FREDERICKSBURG, Va. - With the prevalence of mass shootings and gun violence in modern history, bulletproof clothing is an increasingly popular option among those with dangerous jobs.
The world’s first known maker of bulletproof clothing – Colombia-based Miguel Caballero – gained notoriety when he famously shot his wife on camera to demonstrate the success of his product.
Then, a small business in Fredericksburg, Virginia, became the first in the United States to offer high-end bulletproof fashion.
“We use the lightest materials in the world,” explained Abbas Haider, chief executive officer and president of Aspetto.
The materials weigh about four to four and a half pounds in a suit.
“The idea is for it to all sit naturally and look natural,” explained Haider. “Extremely covert. Same thing with ballistic t-shirts, same thing with top coats – everything we do.”
Custom-made ballistic suits start at $4,600 and go up, depending on the level of protection. Two in-house tailors handle small custom and ballistics orders. The company has out-of-state warehouses for larger orders.
Aspetto even recently landed a contract with Washington Metro for new ballistic vests. The company has come a long way in the nearly 10 years it has been around.
Haider founded Aspetto in 2008 as a freshman at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg. Then it was just a clothing line – custom suits. In his senior year, Haider met Robert Davis during a class project to sell a product overseas. Their target region was the war-torn Middle East.
“The idea came to us that, ‘Hey, how about we combine armor and clothing together?’” explained Haider. “We realized there was nobody in America doing it.”
“Coming from such an opposite side of the spectrum – formalwear – and going into armor, we look at it a completely different way,” added Davis, the company’s chief operating officer.
Before the duo could even present their project in school, they had top government agencies calling them.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” said Davis. “And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Their covert clothing has attracted the likes of foreign dignitaries, government officials, executives with high-risk jobs and celebrities.
One client – a state agent – survived three bullets while wearing an Aspetto ballistic shirt.
“This is why we are in this business,” said Haider. “This is what we are doing. And it made a difference.”
“We are producing products that are saving lives,” explained Davis. “That is exactly what we need to do and have in our minds day in and day out.”
Anyone can buy bulletproof clothing, but Haider and Davis run background checks and will not to sell to anyone without a clean record.
“As a small business, it’s tough to say ‘no,’ but we don’t want our armor in the wrong hands,” explained Haider.
What he does want though is to expand into all things defense.
“We want to be a one-stop shop,” Haider added. "We are getting into armored helicopters, armored vehicles, and then in 2018, we are adding cyber security,” said Haider.
“We are just really excited to take this brand and continue to make it a global brand,” said Davis.