One of the biggest hits at the National Rifle Association’s Concealed Carry Fashion Show in Milwaukee, Wisconsin last weekend was a “Lethal Lace” wrap-around gun holster—a versatile, sexy number that can be wrapped tightly around a woman’s waist or thigh. Models showed off bra and corset holsters, too, as well as ankle and thigh holsters.
It sounds like a lingerie show for gun enthusiasts, but the woman who organized the show said there were no leggy models strutting around half-naked.
“The point is to demonstrate to the audience what they can’t see and then show off the conceal features,” Amanda Suffecool, who has orchestrated the NRA’s annual Concealed Carry Fashion Shows since 2014, told The Daily Beast.
She made sure to remind her female models that a photographer would be shooting from below, “so they knew to show him what he needed to see without showing him what they didn’t want to show him, if you know what I mean.”
The models were all “real people,” said Suffecool; male and female volunteers “with real shapes and real issues” who showcased the most innovative and fashionable concealed carry accessories on the market. “You want to speak to your audience and show them that they have options,” she added.
That meant a range of holster and luxury handbag styles from 25 companies. Suffecool featured handbags by two designers: Kate Woolstenhulme of Woolstenhulme Locking Bags and Rosalda Crociani of Vinci, an Italian-based company that unveiled its first sample products—from the $500 Eleonora Clutch to the $600 Elena Handbag—at this weekend’s show.
Crociani grew up around the handbag industry in Florence, Italy and ran a company with her husband that sold leather gun holsters before launching Vinci.
“I actually wrote to Louis Vuitton several years ago asking them to make a concealed carry purse because there was nothing like that available,” said Gianna Varrati, Vinci’s head of marketing and project management in America.
“We are thrilled to be introducing women to not only a handbag that rivals the likes of any luxury bag on the market, but one that also is an investment in the empowerment of women. The combination of Italian leather and our patented holster system is a first across the nation and world.”
Women have become the fastest-growing demographic in the firearms industry over the last seven years, according to Suffecool, forcing the market to develop products that are more female-friendly.
“Women are starting to expand into taking responsibility for family safety. Because of that, there’s also a growing market of outdoor games involving firearms,” Suffecool said. “So these women get involved in guns for the self-defense aspect and then immediately start to get into the social and recreational aspects.”
Suffecool works full-time as an engineer and quality manager at an aerospace supply company, but said her passion is running a nonprofit dedicated to firearms safety education and preserving the Second Amendment.
“As soon as people get a conceal carry license and put a gun on for the first time, they want to know how best to avoid seeming like they’re walking around wearing a big neon sign,” said Suffecool, who also used to own a gun shop.
Despite Suffecool’s claims that the fashion show is designed to be educational for gun owners, making ownership and use of firearms “fashionable” goes beyond education and preserving the Second Amendment.
It’s hard not to view the show as a marketing campaign designed to make lethal weapons sexier. Certainly, the NRA would not be opposed to this kind of advertising. But plenty of people who support the Second Amendment might be put off by a gun-promoting fashion show.
With more women joining the market, there are a growing number of “female-firearms focused” products, Suffecool said.
Asked how she felt about the NRA’s recent controversial video campaign, Suffecool said she didn’t have a strong opinion about it beyond believing the campaign could be viewed many ways. “And in my world, I try not to choose to take offense at things,” she added.
She carries a KAHR 9mm handgun and a Ruger LCP II, and chooses which one to leave home with “depending upon the outfit of the day.”
As for her preferred concealed carry product, Suffecool said she generally totes her guns “on body, though I do own a handbag or two.”