Indian Leather Comes Off Age, In A Big Way

Chennai, May 22: | Updated: May 23 2003, 05:30am hrs
Guess, who sets the colour of that sexy leather costume super model Naomi Campell displays in the latest Paris fashion show And who designed that macho leather boots Silvestor Stallone wore in his latest movie Dont wrack your brains for the names of world renowned fashion designers. They might have been decided and designed in an exporters lab down south in Chennai.

Indian leather industry has come a long way. It has succeeded in changing the direction of the flow of leather trade from East to West compared to West to East earlier, says Mr Irshad Mirza, former chairman of the Council for Leather Exports (CLE).

The $4-billion Indian leather industry is fast emerging as the world capital for latest trends in design and colour for finished leather, thanks to the efforts of Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI). CLRI is vying to emerge as the global leader in leather research. Leather and allied research in CLRI form core areas of activiites. Research in CLRI includes non-leather as well, says Dr T Ramasami, director, CLRI.

The Think Leather Think India campaign of CLE, the Union commerce ministrys launch pad to the global leather market, hinges mainly on CLRIs technology prowess. And look, who are knocking at Indias doors for latest from the leather fashion world

There are Germans, Italians, the French, the Brits, the Japanese, the Americans, among others. And big leather giants like Deichman, Ecco, Gaber, Hush Puppies, Florsehiem etc are partners in progress of Indian leather industry for years.

With no bars on foreign direct investment and 100 per cent equity in tanning and footwear, the industry is gearing up to capitalise on this cutting edge of technology. CLE has fixed an export target of $3 billion for 2005, says Mr Audiseshaiah, executive director of CLE.

According to senior CLRI officials, India has come a long way in occupying a predominant presence at the Zurich-based Modeurope Roundtable, which decides the colours three seasons in advance.

In 1995, Indian tanners had just one colour selected at the Modeurope. Five years later, India began to present a large number of colours and in 2000 a CLRI scientist, Dr M Sadiq, was elected president of Modeurope. In 2002 more than 70 per cent of the colours, 17 of the 21, for shoes and six of the 10 colours for garments, were developed by Indian tanners with the aid of CLRI.

And now, the world is looking at India for the colours for 2004-05 season, says a spokesperson of the the Indian Finished Leather Manufacturers and Exporters Association. u

Another feather in the cap of Indian leather industry came from the Asia Pacific Leather Fair authorities and the Chinese Leather Industry Association. They invited CLRI to display trends for leather during 2004-05 and showcase Indian capabilities in colour forecasting and leather manufacturing at the recently concluded MATECH China 2003 held in Dongguan province which accounts for 50 per cent of Chinese shoe exports.

Now, a transnational corporation, Dupont Textiles and Interiors (DTI) is partnering CLRI for a multi-dimensional leather-fabric collaborative research. Lycra lamination with leather and lycra-leather combinations for upholstery, for domestic and automobile applications, a fast growing segment for leather in the West, are identified areas of collaboration in future, says Dr Ramasami.