Designer puts life on the line to sell bullet-proof traditional Saudi clothing

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Alnahdi United Defense will open its first Miguel Caballero showroom in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia by the end of summer 2019. (Photo: Essam Al-Ghalib)
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Alnahdi United Defense will open its first Miguel Caballero showroom in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia by the end of summer 2019. (Photo: Essam Al-Ghalib)
Updated 15 July 2019
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Designer puts life on the line to sell bullet-proof traditional Saudi clothing

  • “We had to adjust to the culture’s needs and the wardrobe. We worked together with the manufacturer for two years, and made bullet-proofs abayas and thobes come to life,” Alnahdi
 said
  • A rough estimate puts the garments well beyond the normal price range of traditional Saudi clothes, but Alnahdi is confident that the demand exists

RIYADH: Saleh Alnahdi trusted his products to an entirely new level when he let a man shoot him in the stomach with a handgun at point-blank range.


He felt that he had to do it in order for clients to trust the what he was about to introduce to the Saudi market — bullet-proof thobes and abayas.


Standing rather tensely at the Caballero factory in Columbia, Alnahdi took what could have been his final breath, held it, and was shot at a distant that would surely have killed him.


“I was taking a risk,” Alnahdi, CEO of Alnahdi United Defense, told Arab News last week. “I wasn’t going to let them shoot me at first, but then I thought that if I tried it, my clients would trust me more.”


With that thought, the young man, then 25, donned a bullet-proof jacket lined with Aramid, the material he uses in his thobes and abayas, and let Miguel Caballero, the inventor of the material, shoot him in the stomach.



“It felt like someone attempted to pinch me,” Alnahdi said. “Not hit me, just pinch me. I was scared and held my breath but really, I did not feel a thing.”


During that visit to Columbia two years ago, Alnahdi partnered up with Caballero to bring a full range of bullet-proof products to the Kingdom, but there was an adjustment that needed to be made.


“We had to adjust to the culture’s needs and the wardrobe. We worked together with the manufacturer for two years, and made bullet-proofs abayas and thobes come to life,” Alnahdi
 said.


“People were very shocked that we actually were able to combine the ballistics material into the clothes in a way that was discrete, while maintaining the garment’s functionality and comfort
while complying with US National Institute of Justice Body Armor
Compliance Certificate requirements.”


As is the case with every expensive new product to hit the high streets of Riyadh, bullet-proof thobes and abayas have the potential of suddenly becoming the trendy item for husbands to buy
their wives and vice-versa, but there are restrictions on who can purchase these products.


“This is for a niche market, it’s not for the general public,” Alnahdi said. “Government, Diplomats, VIPs, these are our targeted clients. It could be that you want one, but not everyone can buy one. These are all custom-made products. You cannot walk in and take one off the shelf.”

This is due to government regulations on who is permitted to possess bullet-proof wear, as well as the costs of the actual garments.


“The products we have are not in salons or small ‘mom and pop’ shops, they are from a brand that kings and presidents around the world are wearing. The quality of the armor we use is not Kevlar,
it is Aramid, which is a little more expensive as it is more flexible, and has different levels of protection.”


When asked what the prices would be, Alnahdi said each was made to order. “We cannot give you a price because it will depend on the size, the level of protection, as well as the material the customer wants.”


Though there is no official cost, the rough estimate puts the garments well beyond the normal price range of traditional Saudi clothes, but Alnahdi is confident that the demand exists.


“There exists a very high demand not just for the thobes, but also for the abayas, especially now that women are working in the forces and can use them on and off-duty. It protects them from all levels of threats, from Tasers, stabbings and from bullets.”


Alnahdi United Defense will open its first Miguel Caballero showroom in the Kingdom, in Riyadh, by the end of the summer.


Fast cash from slimy pests: Thai farmers on the money trail with snail mucus

Updated 20 July 2019
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Fast cash from slimy pests: Thai farmers on the money trail with snail mucus

  • The snails were once the scourge of Thai rice farmers, loathed for eating the buds of new crop
  • But now fetch between 25 baht and 30 baht — about $1 — a kilo

NAKHON NAYOK, Thailand: Giant snails inch across a plate of pumpkin and cucumber in central Thailand, an “organic” diet to tease the prized collagen-rich mucus from the mollusks, which to some cosmetic firms are now more valuable than gold.
The snails at Phatinisiri Thangkeaw’s farm were once the scourge of rice farmers, loathed for eating the buds of new crops.
“Farmers used to throw them on the road or in the rivers,” Phatinisiri said. “But now they sell them to me to earn extra money.”
With her 1,000 snails, the teacher makes an extra $320 to $650 a month.
It is one of more than 80 farms in Nakhon Nayok province, two hours from the capital Bangkok, cashing in on the global snail beauty market, estimated at $314 million, according to research group Coherent Market Insights.
The precious slime is patiently “milked” from the glands of the snail by dripping water over it using a pipette.
Its raw form is sold to Aden International, a Thai-based cosmetics company that primarily ships its products to Korea and the US.
The sole snail slime producer in Thailand, Aden was started three years ago as a business-savvy solution to the snail infestation in Nakhon Nayok, said founder Kitpong Puttarathuvanun.
And his bet paid off — Kitpong sells the serum under the Acha brand, but also supplies Korean and American cosmetic companies with a dried powder at 1.8 million baht ($58,200) per kilogram, he said.
Gold is currently worth $46,300 a kilogram.
Compared to Aden’s snail slime, the mucus produced in China — milked daily instead of once every three weeks in Thailand — is valued at about 80,000 baht ($2,600) per kilogram, Kitpong said.
“We found that our slime was very intense because the snails eat everything, including vegetables, grains and even mushrooms ... producing good quality slime,” he said, explaining that the mucus can be used to heal sunburn and “heal wounds.”
Somkamol Manchun, the doctor in charge of the purification process, said snail mucus contains collagen and elastin — ingredients that “can make skin firm with less wrinkles.”
It “triggers the skin cells... and helps heal the skin.”
At the moment, no scientific studies have been done on the curative qualities of snail serum and slime, but snail farmer Phatinisiri is already feeling the market heat up.
Two years ago, she was the first in the area to try farming the slime, she said, and villagers readily gave her what they considered pests.
“Now I buy snails at about 25 baht to 30 baht (about $1) per kilogram,” she said. “But many people are doing snail farms now so the competition is high.”