Recognizing the importance of R&D and innovation to foster the development of its industry, the Indian government has set up a new Design Task Force as part of its “Make In India” campaign. The Leather sector, including the production of leather and non-leather shoes, is one of 18 industrial focus sectors that have been selected for governmental help.

As part of this program, India's Council for Leather Exports (CLE) is proposing to organize a “Designer's Fair” to be held in a five-star hotel in Chennai next Feb. 1-3, in connection with the annual Indian International Leather Fair (IILF). Up to 50 qualified footwear designers from all over the world will be invited to participate in the event, displaying and selling their sketches. They will get a free stand and reimbursement of half of their travel and accommodation expenses.

Interested designers can file their expressions of interest with CLE before the end of September (e-mail gokul@cleindia.com ande md@ramfashion.com). The CLE plans to organize evening sessions with interested designers at the next sessions of the Lineapelle and theMicam fairs in Milan.

The Design Task Force of the CLE is led by one of its vice presidents, Naresh Bhasin of RAM Exports. His company is a large Indian shoe manufacturer that employs 150 people in R&D and relies on seven foreign designers from Italy, the U.K. and other countries. The shoe segment will get about two-thirds of the subsidies allocated to the Leather sector. Other segments included in the program are finished leather, leathergoods, leather garments, fashion gloves, footwear components and saddlery & harness.

The Indian government and CLE plan to follow up in a second stage with training programs for local designers, who will be given internships by companies in the sector, and with the establishment of new design studios. There are already 33 design and development centers in the country. Small companies in the footwear industry can use five collective design studios equipped with Cad/Cam equipment.