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.