Caballero's modern 48,000-square-foot factory on the western outskirts of Bogota has gotten a reputation for producing unusual products. More than 300 employees produce bulletproof inflatable vests, riot shields and the standard vests used by the bodyguards of political figures - hot-selling products that have helped Caballero record $20 million in sales last year, up from $2 million a decade ago.
But the company's fame has come from producing garments that don't look like armor. There are T-shirts that can stop a 9mm round, a bullet-resistant blanket and tuxedos for those worried about an attack at the midnight ball. Tailor-made products, like the bullet-resistant kimono bought from Caballero by Hollywood action movie figure Steven Seagal, can cost thousands of dollars. Leaders across the region, including the late Venezuelan populist Hugo Chavez, have worn Caballero's outfits.
Caballero, a theatrical whirl of energy, likes to display the effectiveness of the material used in his clothing, a proprietary weave lighter than that used in the Kevlar vests made by Dupont. So on Saturday, with a .38-caliber revolver in hand, he fired a shot into the bulletproof leather jacket he had a foreign reporter wear for a demonstration.
"Didn't hurt at all, did it?" Caballero said a moment after pulling the trigger in front of his workers, who had stopped sewing in order to cover their ears.
Still, Caballero had to acknowledge the challenges of shielding pint-size schoolchildren from whizzing bullets.
When it came to the children's line, Caballero had to make the decision of going with anti-bullet plates that could stop slugs from, say, a Glock semiautomatic handgun, but not a Bushmaster .223 rifle, the weapon Adam Lanza used on his victims at Sandy Hook.
The bulletproof shield needed to deflect a round from a powerful rifle would be too heavy in children's accessories. And Caballero also said he believed lighter rounds are most often used in killings in the United States.
"Only in the exceptional cases will you see the rifle, the AK-47 or something like that, being used," he said of school shootings.
Caballero's marketing director, Giovanni Cordero, added that the company tries to react to trends but can never be sure what the future holds.
"Tomorrow you can outfit a school with bulletproof vests, and then they'll come with a bazooka," Cordero said. "We can only guide ourselves by what's seen most often in the streets, and the risks you see are handguns, Uzis, mini-Uzis, revolvers."
For now, the company plans to continue shipping the children's line to Colorado. But Caballero and Zabadne, the distributor in Denver, said they see other possibilities for civilian bulletproof apparel.
"I cannot say what," said Caballero, sounding coy about the new line that will be made public in September. "We will do a new collection for the U.S. market, only for the U.S. market."
Others at his company, though, hinted that the plan was to market bullet-resistant T-shirts - which can be worn under a dress shirt - to school teachers.