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

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.


Solid gold toilet stolen from English stately home

Updated 14 September 2019

Solid gold toilet stolen from English stately home

  • Toilet was created by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan and estimated to be worth around £1 million
  • A 66-year-old man was arrested following the burglary at Blenheim Palace

LONDON: A gang of thieves on Saturday stole an 18-carat gold toilet from Britain’s Blenheim Palace, police said, causing flooding that damaged the world-famous stately home.
The fully-functioning toilet, dubbed “America,” was created by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan and estimated to be worth around £1 million.
A 66-year-old man was arrested following the burglary, which took place before dawn at the 18th-century estate near Oxford, southern England.
The toilet was one of the star attractions in an exhibition of Cattelan’s works that opened on Thursday at the palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visitors were able to book time slots to use it — but only for three minutes each, to limit the queues.
More than 100,000 people used the loo during the year it was on display at New York’s Guggenheim Museum.
“The offenders broke into the palace overnight and left the scene at about 4.50am (0350 GMT). No-one was injured during the burglary,” police said in a statement.
Detective Inspector Jess Milne of Thames Valley Police said she believed “a group of offenders used at least two vehicles” — and left a mess behind them.
“The piece of art that has been stolen is a high-value toilet made out of gold that was on display at the palace,” she said.
“Due to the toilet being plumbed into the building, this has caused significant damage and flooding.”
Blenheim Palace said it was “saddened by this extraordinary event, but also relieved no-one was hurt.”
It closed on Saturday but said it would reopen on Sunday.

The palace is home to the 12th duke of Marlborough and his family, and was also the birthplace of British wartime leader Winston Churchill.
The duke’s brother, Edward Spencer-Churchill, who founded the Blenheim Art Foundation, said last month he was relaxed about security around the gold toilet.
“It’s not going to be the easiest thing to nick,” he told The Times newspaper.
“Firstly, it’s plumbed in and secondly, a potential thief will have no idea who last used the toilet or what they ate. So no, I don’t plan to be guarding it.”
He added: “Despite being born with a silver spoon in my mouth I have never had a shit on a golden toilet, so I look forward to it.”
Cattelan, who is known for his provocative art, has previously described the golden toilet as “one-percent art for the 99 percent.”
The Guggenheim had offered the loo on loan to US President Donald Trump, but he declined.
The Italian artist’s exhibition at Blenheim runs until October 27 and includes a taxidermied horse hoisted onto the ceiling of an ornate reception room.
Blenheim has previously hosted exhibitions of work by Ai WeiWei, Yves Klein, Jenny Holzer, Michelangelo Pistoletto and Lawrence Weiner.
Police said they were looking at CCTV footage to help them in the search for the gold toilet, adding that nothing else was believed to have been stolen.