales of armoured cars have risen by 20 per cent in the past two years. Many buyers are Russians who spend up to £500,000 on armoured cars. Boris Berezovsky, the London-based Russian billionaire, travels with his bodyguards in a convoy of identical armoured Mercedes.

Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire owner of Chelsea FC, has one of the biggest private security operations in the world. He is driven around in an armoured car and employs 20 bodyguards.

"Armoured cars are no longer just for prime ministers and VIPs," said Nick Youdan, of Centigon.

Demand has risen in cities such as Manchester, Glasgow and Birmingham, where people want protection from gunmen and car hijackers. "The carjackers are using handguns rather than baseball bats and cricket bats these days," Mr Youdan said. Sales of conventional body armour are rising too.

Shaun Ward, of Essex-based VestGuard UK, said that sales of stabproof and bulletproof vests in this country had gone up sixfold from about £200,000 five years ago to £1.2 million today, although that figure is dwarfed by a big increase in exports since the start of the Iraq war in 2003.

He was unimpressed by the designer body armour. "It sounds good, but for it to work you have to keep the jacket zipped or buttoned up, and you can't take it off.

"Our body armour can be worn under a shirt so it offers protection all the time."

Demand for bodyguard services is also increasing. Requests for bodyguards have risen by 15 to 20 per cent in the past few years, according to Brent Hardy, the managing director of Manchester-based Secure Consultants. Owen Gardner, the managing director of One Nation Security, a national agency for security services, said: "CEOs know they are potential targets and they will take whatever measures are necessary to protect themselves, their families and their properties," he said.

And if all other security fails, there is always the panic room – a secure room with fitted steel-plated walls and reinforced doors where a family can find refuge should an intruder make it into the house. The rooms are increasingly popular among Premiership footballers, celebrities and businessmen who travel a lot, according to a security consultant.

He said: "Criminals know when a footballer or celebrity is away from home just by looking at the fixture list or reading the gossip columns. So a lot of them want a room where their families can be safe if an intruder comes into their home."