Macron touts French fashion industry as economic motor ahead of election

(Recasts with Macron's visit)

By Mimosa Spencer

PARIS, Jan 20 (Reuters) - President Emmanuel Macron praised the fashion industry as France's top export sector on Friday, ahead of an election he wants to make about his economic record, as he inaugurated a complex of ateliers specialising in luxury craft-making.

French voters go to the polls in April to pick a new president, with Macron expected to run. He has been keen to shift the debate away from immigration and law-and-order and focus on the economy, which has been recovering strongly from the pandemic.

"Today, when I look at figures from 2021, it (fashion) is the leading export sector of our country," Macron told an audience of apprentices gathered at a new Chanel-sponsored site that brings luxury craft houses together.

"Your crafts are artistic crafts ... Your crafts are important for the economy," he said, adding that the sector accounted for 600,000 direct jobs in France.

The president and his wife Brigitte, who wore a Chanel haute couture jacket, spent two hours visiting the ateliers, examining elaborate embroideries work and speaking with craftspeople.

Pent-up demand from international buyers eager after months of lockdown to splash out on fine clothes and accessories from the birthplace of haute couture - or at least stamped with the logo of one of France's famous fashion houses - has helped fuel growth.

With an eye towards harnessing this growth spurt by fostering collaborative work, Chanel has grouped around 600 artisans together over seven floors, at the site on the edge of the capital's 19th arrondissement, known as 19M.
Reporting by Mimosa Spencer, editing by Gwladys Fouche, John Stonestreet and Toby Chopra

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