Taxi Fabric: A Campaign To Beautify Mumbai's Cabs Has Us Completely Spellbound

Taxi Fabric: A Campaign To Beautify Mumbai's Cabs Has Us Completely Spellbound
Design matters. Whether functionally or aesthetically, we’re of the school of thought that it’s one of the pillars societal evolution stands on, even if most people tend to be dissonant about its contribution to the world.
Taxis
in India, particularly in Mumbai, are not only the most convenient form of transport but have also become an iconic piece of culture. Design, as a profession or even simply something studied at school, is unfortunately not widely recognized in India. We put two and two together and started connecting designers with taxi drivers - turning seat covers into canvasses for young Indian designers to show off their design talent and storytelling skills."
Sanket Avlani working on his designs 'Number Game'
"With each designer, there was no brief. It was about creating something that people in Mumbai would engage with and react to, stories of Mumbai that will resonate with everyone. This is a constant process of learning, and we are getting better with every taxi. The idea is to do something to get emotional reactions out of people. Designers even go ahead and speak to the drivers before creating their designs, and great stories come out from there, which benefit everyone - the driver, the designers and the daily cab customers."
Tasneem Amiruddin's Jungle Book designs for Jayantbhai's taxi
cutting-chai
"I think we all learned that a conversation with the taxi driver can go a long way. One thing they say nobody thinks of is asking the drivers, even when they are selling things to them. This is such a basic principle for any designer to follow - communicate with the target audience. That is something that definitely got us going. Even in terms of things like upholstery that is functionally correct, aesthetically and visually speaking, the idea of having colour and designs is discarded by regular vendors. The way we have played around with this makes these things more durable. A lot of our designs were happy accidents, and ended up being a big learning."
Taxi Fabric's earlier project 'You and I' by designer Pranita Kocharekar
I moved here 40 years ago from Amritsar and since then I've been driving taxis. Never imagined one of India's finest talents would be working on my taxi. All my friends, taxi drivers, want one as well."

6 and counting! Taxi Fabric launches its next Taxi Transformation and we've got its first look on Homegrown, exclusively for our readers.  

I had been following Sanket' s blog for a while, reading his posts, his photographs. I always found it very interesting, especially his initiative to get new, interesting designers. I had been following his work for a year, then one day he messaged me, and I said 'yes, of course',
Shweta Malhotra's designs for Taxi Fabric
My theme is actually Chowpatty. Born and brought up in Bombay - I used to go there as a child and I have many fond memories there. So, I decided to do 'Colours of Chowpatty '. Bombay is such a crazy, chaotic, colourful city - I wanted to bring it out through the lively beaches, Chowpatty and even Juhu beach. I actually haven't visited Chowpatty in a while, so I don't know if it is as colourful as I remember it as a kid. This theme is more about nostalgia for me.
"I don't think it attracts more customers, but the customers that do sit enjoy it a lot. Especially when children enter my taxi, they get very excited with the colours and designs. Some even ask me how my taxi has colourful, new seats and why my seats are better than other taxis."
One child once asked me what the designs on the seat were, and I explained that it was something like Gola, Sherbat or Ice Cream. He gave me a big smile when I said that."
Md. Azgar Ali in his remodeled taxi
The biggest challenge was dealing with the people doing it. The guys working with the fabric - they are regular, local guys. So, getting the finishing that any designer or perfectionist would want was difficult. They were not trained to do this with perfection, they aren't formal upholstery guys, they are the guys who fit regular fabric for taxis daily.  But, I think with each taxi they do, it's getting better."
"There was never any particular design, whatever was cheap and easily available. I liked colourful ones. There are several shops around Bombay to get such fabric, in Sion, Lalbaug, and narrow lanes at Mumbai Central."
Shweta working with local taxi fabric tailors
"The different kinds of people who would see it daily, and interact with it was exciting. And there was no brief as such, so it was a completely blank canvas."
"They are always curious, they ask me where I got the fabric, and how I got it done,"
Chowpatty themed design by Shweta Malhotra for Taxi Fabric

Words: Rhea Almeida

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