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PARIS (Reuters) - France said it would help struggling designers and artisans by creating a fashion bank and handing out state guarantees for loans, Industry Minister Christian Estrosi said Monday.
The fashion industry, which the government sees as part of France's cultural heritage, has been hit hard by the global spending slump with high-profile victims including Christian Lacroix and Cacharel.
Estrosi said he wanted to get one or two banks to develop services specializing in lending money to fashion companies and other creative businesses with the state acting as a guarantor for certain loans.
"I want Paris to remain the world's capital of fashion," Estrosi told journalists. "Today, we need people to share the risks." Estrosi's aide, Sylvain Roques, said the government hoped to flesh out details of the new bank by the end of March.
Estrosi said the French government was also considering handing out exemptions to the 35-hour week to staff who had to put in long hours before fashion shows.
He said the state was also thinking of creating a school of design and creativity that would rival London's St Martin's School and Anvers in Belgium.
Thursday, Estrosi met Anna Wintour, Editor of Vogue magazine, who had asked to see him to share her views about the fashion industry.
The minister said Paris had to pay attention to fashion capitals such as New York, London and Berlin which were taking measures to promote and defend their fashion scenes.
The government is keen to help top brands such as Hermes, Dior and others preserve "Made in France" tags crucial for their image and high prices.
France's fashion industry employs 125,000 who together form one of the biggest pillars of the global luxury industry.
Global luxury sales should enjoy a 1 percent rise this year after falling about 8 percent in 2009, according to U.S. consultants Bain & Co.
The plan to help fashion comes as the government is putting pressure on French companies such as Renault to save jobs. Earlier this month, President Nicolas Sarkozy tried to convince Renault managers to abandon plans to make a new small car in Turkey instead of France but failed to win any promises.
Reporting by Astrid Wendlandt; Editing by Dan Lalor