At the age of 19, Neil Gallagher was stabbed in the neck.
“I was very lucky that I survived that.”
With his harrowing experience in mind, Gallagher took his passion for fashion design and created a knife-resistant men’s clothing line called, Miguelo Romano.
“I have always been a non-violent person,” said Gallagher. “It definitely feels good to be protected and I think that's part of what fashion does for a person it like invokes a feeling whether it be like you're into the style like you're feeling protected.”
Thousands of miles away, Miguelo Romano made its debut last July in Colombia’s biggest fashion show, ColombiaModa.
Yeison Murillo was one of Miguelo Romano’s first customers. Similar to Gallagher, Murillo had a close encounter, but unlike Gallagher, he got away.
Last year, the 19-year-old car mechanic was at a party in his hometown of Medellin, Colombia when a fight broke out and in trying to flee he was threatened with a knife. Murillo luckily made it out alive.
“I felt my life was in danger,” said Murillo.
Now, Murillo along with some friends and his dad wears the knife-resistant line, “when I go to places where I feel insecure.”
For years Medellin was synonymous with drug violence; it was the home of the notorious late drug cartel leader Pablo Escobar. In recent years, though, the city has been transforming itself and the murder rate has fallen 80 percent.
But according to Murillo some things haven’t changed.
“There are cases where people are robbed for their cell phones and killed.”
This keeps the 19-year-old clinging to his Miguelo Romano hoodies and shirts.
“The clothes reassure my safety,” said Murillo. “The clothes can give Colombians the necessary protection they need when they leave their home.”
Since its launch, Miguelo Romano has a store open in Medellin and is available online for U.S. customers. The line includes shirts, jackets and hoodies.
Miguelo Romano’s “Armored Collection” features knife-resistant clothing is made with five special, laser-cut fibers that absorb the kinetic energy of an impact. The Collection is in the developing stages of adding an anti-ballistic set of clothes that will protect its users from bullets.
Neil Gallagher and his business partner Michael Puscar aim for the line to be a good mixture of Brooklyn and Medellin with a section of the brand dedicated to the late famous rapper in Medellin, El Duke. Before his murder in 2012, he had promoted peace and opened hip-hop schools as an alternative to joining gangs, a common trend in the neighborhood.
The brand features images of Duke's face and the phrase, “Paz y Repecto,” his message of peace and respect.
Though it's unfortunate, says Gallagher, the need for his protective line of clothing will continue to exist.
“Look at the world, there’s violence all over and it doesn't unfortunately look like its stopping.”
--Additional video shooting by Kyle Ligman