‘Most Indians don’t think of fashion when buying shoes’

February 27th, 2009 - 1:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Ramalinga RajuNew Delhi, Feb 27 (IANS) Satyam’s fallen head Ramalinga Raju owned a whopping 321 pairs of shoes, but most Indians are content with a few, which they choose for comfort and durability rather than fashion, much to the chagrin of the footwear industry.

“We feel fashion only means clothing. We might buy designer suits and other clothes but shoes are never considered a part of making a fashion statement. You see a person earning Rs.2 million wearing the same kind of shoes which a person earning Rs.20,000 wears,” Abdul Tawwab Khan, a professional footwear designer, told IANS.

Khan launched a men’s footwear collection in the Lakme Fashion Week in 2007, and a second collection in 2008.

He felt that even celebrity fashion icons were ignorant about footwear fashion.

“All those who visited my stall (in the fashion week), including many celebrities, were surprised when they asked the price (of the shoes). They immediately asked where the shoes were made. They consider that footwear is not an area where we spend money. So my aim is to make people aware that good shoes are made in India as well,” Khan said.

According to industry reports, the Indian footwear industry was said to be worth $1.48 billion in 2008, making it the second largest global producer of footwear after China. The country produces over two billion pairs of different categories of footwear and nearly 95 percent of its production goes to meet its own domestic demand.

The export is targeted to reach $3.43 billion in 2008-09, and is expected to reach $4.53 billion by 2010-11. India exports footwear to around 30 countries.

Despite that, “when it comes to fashion what comes to my mind are shirts, trousers and suits but never the thought of shoes to make a fashion statement,” aspiring model Abhishek said.

“We have not been spending much on shoes. A lady can spend hundreds of thousands on lehngas but she will not spend Rs.2,000 on footwear,” owner of Mirza International Tauseef Mirza told IANS. The firm has footwear brands like Red Tape.

“Fashion in footwear is still a dream. What I bought last year is still on the shelves this year. There is no innovation. I have been trying to get a good pair of shoes for my sister’s wedding for three days, but all in vain,” said Amit, a customer at a footwear outlet here.

Lokesh Mishra, general manager of clothes and footwear retail store Woodland, said: “There are only a limited number of players in the footwear industry. In India there is an acute lack of funds for research and development in this industry. No company wants to experiment, they just see whichever design has a good market and they copy from each other.”

Designer Abdul Tawwab Khan, however, sees a bright future in India for footwear fashion, though he knows progress will be slow.

Mishra also feels that the footwear fashion industry in the country will come of age. “People are getting interested in footwear fashion. They ask for good designs. It’s a slow process but within two to three years footwear fashion will turn around.”

(Nabeel A.Khan can be contacted at nabeel.k@ians.in)

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